The Proposed Federal Benefit That Won’t Die

A proposal to allow federal employees under the FERS system to get credit for unused sick leave did not get through the legislative process last year and was recently eliminated in new legislation during the legislative process. The proposal is back again though in a bill that has an assortment of new, improved benefits for portions of the federal workforce.

Giving federal employees who are under the FERS retirement system credit for unused sick leave in calculating their retirement annuity is a concept that keeps popping up.

This provision was originally in the tobacco legislation to give the Food and Drug Administration more authority over the regulation of tobacco. The sick leave provision was dropped in the Senate and was not included in the final legislation.  (See TSP Changes Adopted in Tobacco Bill–Sick Leave Provisions for FERS Dropped in Final Legislation)

Another provision that was dropped out of the bill before it became law was the authority to redeposit refunds under the FERS system.

These two items have generated email queries from our readers throughout the legislative process. Those readers with an interest in these topics will be pleased to know that both are now included in a new bill that is now under consideration in the House of Representatives.

HR 2990 is entitled the “Disabled Military Retiree Relief Act of 2009.” A portion of this bill would impact federal employee benefits if it becomes law.

In addition to the items above, the new bill would make it easier to rehire federal retirees part time; modify how the Civil Service Retirement System calculates annuity payments for employees who retire as part-time workers; and move federal employees in Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories from cost-of-living adjustments into the locality pay system.

There is one item missing from the new bill that has disappointed the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. The bill does not incorporate language contained in the civil service amendment which Senators Joseph Lieberman, I-CT, and Susan Collins, R-ME, attempted to offer to the recently enacted Tobacco bill. This provision would allow federal agencies to re-employ federal retirees on a limited, part-time basis without offset of annuity from salary.

In a press release, NARFE President Margaret Baptiste said that ” “NARFE strongly supports the federal civil service provisions added to H.R. 2990, but we believe that it was not unreasonable to ask that at least one part of the package being considered today would benefit federal retirees; particularly those patriots that want to continue to serve our nation.  Regrettably, this modest proposal has been left out of H.R. 2990, and as a result, we are disappointed.”

But, while NARFE may be disappointed along with a number of retired federal employees who may have hoped to increase their income for a time, the omission may not be accidental. Federal employee unions do not like the proposal to allow agencies to rehire retired federal employees without having an impact on their retirement payments. The provision would probably have an impact on encouraging retired federal employees to return to work. The unions would prefer to have the government hire new, permanent, full-time career federal employees.

The new bill will undoubedly go through changes as it wends its way through Congress. We will let our readers know about changes that may occur in the process.

About the Author

Ralph Smith has several decades of experience working with federal human resources issues. He has written extensively on a full range of human resources topics in books and newsletters and is a co-founder of two companies and several newsletters on federal human resources. Follow Ralph on Twitter: @RalphSmith47