Federal-employee groups want to tweak phased-retirement rules

Two federal-employee groups want to expand the government’s new phased-retirement program to more federal workers, but they disagree about the program’s proposed mentoring requirements.

The National Treasury Employees Union and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees association last week recommended changes to the draft rules in letters to the Office of Personnel Management, which is taking suggestions until Aug. 5 before implementing the program.

By law, phased retirement will allow federal employees to work part-time after the age of retirement while receiving partial annuities and continuing to pay toward their benefits. But OPM has to work out the more granular details of the program.

(Wikimedia Commons) (Wikimedia Commons)

NTEU and NARFE, which support phased retirement, have raised concerns about a proposed rule that would limit eligibility to workers with 20 or more years of service with the federal government. Both groups have asked OPM to allow older employees to participate with fewer years, a move that would expand the program to more employees.

“In this time of austerity budgeting, phased retirement should be extended to as many retirement-eligible employees as possible,” said NARFE president Joseph A. Beaudoin in a letter to OPM last week. “With many federal agencies in a hiring freeze, phased retirement may be the difference in whether or not a position stays filled, at least part time.”

Both federal-worker groups have also called on OPM to allow at least partial payment of annuity supplements while employees take part in phased retirement. Beaudoin said denying the supplement “acts as a disincentive for employees considering phased retirement … contrary to the intent of the law.”

But the groups differed on a proposed rule that would require participants to spend at least 20 percent of their part-time work hours mentoring potential successors.

NARFE’s Beaudoin has called for a strengthening of the rule, saying the draft guidelines allow “too much leeway in allowing the agency to waive the mentoring requirement should it see fit.”

NTEU President Colleen M. Kelley argued the opposite point in a letter to OPM last week, saying the rules should “allow agencies to waive the mentoring requirement when severe budgetary restrictions prevent an agency from hiring new employees.”

NARFE’s letter addressed Thrift Savings Plans retirement accounts, saying the rules should require agencies to continue matching employee contributions for phased-retirement participants. The group additionally asked OPM to ensure that participants would receive dental and long-term care coverage.

To connect with Josh Hicks, follow his Twitter feed, friend his Facebook page or e-mail josh.hicks@washpost.comFor more federal news, visit The Federal Eye, The Fed Page and Post Politics. E-mail federalworker@washpost.com with news tips and other suggestions.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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Josh Hicks · August 2, 2013