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Federal Eye
Posted at 01:15 PM ET, 05/17/2011

Federal workers respond to targeting pensions to pay debt

The Federal Eye asked federal workers on Monday to respond to the news that employee pensions may be targeted as part of a plan to pay down the national debt. Below are brief excerpts from the responses we received. Be sure to include your own response.

“I'm still 13 years away from retirement eligibility, but if the basic compact is changed I would almost certainly leave federal service.  I just couldn't justify sacrificing so much income from year to year if the retirement package were to be slashed or significantly altered.  Especially for those of us in the Foreign Service, who as part of the career in effect embark upon a one-income life as our spouses cannot typically work in the countries in which we're posted overseas, the prospect of a reasonable pension is a key recruiting and retention element.” - State Department employee

“It seems that the Federal workforce is an easy scapegoat for Congressional leaders - allowing them to demonize civil servants while avoiding the truly hard decisions about spending and possibly raising taxes.  Federal workers have already forgone COLA increases for the next two years and have faced uncertainty as Congress failed to pass a budget in a timely manner.  This is just another slap in the face of dedicated civil servants.” - Treasury Department employee

“It's inevitable that some changes will be made.  The gutting of benefits in the private sector had to spill over to the government. I hope that the changes are not too severe or some of the most talented young feds will probably jump ship for a better-paying job in the private sector.”  - Patent and Trademark Office employee

“I took much lower pay to do cancer research for the National Cancer Institute with the understanding that this would be partially covered by the pension. Now they are toying with the idea of breaking that deal. I think I may have to get out of here and get a higher paying job at a University.  It will still be NIH money and will cost the US government a lot more money for less work, but my salary will be out of the hands of the short-sighted geniuses on Capitol Hill.” - National Institute of Health employee

“CSRS employees pay in 7%, but receive a defined annuity.  Asking FERS employees to pay in more doesn't seem entirely unfair, but should be phased in rather than imposed all at once. Implying that doing this will in any way impact the deficit is silly; it only provide sound bites for the right wing.  Historically, feds swapped lower general pay for better retirement; now this may not be the case, and may lead to poorer applicants.” - Environmental Protection Agency employee (retired)

“Yes, I have worked for the Fed government for 33 years and have always felt that what I did made a difference and saved the government money. ...I felt that I provided a needed service and was appropriately compensated and appreciated. But no more. Although I could work hard for 10 more years and have the institutional knowledge to provide training to new employees I feel that if I stay I will be doing a grave disservice to my family and myself...” -Defense Contract Audit Agency employee

“High-5 is fine, cutting on retirements before age 62 is fine.  Forcing 5% of paychecks to pay into FERS is a disaster. This is yet another proposal that will squeeze high-end feds, many of whom are underpaid compared to private-industry counterparts. Increasingly, federal service is unattractive to highly productive professionals, even as it stays attractive to lower-skilled workers. If they're going to cut my pay another 5% (in addition to the cut I'm taking for suspension of COLAs), I hope they at least let me opt out of FERS, so I can attempt to fend for myself.” - Justice Department, Antitrust employee

RELATED: Federal worker pensions emerge as target in debt-reduction talks

RELATED: How federal pensions might be targeted

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