It will be mid-November before Congress and the White House can eliminate an important before-and-after pension-boosting benefit for active duty federal and postal workers.

Congress recessed last week before finishing work on a budget reconciliation item that would trim dollar benefits for future retirees.

Under current law, U.S. workers can retire and get the dollar benefit of the cost-of-living (COL) raise that went into effect before they retired and also get the full amount of the COL that goes into effect after they retire.

U.S. retirees get COL adjustments every March and September, and persons retiring between either of those raises now get them both.

Senate-House conferees have agreed to prorate the amount of the COL a retiree gets based on how long he, or she, has been retired before the raise goes into effect. Example: a 7.7 percent COL raise went into effect Sept. 1 of this year. Persons retiring the day before it was effective got all of the COL, even though it was for a six-month period when they were still working and not retired. Under prorating, they would get only that portion of the COL raise covering the period when they were actually retired.

The conferees have also voted to end the look-back benefit. That would prevent individuals from getting the value of the previous COL raise when they retire, reducing the annuity they had counted on receiving.

Neither change will become effective until they are actually signed into law. That probably won't happen until mid-November. Until the law is changed people can still retire and be elibible for the look-back benefit that, right now, would boost their lifetime annuities 7.7 percent -- the amount of the most recent COL raise.

Since many members of Congress are retiring this year, you can bet most of them will retire before they and their colleagues eliminate the look-back feature. Members of Congress get the same COL raises as other federal retirees.