TThe Carter administration may give its blessing to a modified and emotionally supercharged piece of legislation that would give partial pension benefits or survivor death benefits to the former spouse of a federal retiree.
The Civil Service Commission has opposed the bill, sponsored by Rep. Patricia Schroeder (D-Colo.).
The bill guarantees that husbands or wives of federal workers would receive for at least 20 years as much as 50 per cent of the employee's pension, even if they are divorced. The bill also would permit the former spouse to receive as much as 50 per cent of a deceased retiree's survivor annuity benefits. Men or women marrying a divorced federal worker would have to split the pension.
The survivor annuity amounts to about 55 per cent of the actual pension.
The prospect of the 20-year pension vesting for former spouses has irritated and terrified many employees who are divorced or contemplating divorce. Also irked are second wives or husbands who think they should bot be penalized because their spouse has been married previously. The Schroeder bill would not be retroative and would take effect upon enactment.
CSC officials had argued that the government would be placed in the position of imposing a system in conflict with many states that have no community property laws.
But in recent talks with Schroeder and Rep. Gladys Noon Spellman (D-Md.), CSC brass have said they will reconsider their position. Spellman chairs the House subcommittee with jurisdiction over the bill.
Last week, Office of Management and Budget chief Bert Lance met with the two legislators and seemed "sympathetic," according to a staffer. Lance has the President's ear and, if he gives the plan the green light, that puts the administration in favor of the bill.
The price of the administration's reconsideration probably will include several trade-off, including an end to the 20-year proviso. Instead, the White House might say that the share of the pension and survivor annuity an ex-spouse should receive would be prorated on the years of marriage coinciding with federal service, with perhaps a five-year marriage minimum.
The administration also is likely to ask that the pension-sharing plan not be applied where it would conflict with state laws.
Some lawyers working on the proposal are anxious to insure that the federal retiree not be put in double jeopardy. For instance, a divorce settlement might require a percentage protion of the retiree's income for alimony. If that were the case, the argument goes, it would be unfair to again halve the retiree's pension if he or she already was paying a substantial portion of total income, including pension income, as part of a divorce settlement.