DUNNELLON, Fla. (WFLA) After more than three decades as an Air Force civilian employee, Patrick Connor expected a smooth transition into retirement after filling out paperwork six months in advance.
Eight months after his last day on the job, Connor is still waiting for his first pension check and cannot access his 401(k) since he is not officially retired.
“And our health insurance was cancelled because I’m no longer employed,” Connor said.
Connor said he now has to pay nearly $2,000 a month for healthcare until the retirement process comes to end.
Connor said he worked at MacDill Air Force for the final three and a half years of his 32-year civilian career and served in the Air Force Reserves during that time.
As a reservist he saw active duty several times, including in Iraq about six years ago.
“You’re scared for your life,” Connor said. “Rockets coming in. Middle of the night waking up running out in your shorts in a hardened shelter.”
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The first red flag Connor’s retirement paperwork hit a snag came last summer in an email.
“The retirement counselor working on your application had your separation SF50 cancelled,” the email said, referring to retirement paperwork.
There was no warning or explanation, but Connor said he did not cancel the process.
“I immediately called and they said it was cancelled on the 16th of July,” Connor said.
8 on Your Side reached out to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) multiple times about Connor’s case, but so far no one has responded. OPM is the Federal Government’s chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager.
OPM data indicates more than 102,000 federal employees retired last year and the agency was able to reduce its backlog by 10% in December compared to November. At the end of 2022, there were more than 21,000 backlogged OPM retirement cases.
St. Petersburg resident Betty Ashley came to 8 on Your Side last year after OPM stopped her late husband’s death benefit on the assumption she had died. Ashley, who turned 101 last year, proved she was alive and her problem was solved.
A stalled OPM claim filed by Avon Park widow Carole Cardwell was also solved after 8 On Your Side got involved.
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Connor’s case is more complicated since it involves not only OPM, the Air Force Personnel Center and the Defense Finance Accounting Service.
“It’s three federal agencies,” Connor said. “I expected some delays but not this long. Not eight months.”
Connor said the most infuriating part of this is there was no warning.
“They had plenty of time to sit me down. Give me some kind of briefing to say this is going to take awhile, be sure you have plenty of savings,” Connor said. “I got nothing. I got nothing.”
Connor expects to get back benefits once the snag is resolved but he said until then his savings is dwindling.
“I want to warn other [federal retirees]” Connor said. “I don’t want anyone else to go through this.”