Senate plans to take $100 million out of the hide of the federal retirement program will not endanger cost-of-living raises that civil service and military retirees now get twice a year.
Under the law the nearly 2 million retirees get adjustments, based on the cost of living, each March and September. The September boost (which will show up in October checks) is for 6.9 percent.
Earlier this year the Senate Budget Committee proposed multi-million dollar savings in costs of administration and compounding by giving federal-military retirees a single cost-of-living raise each July 1. That would follow the pattern for people under Social Security.
But the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee balked at the plan -- and also at the budget unit's intrusion into its legislative turf. Chairman Abraham Ribicoff (D-Conn.) and ranking GOP members wrote that the savings are a good idea, but not at the price of reducing benefits already promised federal workers and going to retirees.
The Ribicoff unit, as reported here several weeks ago, says savings will be made by changing some retirement options available to federal workers and by tightening up the disability retirement program.
Under special situations now, some federal workers can retire as early as age 43 on reduced, but immediate, benefits. That plan will be looked at carefully, and perhaps changed.
A primary target for savings, however, is the federal disability retirement program. It has been a boon to many who became ill or injured on the job, but it also has produced inevitable abuses.
Under the federal/postal disability program, employes who cannot perform their specific jobs because of illness or injury can retire. By contrast in the private sector, injured or ill workers often are transferred to different jobs rather than being retired.
The vast majority of federal and postal workers retired under the more liberal federal program probably deserved and needed it. But there have been cases of employes being certified for lifetime disability benefits because of leg or foot ailments, and later spotted running in marathons. That is the sort of "deliberalizing" the Ribicoff committee will tackle. And it seems a much fairer approach than whacking the semi-annual cost-of-living raises for everybody.
Retiree Power: The American Federation of Government Employes has organized an all-volunteer army of retirees. They are being trained in lobbying techniques to work a couple of days each month on Capitol Hill.
Retirees have the highest voting percentage of any special interest group in the nation, and represent the balance of political power in many sunbelt localities. The retirees have a lot of talent, and the institutional memory that can help in dealing with Congress or the bureaucracy. Many times retirees can remind Congress why it originally passed legislation under attack by a different generation of members.
Guiding spirit behind the AFGE gray-power drive is Tom Smith, a consultant at the union who writes a regular column for the union's 300,000-circulation newspaper. Smith is one of the sharpest lobbyists in the business and his monthly column is winning high marks from AFGE types, and on Capitol Hill.
Rats Reunited: The U.S. Postal Service has reintroduced two former Virginia Military Institute "rats" (their nickname) who have been separated for 60 years by geography and international politics. According to Postal Life, the USPS house organ, the search started when Dr. C. J. Tai of Chungking, People's Republic of China, wrote the Roanoke, Va., postmaster to ask what's happening.
"I am a VMI graduate, class of '28, an old rat now, maybe the only survivor in this part of the world, the oldest rodent of my class," Dr. Tai wrote. He was looking for the address and status of a classmate but could only remember his first name, John. Roanoke postmaster J. P. Saunders went to work and located John Whaley of Roanoke. The two are corresponding now, and discussing the logistics of a reunion.
Administrative Officer Job: Labor Department's Womens Bureau has a vacancy. Send applications to Jane T. Love, Room C-5518, zip code 20210. Vacancy announcement is OPS-79-219.