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Federal Eye
Posted at 06:00 AM ET, 03/16/2012

Growth in federal retiree numbers, cost projected

The number of federal retirees will grow by about a tenth over the next decade and spending on those benefits will increase by even more, but that growth will be far outstripped by increases in the Social Security program, the Congressional Budget Office has projected.

Eye Opener

CBO made its projections in a series of documents setting baselines for various federal benefit programs. The data are used to predict future government spending under current policy and to gauge the effect of changes in law.

Numerous proposals targeting federal retirement benefits have been introduced in Congress, mainly by Republicans who consider the program too generous in comparison with private-sector offerings.

Federal and postal employees generally fall under one of two retirement systems: the Civil Service Retirement System, covering those first hired before 1984, and the Federal Employees Retirement System for those hired since that year. The former system does not include Social Security, while the latter does but pays a smaller civil service retirement benefit.

While about four-fifths of active workers are covered by FERS, about the same proportion of retirees are drawing benefits under CSRS.

CBO numbers show that as of this year, there are 1.5 million CSRS annuitants with an average monthly benefit of $3,123, plus 543,000 survivor beneficiaries averaging $1,429 in monthly benefits. By 2012, it said, CSRS retiree and survivor beneficiaries will decrease slightly, to 1.4 million and 428,000, as beneficiaries who die are not fully replaced by new retirements of the dwindling number of workers under that system.

Those declines will be more than offset by an increase in FERS beneficiaries as more of that group becomes eligible to retire. The 461,000 annuitants and 45,000 survivors will grow to 1.1 million and 108,000, respectively. The average monthly benefit will rise from $1,147 to $1,671 for annuitants and from $482 to $704 for survivors, CBO said.

The budget office projected that total spending on federal retirement will grow from $73.9 billion to $95.7 billion over that time. It projects inflation increases to benefits ranging from 1.3 to 2.3 percent.

CBO’s projections of spending in Social Security show even greater growth. It said there are 42.8 million current beneficiaries under the main program, called old age and survivors insurance, plus another 9.7 million under its disability program. The figures count all types of beneficiaries, including family members.

Those numbers are projected to grow to 61.8 million and 12.3 million, respectively, by 2022.

The average monthly benefit under Social Security for a retired worker will rise from $1,164 to $1,675 in that time and the average for a disabled worker will grow from $1,064 to $1,480, CBO said.

The combined annual outlays in those programs are projected to double from $660 billion to $1.3 trillion.

CBO separately projected that the number of military retirees will remain about flat at just above 2 million and the number of military survivor beneficiaries also will remain around 300,000. The cost of those benefits is projected to increase from $49 billion to $75.1 billion.

By  |  06:00 AM ET, 03/16/2012

 
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