Watch CBS News

Feds' mistake costs South Holland retiree more than $49,000 in pension payments

South Holland retiree fights to get back more than $49,000 in pension payments
South Holland retiree fights to get back more than $49,000 in pension payments 02:17

SOUTH HOLLAND (CBS) -- She clocked more than four decades with the government before retiring.

But the feds are stiffing her on part of her pension money, even though they acknowledge a mistake in their system.

Morning Insider Lauren Victory takes us inside one suburban woman's fight for her hard-earned retirement money.

Beatrice Fells started her first government job in 1972.

"The salary is $5,871," she said with a chuckle, showing CBS 2 her employment records that are so old, they're type-written.

Before her last day of work, someone in human resources printed the documentation for her.

"I'm like, 'I'm retiring. What am I gonna need it for?' And I do need it," said Fells who is now using the paperwork to prove her 41 years of work for the federal government.

She retired from the Department of Veterans Affairs in May 2020 and earned a pension for her cumulative time served (at one point, she worked a few years in the private sector).

"I don't sleep. I don't sleep!" she said, shaking her head because the V.A. made an "error in [her] retirement plan coverage" and despite the department's acknowledgment of that mistake back in November 2020 in a letter to Fells, the South Holland woman's pension payments continue to come in nowhere close to the $3,556 she expected. 

After tax, the discrepancy is $1815. Multiply that by the 27 months she's been waiting and Fells is short more than $49,000.

"She's being extremely patient whereas I am not," said Karen Stingley, Fells' niece. She's been helping Fells fight the United States Office of Personnel Management which needs to process the retirement plan error found by the VA. After more than a year and a half of emails back and forth, nothing is fixed.

"If it's happening to her, it could be happening to somebody else who don't have a me," said Stingley, referring to her advocacy for Fells who is in deteriorating health.

CBS 2 tried asking the Feds what was causing the delay but no one answered our call at the OPM Office of Communications. We sent six email inquiries about Fells' predicament and gave OPM several weeks to respond to us. No one did.

"You see what I'm talking about?" said Fells who says she's been told multiple times that her case is being escalated to no avail.

Missing tens of thousands of dollars of her hard-earned money caused her to deplete her savings. Fells is now behind on her mortgage and worried about losing her house. That's not how the government servant envisioned her sunset years. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.