Palau Social Security Board of Trustees terminated SSA Administrator Ulai Teltull yesterday and unseated Johanna Ngiruchelbad as Chairwoman of the Board after Olbiil Era Kelulau (OEK) issued a joint resolution expressing a lack of confidence in both SSA Chairperson Ngiruchelbad and Administrator Teltull, calling for their removal.

The termination of the SSA Administrator by the SSA Board appeased Palau members of Congress, who were upset with SSA Board going against their decision.

The resolution came after Social Security Board announced stopping the payment of supplemental benefits to SSA beneficiaries. OEK had stalled implementing policies protecting the Social Security Fund from collapsing. The SSA Board announced last month that their decision to stop supplemental benefit payments protects the well-being of the Social Security Fund for Social Security beneficiaries.

Supplemental benefits comprise two $50 payments to SSA beneficiaries and disabled beneficiaries to supplement what they were already receiving from their past contributions.  The supplemental benefits were enacted in separate legislations and did not comply with the SSA requirement for an actuarial study.  Both benefits were initially funded through a direct appropriation by OEK. In 2021 and 2022, OEK requested SSA and later mandated SSA to pay for them.

SSA currently pays out $28 million in benefits annually and receives $17 million from contributions.  This means it has to pull out a little over $10 million from the invested Retirement Funds to cover the difference.  The SSA Retirement Fund investment is around $88 million.  So pulling out $10 million annually means the fund will either collapse in 10 years or the retirees, after ten years, will only be getting reduced benefits based on what SSA receives from contributions, which this year is $17 million.

Olbiil Era Kelulau (national congress), with four SS beneficiaries, filed a lawsuit against SSA for the decision to stop payment of supplemental benefits. The lawsuit is still pending trial, but the court issued an order preventing SSA from withholding supplemental benefit payments until the outcome of the case.

Not waiting for the court decision, the SSA Board of Trustees reorganized, elected Hefflin Bai as the new Chairman, and terminated SSA Administrator Ulai Teltull. 

The previous statements by the SSA Board of Trustees claiming fiduciary duty to SSA Fund and its beneficiaries contradict its current decision to terminate its administrator to appease OEK members.

The timing of the changes and the administrator’s termination points to the need to appease OEK members and display a lack of integrity by the SSA Board of Trustees.

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