Saving up sick leave, and more

FCW.com's Ask Milt column responds to questions about sick leave, the TSP board and contracting out.

A Reader Writes:

I find it rather interesting that the government doesn't give us anything for our sick leave when we retire. When I was in the private sector, they used to pay us for all unused sick leave, but they referred to it as personal time.

I feel that there should be a couple of options, one being that we should have the option of being paid for it, at whatever grade we were when we earned it. The second option would be to add it onto one's retirement.

Adding it to one's retirement is better than nothing, but it is not that good of a deal. Let's say that you are making $70,000 a year and that you have six months of sick leave. Based on the Federal Employees Retirement System, it would take you 50 years to get $35,000 back. Of course, if the system were paying you for the time at what your grade was when you earned it, you would probably get only $25,000 back, which would still take you about 36 years to break even with a cash payout.

Then of course there is a third option that kind of gets into the ethics area. You could start getting sick for, let's say, two days a week for the last year or two until you had used up all of your sick leave. Some people would say this is not ethical, but what about the workers who get sick every time they earn a day or two of sick leave?

If the government doesn't want to pay us for it, then I think we should just be able to go on sick leave six months before we retire.

I don't think that it is fair to federal employees who have a lot of sick leave to be penalized just because they have saved it for a time they might really need it and have been lucky enough not to have to use all of it.

It would be nice if the federal employees would unite on this one, as it seems very unfair to me. The word to me seems to be, "penalize all of our healthy employees."

Milt Replies

Unused sick leave is creditable toward retirement if you are in Civil Service Retirement System. It's not creditable if you're in FERS.

If you think of accumulated sick leave as an insurance policy while you're actively employed, you may not feel so bad. After all, you wouldn't complain if your employer paid for your life insurance while employed but not upon retirement. You wouldn't want to die while employed just so your survivor got the benefit!

A Reader Writes:

Who makes up the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) board? Who does it answer to? How is it selected? How is the executive director selected? What role does the federal employee have in determining who administers TSP operations and how our TSP money is handled?

It seems to me a complete disclosure of these questions may help federal employees make up their minds about who to hold responsible for more than five years of wasted time and money for a new computer system that has not even operated yet.

Milt Replies

The Federal Employees' Retirement System Act of 1986 established the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board as an independent agency.

The act vests responsibility for the agency in five board members and the executive director. The five members of the board, one of whom is designated as chairman (presently James Atkins), are appointed by the president with the advice and consent of the Senate and serve on the board on a part-time basis.

FEDS don't have a role in the board's management except for those employed by the board.

James Petrick, 25-year federal employee recently, recently replaced Roger Mehle as executive director. Mehle resigned last month after nearly nine years as the board's chief executive and had served on the board since its inception in 1986.

The board's five members appointed Petrick as executive director upon the recommendation of Mehle. Petrick had been director of the board's Office of Benefits and Investments.

For more information, see the FRTIB Web site (www.frtib.gov) or the TSP Web site (www.tsp.gov).

A Reader Writes:

My question involves the commercial activities review process and its inequities to the feds it is taking out of the loop.

How can they consider it cheaper — not even in the short term but in the long term, or life cycle, of a product or service — that so much time and money is spent reinventing the wheel?

Milt Replies

Contracting out is done for political reasons. In my opinion, it never saves money!

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

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