Retired teachers' fund seeks $323K paid after members died

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — The Arkansas Teacher Retirement System wants to recover retirement benefits that continued to be paid out after two members died, resulting in overpayments of more than $323,000.

Clint Rhoden, the system's executive director, told lawmakers Wednesday that one death was not reported to the system by the member’s surviving family, amounting to an overpayment of $306,000 over 23 years, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. The second overpayment of $17,000 occurred because the agency incorrectly entered the notation of that death into the system.

“We are pursuing that $306,000 aggressively,” Rhoden said.

The system was able to recover a third overpayment of about $22,000 because family members of the deceased did not withdraw the money.

Deputy Legislative Auditor Tom Bullington said the system identified the overpayments through the implementation of new procedures in February during an audit of the retirement system for fiscal 2019.

Rhoden said a national law firm with offices in Oklahoma has been retained to represent the system in trying to recover the funds through court judgments. He said the FBI conducted a thorough investigation and declined to press charges.

The system has a number of ways to learn if a member living in Arkansas dies, but problems can arise if the member moves to a different state.

“What we have determined in this analysis is really we need to focus on our out-of-state retirees,” Rhoden said.

The Teacher Retirement System is the state government's largest such system with more than 100,000 working and retired members and over $17 billion in investments.

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