Feb. 25, 2004 – Individuals who leave government employment prior to being eligible for retirement are not being paid legally mandated interest on their contributions to the retirement system, Sen. Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg charged on Wednesday.
He accused the Government Employees Retirement System of "ignoring the law requiring interest to be paid" — legislation that he sponsored and which became law on June 30, 2000.
The amendment to the V.I. Code specifies that any government worker leaving service prior to retirement "shall be entitled to receive a refund of the accumulated contributions plus 4 percent interest."
However, Donastorg said in a release issued on Wednesday, "I don't know if anyone has received their interest payment. I do know what the law is currently being ignored."
Contributions to the retirement system are mandatory for government employees and are secured through automatic payroll deductions.
"GERS is obligated to pay everyone that opts out of the system before retirement this 4 percent interest," Donastorg said in the release. "Frankly, the GERS board should be happy to pay out this interest, as it is only a pittance compared to what they would owe any employee that chooses to retire with the system."
Donastorg said he introduced the interest amendment four years ago because "while the GERS offers significant benefits to those who stay with the government in the long term, those who wish to leave public service before retirement age were receiving no return whatsoever on the wages they were forced to contribute."
According to Donastorg's release, "The GERS board has recently proposed amending the law in order to take the right to interest payments away" from those withdrawing from the system prior to retirement.
In addition to opposing such a move, he vowed to take action to ensure that the board begins complying with the law. "I hope they will do this voluntarily," he said. "This is not a matter for debate."
He called on all former government employees who opted out of the retirement system after June 30, 2000, to contact GERS "to determine whether or not they received the interest they were entitled to."
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