Congressional neglect of feds must end
- By Milt x_Zall
- Jan 09, 2000
When Congress returns to work this month, it should make up for its continued
neglect of federal employees, marked in 1999 by failing to pass several
Congress' first order of business should be to fix the problem of federal
workers enrolled in the wrong retirement system — a mix-up that's been on
Congress' agenda for nearly 10 years. The House and Senate have passed bills
addressing the issue, but the bills are hung up over differences about how
to handle makeup contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for those
incorrectly placed in the Civil Service Retirement System when they should
have been placed in Federal Employees Retirement System. The real problem
is that an estimated 18,000 people are wondering what retirement system
they should be in.
Congress also has neglected long-term care insurance for federal employees
and retirees. Some sponsors of this idea recognize that even after passing
legislation, it could be a year and a half or longer until a federal worker
could enroll in such a program.
Passing legislation should be a no-brainer. The idea is for the Office of
Personnel Management to pick an insurance company to offer long-term care
insurance to feds at group rates. Federal employees would pay for the insurance.
The cost to the government would be only the salaries of OPM staffers who
set the program up.
Congress also must work on new life insurance options, which Rep. John
Mica (R-Fla.) has promoted for several years. Mica wants to create cash-accumulating
benefits and voluntary accidental death and dismemberment insurance options.
Although Mica is no longer the chairman of the House Civil Service Subcommittee,
he has a lot of influence, and he is expected to renew the effort this year.
Another neglected area involves a House-approved plan to allow newly
hired employees to forego the current waiting period for investing in the
TSP. The Clinton administration would like to see several minor changes
to the plan, including one that would allow government matching contributions
to start right away.
Congress' track record would not be tolerated in the private sector, where
the emphasis is on solving problems and making money. And who pays the
price for Congress' neglectfulness? We feds.
Zall is a retired federal employee who contributes regularly to FCW.