Last week, Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) requested a meeting with the Executive Director of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) to address the ongoing problems with the new TSP website that federal employees and retirees are experiencing. The FRTIB is in charge on managing the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). After the release of new features earlier this month on the TSP website, federal employee complaints with online errors has reached a breaking point.
“The Thrift Savings Plan is so essential to federal employees and retirees that the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board must immediately fix the problems with the new online system,” Norton said.
“That is why I have requested an urgent phone call with the Executive Director of FRTIB. Constituents have told me of phone wait times of over nine hours, of disconnected calls, and of missing and incorrect information in their accounts. I appreciate my constituents bringing these consequential concerns to my attention, and I will continue to work to fix these issues.”
In the middle of June, Norton sent a letter to the FRTIB questioning the base concerns she had acquired from constituents about the new TSP system. According to Norton, the new online system created a situation in which “many TSP participants have been forced to change their passwords or other account information, often requiring them to get a security code delivered by mail, delaying access to their investments for weeks. Constituents have indicated they have attempted to contact the TSP ThriftLine for assistance, only to be put on hold for several hours and then be disconnected before talking to someone.”
“It appears that the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (Board) was not prepared to launch the new system,” Norton continued.
Norton requested the meeting with FRTIB after hearing from constituents about additional problems they are having with the new system, including information being incorrectly transferred and taxes not being accurately allocated.
On June 17th, the FRTIB responded with a letter to Norton, stating: “We would like to assure you that the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) remains committed to ensuring that Federal employees and retirees with TSP accounts are able to quickly access them”. The full response from the FRTIB’s is below.
FRTIB Response to Norton
June 17, 2022
The Honorable Eleanor Holmes Norton
United States House of Representatives
2136 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-5101
Dear Congresswoman Norton:
This is in response to your letter of June 10 expressing your concerns related to the experience Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) participants are having with the new recordkeeper launched on June 1. We would like to assure you that the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) remains committed to ensuring that Federal employees and retirees with TSP accounts are able to quickly access them.
A recordkeeper for a defined contribution plan is responsible for tracking all information regarding plan participants – names, addresses, contributions, loans, earnings, withdrawals, etc. The FRTIB awarded the contract for the recordkeeper to Accenture Federal Services in November of 2020. We have spent the last 18 months in extensive and detailed planning for the conversion. I have attached a high-level list of milestones that were briefed regularly to the FRTIB Board members. This conversion was far more than introducing a new web site; it was a complete modernization of the largest 401k-like plan in the country. Some of the new features that TSP participants have received are the ability to e-sign documents, upload documents, receive mobile push notifications, an official TSP mobile app, a virtual assistant, and a mutual fund window, to name a few.
Beginning in January 2022, we began communicating the upcoming changes to all TSP participants. We informed them of exciting new features, key transition dates, and that they would “need to perform some steps to set up online access to My Account after the transition to our new service provider is complete.” We communicated through all available channels: website, email, direct mail, social media, webinars, and trusted third parties that included human resources staff at federal agencies and the uniformed services.
We anticipated that the transition, as most are, would be bumpy. In fact, Tee Ramos, our Director of Participant Services, told the Board members and the Employee Thrift Advisory Council at our May Board meeting to expect that some of our participants would experience difficulties in reaching the Call Centers. However, some of our participants are facing more difficulties than we expected. We sincerely apologize for the frustration and inconvenience some of our participants are encountering. We are working to address these issues as quickly as possible so we can help those who need it.
We transitioned to a new recordkeeper and modernized our core recordkeeping system; it was the equivalent of simultaneously changing our financial institutions, customer interface, and technology platform. During this transition, we converted more than 26.3 billion records for 6.6 million TSP participants and balanced – to the penny – roughly $743 billion TSP participant assets. We relied heavily on the many agency teams that supported this initiative, including nearly 100 federal payroll offices. Thanks to their hard work, we began processing payroll data on day one.
n the first 14 days since the June 1 transition, we have processed over 8.2 million transactions representing $2.8 billion in payroll contributions. We have processed 82 rollovers for a total of $3.9 million; 22,528 loans for a total of $234 million; 34,031 withdrawals for a total of $1.1 billion; and 86,757 people have downloaded the official TSP app on their mobile phones.
The new system represents a large, essential, modernization effort for TSP participants and includes changes that were designed to make a safe system even safer. These new security enhancements are in response to a surge in cybercrime in recent years and why all participants are required by the system to create a new login for online account access, given the new identity management and authentication measures that are now in place. While initially TSP participants faced challenges creating new logins, participants who try to create new logins are successful 90% of the time. Between June 1 and June 15, 765,236 participants have successfully established new logins and participants have logged in a total of 1.9 million times, either on the website or on the new TSP app.
The difficulties in setting up online logins naturally drove higher call volume at our Call Centers. On June 1, we received 130,000 phone calls, 2.5 times greater than our previous highest call-volume day. While we had emphasized the need to have the Call Centers appropriately staffed to handle an expected high volume of calls, the Call Centers nonetheless were unable to keep up with demand. The contractor has added an additional 250 people to the Call Centers since June 1. However, given the continued record-breaking level of call volumes, participants are still experiencing long wait times. We will continue to add staff to the Call Centers until we return to an excellent level of call center responsiveness.
We are glad to report that we are making progress. While call hold times still remain too long, they are falling. We will continue to hold the contractor accountable and report on this and other issues to the Board during our public meetings as we always have.
We would like to assure you that FRTIB takes all these concerns seriously and their full resolution remains our highest priority. We also want to reassure TSP participants that the core of our new system is functioning; loan, withdrawal, fund reallocation, and investment transactions are being processed. We are working expeditiously to address our participants’ challenges, while at the same time ensuring that the security of those investments is maintained to the highest standards and does not become an impediment to account access.
We appreciate your interest in the Thrift Savings Plan and hope this information is helpful. Please let me know if you have any questions.
If you are personally experiencing technical difficulties on the TSP website, they have recently created a “known issues” page to assist participants with a portion of the issues they have been made aware of.
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