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In Deficit, Retirees See Plenty of Reason to Worry

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By Joe Davidson
Wednesday, September 10, 2008

GRAND HAVEN, Mich.

Like many federal retirees, John W. Kibler and Ed Moore are basically happy with the government retirement programs. But recent news out of Washington makes them nervous.

The latest concern is the nation's rapidly increasing budget deficit. Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office projected it would reach a record $438 billion next year, up from the estimated $407 billion this year. Last year's $162 billion deficit seems like a pittance in comparison.

"This is a very big concern, of course, because they are going to have to pay for it somewhere," Kibler said by phone from Louisville, where the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association is meeting.

Kibler retired 14 years ago after more than three decades of service. He was a supervisory contract price analyst with the Defense Logistics Agency. Now he is president of the NARFE chapter in Grand Rapids and a vice president for the state federation.

The worry he and other retirees feel is based in history.

"During the budget crises of the 1980s and early 1990s, federal retirees and survivors lost $50 billion in deferred, reduced and canceled cost-of-living adjustments while 40 million Social Security beneficiaries never missed a dime's worth of COLAs," said Daniel Adcock, NARFE's legislative director.

In 1994, 1995 and 1996, the cost-of-living adjustments were delayed three months to save money.

"They always want to take it out on the back of the retirees and employees," complained Moore, who retired after almost 38 years as a postal clerk in Grand Rapids.

I met Moore and Kibler for breakfast last week just outside Grand Haven, a lovely beach town on Lake Michigan, an area included in Moore's territory as a NARFE state vice president.

Over eggs, toast, juice and coffee, they spoke well of several government retirement programs, but also of the need for some changes. Three issues at the top of their agenda are allowing retirees to pay their portion of health insurance premiums with non-taxable income and changing two measures that are a particular problem for retirees: the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.


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