OPM: Agencies need retirees back

OPM Proposal to let employees back

Changing the law so that federal retirees can temporarily return to work to train new hires without losing their retirement benefits is paramount to the future of the federal workforce, the director of the Office of Personnel Management said.

Under current rules, OPM can grant dual-compensation waivers that allow retirees to return to work to meet emergency staffing needs without facing pension reductions. But with about 600,000 feds expected to retire in the coming years, managers and lawmakers say that the government is on the verge of a labor crisis.

“Nothing is a higher priority to us than the re-employed annuitant proposal that we have that would allow us to have the benefit and the knowledge of annuitants that want to come back and help train that next generation,” Linda Springer, OPM’s director, told lawmakers at an Aug. 2 hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee’s Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia Subcommittee.

“We think the retirement wave qualifies as a crisis in effect and that agencies should have that option available,” she added.

Under an OPM proposal, employees would not lose existing or add any new retirement benefits if they returned to work and worked less than 520 hours during the first 6 months following retirement, 1,040 hours in any 12-month period and a lifetime maximum of 6,240 hours. She said the proposal has wide support and she hopes it will be introduced next session.

But there are concerns about how recruitment will be affected if agencies can rehire retirees to whom they do not have to pay benefits, said J. David Cox, national secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees. The union, which represents more than 600,000 federal employees, also has concerns about how the rule change would affect promotion opportunities for active employees, he said.

But Cox, who retired last year, said AFGE is willing to work out these concerns. There are many retired employees who do not want to totally stop working and could help train the next generation of employees, he added.

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