If you're noodling around MyPay this week, please be careful. The military's new Blended Retirement System (BRS) opt-in phase started last week, and it has been heard that people are "accidentally" opting-in to BRS. It's an irrevocable choice, so it's sort of a big deal. And today, a military spouse contacted me and asked me to write about it. So here it is...
There are a number of ways that the online opt-in process can be confusing.
First, if you are BRS eligible, your main MyPay screen has changed. The first link, which used to say Leave and Earnings Statement, now says, Blended Retirement System Opt-In. If you're working off memory, it is very easy to click the BRS Opt-In link when you are trying to retrieve your mid-month Net Pay Advice statement.
Thankfully, just clicking on that link doesn't opt you in to BRS. Clicking on that link takes you to a screen that talks about eligibility to opt-in. Here's the second place that is tricky. The screen states "I confirm I have completed the mandatory training." There are two buttons available on this screen:
- Yes, I have completed the training.
- No, please take me to the training on Joint Knowledge Online (JKO).
Unfortunately, clicking the "Yes, I have completed the training" moves you to the next step in the opt-in process. It doesn't say, "Yes, and I want to opt-in," but that's the direction the yes button takes you. There's no option for, "Yes, and I wish to remain in the legacy retirement system" or "Yes, but I'm not ready to make a decision yet."
There are instructions written below the buttons that say "Select Main to view other options" and "Select exit if you are finished." These refer to the main controls that are up in the upper right hand corner of the header. But the question asks if you've completed the training, not if you are opting-in. This should be much more clear.
So, let's say you click on the "Yes, I have completed the training," either by accident or because you have completed the training you were required to complete. The next screen says, "I understand this decision is irrevocable once I complete the election on the following screen." Which seems like it should be pretty clear, right? The buttons have these choices:
- Yes, I am aware the decision is irrevocable.
- No, take me to the training on Joint Knowledge Online (JKO).
Once again, these are lousy buttons. The Yes button should clearly say, "Yes, and I want to opt-in" and there should be other options for No besides "take me to the training." But those aren't any of the options, so (because you did the training, and so you know the decision is irrevocable, you click on "Yes, I am aware the decision is irrevocable."
Once again, there are subscript instructions that say, "Select Main to view other options" and "Select exit if you are finished." My problem with that (besides the weird place where those options are located) is that if I understand that the decision is irrevocable, then it makes sense that I would click that button, because it is true. Why would I be looking for other options?
Now, you're almost done opting in and you haven't even seen an option that says, "I want to opt-in to the military's new Blended Retirement System." The next screen is even more perplexing - it asks you to update your mailing address and date of birth. Weird, huh? You dutifully update this information, click the check box on the bottom fo the page, and click on the only button on the page, the one that says, "Accept/Submit." If you weren't reading carefully, you might not even have noticed that the words next to the check box say, "I fully understand that I am opting into the Blended Retirement System (BRS) and it is an irrevocable decision." This is the first place that it is clearly stated that the actions you are taking will put you into the BRS, and there's only one button on the page. The usual instructions to use the Main and Exit options aren't given on this page, though they are still available up there in the header.
Absolutely, everyone should have read every part of every screen, and none of these problems would have happened. But you know what? People don't read. And even people who normally do read were just recently forced to sit through a two hour training on this, and they're conditioned to just click buttons to get through the process. I can completely imagine how a service member pops open MyPay to get to their mid-month Net Pay Advice, ends up in this BRS opt-in process, and figures that they'll just click through the screens to get to their Net Pay Advice because they don't fully understand that they're in a completely different menu. It just looks like more training.
Normally, I am just about 100% against anything that seems like the military is treating service members ike children, and protecting folks from their own poor choices. But in this instance, the consequences are too high. The process for opting-in is too easy to screw up. This isn't about protecting people from poor choices, it's about making sure that they understand what's happening.
So far, I've heard of more than a handful of people who have accidentally opted-in to BRS. For an election this important, even one person is too many. I hope that the senior leadership will admit that this is a problem and fix it immediately. More importantly, let's make some provision for those who have accidentally opted-in. It's the right thing to do. Be careful in that MyPay!