Retiree bills face uncertain future

Getting retirees back on the job is viewed as a temporary solution to labor shortages

Two bills that would soften the expected blow from a wave of federal worker retirements face an uncertain future in Congress.

The bills, introduced by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), would make it easier for agencies to rehire retired federal employees to stave off anticipated staffing problems. The chairmen of committees reviewing the measures have not decided if they will consider them in committee.

Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) “is still evaluating the bill and has not yet reached a conclusion about it,” said spokeswoman Leslie Phillips. Lieberman is chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over Collins’ bill.

In the House, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), who is chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has not reached a decision about Davis’ bill, a spokeswoman for Waxman said.
No Democrats have co-sponsored the bills, limiting their chances of passage.

The measures would allow agencies to temporarily hire retired federal employees on a part-time basis to fill gaps in the workforce. “We need to tap into the expertise and experience of those employees,” Davis said in a statement.

The bills would allow rehiring without affecting retirees’ pensions.
Under current law, if retired federal employees return to work as part-timers, they must either suspend receiving their annuity or receive a salary reduced by the amount they receive from the annuity — an amount known as an offset.

The measures differ in several ways. For example, Davis’ bill addresses only the executive branch, and Collins’ proposal covers the three branches of government.

Bush administration officials have taken steps to address the workforce problem in advance of new legislation.

The Office of Personnel Management already waives the pension deduction if officials consider the position exceptionally difficult to fill.

And Paul Denett, administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, issued a memo in September urging agencies to hire retirees to fill acquisition-related positions.

The previous Congress took similar action, enacting legislation in 2006 that specifically targeted shortages expected in the acquisition workforce.

The General Services Administration Modernization Act enables agencies to hire retirees to fill critical vacancies in the procurement field.

However, a year later, only two agencies had plans to take advantage of the regulation, officials said.

About the Author

Matthew Weigelt is a freelance journalist who writes about acquisition and procurement.

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