The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) recently announced that it will offer voluntary early retirement and voluntary separation to employees holding eligible positions in designated locations.
As part of the announcement, the NLRB said that it requested and obtained both Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments (VSIP) authority in order to better manage its caseload and workforce needs.
For years, the deficits caused by flat funding of the agency have been primarily addressed by voluntary personnel attrition. As a result, the NLRB has an imbalance in staffing in both headquarters and the NLRB’s regional offices. To ensure it is able to carry out its critical mission, the NLRB is utilizing the VERA and VSIP to realign its staffing with office caseloads.
In addition to addressing its current staffing imbalance, the NLRB said that utilization of VERA and VSIP will enable it to reallocate its limited resources and to provide employees with the tools they need, including training and improvements in technology.
The NLRB is offering both VERA and VSIP opportunities only to employees in targeted job categories. Applying for these opportunities is entirely voluntary and applications from employees in eligible positions will be processed on a first come, first serve basis.
VERA and VSIP
A VERA can impact an entire agency or just a portion of an agency. If a re-organization only impacts a portion of an agency, it will be limited to that part of the organization.
If an early out is offered, be prepared to make a quick decision. There is usually a short time period to accept the offer and to be off the agency payroll. This option, if offered, is usually restricted to employees who meet specific criteria.
According to NLRB, an employee must have at least 20 years of service at age 50, or a minimum of 25 years of service regardless of age to qualify.
The federal retirement systems are complex. If you are an employee who is affected and deciding whether to take an early out, check with your servicing human resources office before making a decision. Generally, an employee under the older CSRS retirement system will see a penalty of 2% per year for being under 55 years old. Cost of living adjustments (COLAs) will still apply though.
A FERS employee will not face a reduction in pension payments. However, cost-of-living-adjustments will usually not begin until the new retiree turns 62.
VSIP provides a financial incentive for employees to voluntarily separate by optional retirement, voluntary early retirement, or resignation. The maximum amount in most agencies is $25,000. Congress set that limit in 1993. It has not gone up since that time, although legislation was recently proposed to increase it to $40,000, however, it was dropped in a recent Congressional report which makes it appear unlikely to advance in Congress.
Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay (VSIP) is commonly referred to in the federal community as a “buyout”. A buyout means that a federal employee leaves federal service and is given a financial incentive to leave. An agency offers buyouts for employees for any of several reasons including downsizing the workforce, reshaping its workforce or other similar reasons.
There are basic eligibility requirements for buyouts. Eligibility criteria for those who will be offered a buyout are established by an agency in any buyout plan before it is approved and implemented.
A buyout is not an employee entitlement. The eligibility criteria will be restricted to allow an agency to meet its goals in reducing overhead costs or restructuring the workforce in some way.
A buyout plan describes the general categories of employees that may be offered a VSIP. Factors may include specific organizations, geographic locations, occupational categories, grade levels or retirement eligibility.
For those that do qualify, the extra money with time limits attached can speed up a person’s decision to leave or to stay and the extra money can make the decision to leave federal service more attractive.