Pager problem, and high-three questions

A Reader Writes:

I was given an old, outdated pager by my contract supervisor. I work for Science Applications International Corp. but am on contract at an Army site. I did not want this pager and there is no provision in my contract for weekend work, but I accepted it so as not to "ruffle any feathers."

Later, it was lost or stolen and I have been told that I will have to pay $70, the cost of a brand-new unit.

This pager is no longer being used at this facility and I feel I should pay the current value of the pager (about 50 cents) or at least pay what the pager was worth when it was given to me (maybe $5). What is the law here?

Milt Replies:

You'll need to ask a lawyer. This is not a civil service issue. What does your company say?

A Reader Writes:

Exactly how is my "high three" calculated? I know it is base pay. But do pre-tax deductions for Thrift Savings Plan and medical, etc. affect how it is calculated? Also does night and weekend differential figure in the equation?

Milt Replies:

Just base pay figures in your high three. All the other things you mention don't count.

A Reader Writes:

President Bush recently approved a 4.1 percent increase in pay for civilian employees. Where this extra percentage point will be placed is still being discussed. If it is placed on the locality adjustment, how does this affect retirement? For example, is the locality amount added in when they are deciding your retirement pay, or do they just use your high three without the locality amount?

Milt Replies:

I believe your retirement benefit high-three calculation considers your base pay, which reflects locality pay.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at


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