And when a payroll error inevitably occurs, correcting the problem becomes a soul-crushing ordeal for the service members that often lasts months. One victim just happened to be retired four-star general Peter Schoomaker, who was called back into active duty as the Army chief of staff in 2003. Schoomaker, whose job it was to sit at a table and advise the president during the second Iraq War, didn't start getting paid for months. To add insult to injury, the system automatically sent a premature consolation letter to Schoomaker's "widow." They didn't even spell his name right.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images
For a brief moment, Jen P. Schoomaker technically became the nation's first openly lesbian General.
U.S. Government Retiree Paperwork Is Processed By Hand In A Giant Underground Cave
Ricky Carioti / Washington Post
The U.S. government is the nation's largest employer, which means they have a ton of paperwork on everyone who has ever worked for Uncle Sam. Unfortunately, we don't mean "paperwork" as a figure of speech -- there are over 28,000 file cabinets full of paper records that have to be processed by hand. And, in keeping with the retro theme, that processing takes place in the least technological place possible: a big-ass underground cave in Pennsylvania.
Pittsburgh Business Times
Presenting the most boring Bat-Cave your tax dollars could pay for.
To house all the paperwork, the Office of Personnel Management leases a former limestone mine in Pennsylvania from a company called Iron Mountain. U.S. government workers filing for retirement are required to print their applications and ship them there -- in 15 percent of cases, an OPM worker embarks on an epic journey to hunt down any matching records in the eight "file caverns." In the other 85 percent, documents are scanned into digital records and can be searched electronically, but current procedure dictates that those files must still be printed out and placed into manila folders, because of stupid cave politics, most likely.
After another few weeks of hassling distant government offices for missing records, still more shipping and more manila happens before pension checks can finally be mailed. The OPM's efficiency problems are so ingrained into federal bureaucracy culture that some workers actually save up to support themselves during the weeks to months when the government is taking its sweet time calculating how much they owe them.
They have top men working on it, you have Top Ramen to survive on.
The government has spent millions on failed attempts to update the facility over the last 30 years, most recently on a $106 million electronic records system rolled out in 2008 ... only to be scrapped three months later. To this day, OPM spelunkers still have to process paperwork by hand. On the upside, the cave-dwelling paper jockeys will be some of the few human beings that survive the inevitable nuclear apocalypse. And then they can start repopulating the Earth ...
Jeff is an actor/writer from Los Angeles and had a PC in 1986. He also has a webseries called Youth Pastor Kevin and tweets @jefffeazell.
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