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Former Pa. employees 'triple-dipping' - abc27 WHTM

Former Pa. employees 'triple-dipping'

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

They work for the state, they retire and collect a lump sum and a pension, then they go back to work part-time for the state.

And they collect unemployment.

Though it sounds strange, it's true, and it's happening a lot.

Kathi Bryan, a retired state worker who brought this to our attention, said she knows of over a dozen state workers who are doing this. She thinks they are taking advantage of the system.

Bryan initially thought it might be against the law. It isn't – but lawmakers say they would like to close the unemployment compensation loophole and potentially save the state millions of dollars.

Bryan was born and raised in Highspire and went to work for the Department of Public Welfare straight out of high school. She retired last year after 34 years and said she is "loving every minute of it."

But Bryan is troubled by the triple-dipping that's going on. She said some of her fellow retirees are going back to work for the state for 95 days, which is the most allowed without pension suspension. When the 95 days are up, they start collecting unemployment benefits.

"I couldn't understand it. They get their lump sum, they get their pension and they get unemployment. I don't understand why," she said.

Bryan wanted answers, so she wrote to Auditor General Jack Wagner and called her state representative, Democrat Ron Buxton of Dauphin County.

"Apparently, Ron Buxton didn't know about it. He had no clue," Bryan said. "He said ‘There really isn't enough to worry about it. I'm sure that those who are annuitants aren't eligible for unemployment benefits,' and he's definitely incorrect."

We double-checked and Buxton is incorrect, but he's not alone in not knowing about the unemployment compensation loophole.

"I knew annuitants could come back and work for a certain period of time, but I never imagined they could then claim they were unemployed through no fault of their own," said Rep. Glen Grell, R-Cumberland.

Grell is a pension expert called triple-dipping an abuse of the system – even though it is legal.

The Department of Labor and Industry said that there are a total of 1,600 retirees who work part-time. Of these, 450 people collect unemployment after working for 95 days.

The Department of Labor and Industry said in order for anything to change there needs to be a new law, and Grell intends to give them one.

"If there's no legal basis to challenge, we need to give the department the legal basis to say 'no you can't do that,'" Grell said.

But for a Highspire woman with high standards, that law can't come fast enough.

"In this economy, people need to make extra money, but to go in and dip again and get unemployment [is] just is not right when they're cutting services to the most vulnerable citizens," Bryan said.

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