Half a Million Dollars of Public Pension Money Paid to Dead People in Hawaii

In a shocking example of outmoded systems leading to government waste, the Grassroot Institute of Hawaii has learned that $538,519.25 of public pension money was paid to dead people in Hawaii between 2010 and 2015.

Click to view full list

Click to view full list

According to the state’s own records, at least 134 deceased persons received over-payments from the Employee Retirement System, with some over-payments in excess of $50,000.  So far, reimbursements are pending.

Dr. Keli’i Akina, President of the Grassroot Institute, said, “Our report shows that we are taking money from the living to pay for the dead.  Shining a light on wasteful spending is in the best interest of public pension members and Hawaii’s taxpayers.”

The Grassroot Institute obtained the information through an open records request to the Employee Retirement system.  The report, which can be found on OpenHawaii.org, showed that in 2013, $207,656 was overpaid to the deceased beneficiaries; and in 2014, the number was $138,221.  However, the real number is likely to be much higher, as the Employee Retirement System acknowledges that it hasn’t yet caught all of the errors.

Dr. Akina said, “It may be difficult for the State of Hawaii to know if a member of the pension fund has passed away, especially if the individual has left the state, or moved to another country.  Hawaii’s taxpayers continue to pay this enormous cost as we close the gap on the public pension unfunded liability crisis.”

Hawaii’s unfunded pension liability is $8.5 billion, which puts taxpayers on the hook for $21,272 per household.

Wesley Machida, State Finance Director responded in a written statement to the Grassroot Institute, “The half a million dollars of pension overpayments are due entirely to the untimely reporting of a retirant’s or beneficiary’s passing.  Within the past year, the State of Hawai‘i Employees’ Retirement System (ERS) has improved its efforts to identify overpaid pensions by working with the Department of Health, State of Hawai‘i.  A national company is also used to identify retirees and beneficiaries who are deceased.  The ERS also reviews daily obituaries and receives communications from family members and friends.  While there could be others not reported, the likelihood of these occurrences are minimized with the increased efforts of the ERS.”

Wesley Machida continued, “It can be difficult to identify pensioners or beneficiaries who passed away when there are no surviving family members and /or if the retirant or beneficiary lives out of state or out of the country.  In addition, family members and friends may not report the passing for several months, following the discovery of retirement documents while closing out the decedent’s estate.”

Wesley Machida concluded, “The ERS currently pays out more than $1.1 billion per year in pension benefits to more than 44,000 retirees and beneficiaries.”

The Grassroot Institute of Hawaii will continue to research public pension abuse, and publish transparency data on OpenHawaii.org as this story unfolds.  Hawaii’s citizens should also keep in mind that record-keeping in this area wouldn’t be such an issue if government employees were enrolled in 401(k)-style retirement plans rather than the antiquated defined-benefit plans provided to government workers currently.

2 Responses

  1. I’d like to retract my statement . I was a bit frustrated, because of my personal experiences, but that is not right to do. I feel that errors do occur and that is why there are erasers on pencils. I know that the ERS will do all they can to rectify this issue. I also do believe that this was a shock for them too. Because they do strive to service their retirees with the best service as possible. I will keep them in prayer, to receive answers and wisdom on how to handle this issue and prevent it in the future.

    The Grassroot orginazation, kudos on your findings & thank you. God Bless you all

  2. They should get ALL THE MONEY BACK!! When I was employed with I was critzied made to feel incompetent when all the time I was telling and showing them errors in accounting down by senior secretaries and supervisors for 10,000 dollars just in one department. Toss low as 530.00 by new hand pick supervisor who signed off on it. Nothing was done to him either. It confirms the incompetent people who work for the state that are the ones in the whole.the oncewho have jobs because of who you know not what you. Those kind are a threat and ran off and ostracized. Frame etc

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

I do this to keep the spammers away * Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.