Federal Retirees Pushing Their Agenda

Federal retirees have always been a vocal bunch.

They might be old, but they will not allow themselves to be forgotten.
They keep up with current events, know their elected leaders and are outspoken about public policies affecting them.

Now, with a new administration and Congress in town, the senior set hopes to push an agenda that includes several items that have been stewing for a long time.

“There hasn’t been much movement in the last few years and it’s time for a change,” said Margaret Baptiste, president of the National Association of Retired and Active Federal Employees.

“Change.” That’s a familiar concept for the Obama team, yet that might not translate into the administration’s ability to act on the retirees’ agenda during these complicated economic times.

As senators, President Obama and Vice President Biden received 100 percent ratings from the organization for their voting records in the last Congress. But the association didn’t endorse them, or anyone, in the last election, so it can’t claim it’s payback time when pushing its wish list on Capitol Hill and within the Obama administration.

In case the new squad in the White House hasn’t found out yet, the retired are certainly not retiring when it comes to protecting their benefits and seeking to right some of the wrongs they see in policies concerning federal retirees.

With about 1,400 chapters and more than 320,000 members across the country, the association can be aggressive in promoting its program and reminding members of Congress that seniors like to vote.

Learning that is almost as important for a new president as appointing people who don’t have to quit on you because of tax problems.

Here’s a look at some of the association’s legislative priorities:

·Preservation of existing benefits: This amounts to the “first do no harm” principle medical students learn. In this case, NARFE wants to make sure the strong set of benefits federal retirees enjoy are not weakened in the name of entitlement reform or because the economy is a wreck.

·Premium payments: Annuitants want to pay their share of health insurance premiums with tax free deductions.

·Repeal or reform the Social Security Government Pension Offset and Windfall Elimination Provision: These programs are two long standing gripes for federal retirees, because, NARFE says, they “unfairly and arbitrarily eliminate or reduce the Social Security benefits of federal, state and local government retirees.”

·Sick leave: NARFE supports legislation that would allow workers in the Federal Employees Retirement System to credit their unused sick leave toward their retirement under certain conditions.

·Contain prescription costs: Older folks have lots of aches and pains and illnesses, and use more medicine than younger people. Keeping drug costs down is crucial.

·Equity for employees and retirees who worked part-time : NARFE supports legislation that would change the calculation of annuities of federal employees and retirees who work part-time in the final years of their careers. Those payments now are reduced because of the way a federal deficit law has been interpreted.

·Disabled dependents: The priority list includes supporting legislation that “would allow disabled dependents of federal workers to receive a survivor annuity through a trust without affecting their eligibility” for Medicaid or Supplemental Security Income.

·Thrift Savings Plan accounts: The organization says it “supports legislation that permits civilian federal employees to deposit bonuses and performance awards in any form into the TSP on a tax-deferred basis.”

Some of these items are pretty ripe on the vine. For almost 18 months, a bill making it easier for the government to hire retired federal employees has been in the hopper.

Sen. Susan Collins (R- Maine), a sponsor of the bill along with Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio) , said the bill would allow the rehiring of retired workers on a part time basis without taking a wage cut equal to their annuity. The Bush administration backed the bill.

“This legislation will prove vital as the federal government loses many of its skilled, experienced, senior employees,” said Collins when she introduced the bill.

“My legislation would provide agencies with needed flexibility to bring retirees’ experience back into the federal workforce for limited-time or limited-scope projects, provided needed mentoring and training for the next generation of our federal workforce.”

She’s rounding up additional cosponsors and expects to reintroduce the legislation soon.

Contact Joe Davidson at federaldiary@washpost.com

By Eric Pianin  |  February 3, 2009; 6:40 PM ET
Previous: Unions Celebrate New Entree to the White House | Next: AFGE Spells Out Top Priorities




How can Americans get Congress to act?

1. Everyone should contact their Representative and Senators and ask them to include repeal of the GPO and the WEP in this legislation. Each person can find how to contact them by going to the Library of Congress website, http://thomas.loc.gov.

2. Organizations like the National Treasury Employees Union, American Federation of Government Employees, National Association of Teachers, National Education Association, Senior Executives Association, National Active and Retired Federal Employees' Association, Coalition to Assure Retirement Equity, Coalition to Preserve Retirement Security, NRA, and AARP should support this action. Everyone should contact these and other organizations demanding they bring their full force, and that of their members, to bear on Congress to repeal the GPO and the WEP.

3. Everyone should contact the President and Vice-President and ask them to make sure these provisions are repealed when President Obama signs the enrolled bill into law. Remember the Vice-President is the President of the Senate and is a former Senator. He has great influence in the United States Senate.

4. If your organization can, please quickly create Public Service Announcements for newspapers, TV, and radio.

5. Get the word out to others such as your family and friends and ask them to help.

If a concerted effort is not undertaken to repeal the GPO and the WEP in the stimulus package, it never will happen because of the inertia that will develop after the package becomes law.

God Bless America!

Posted by: firstjohn | February 4, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

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