If president-elect Reagan sticks to his promises, the federal retirement system will not be merged with Social Security, nor will there be any change in the system that gives U.S. retirees cost-of-living raises every six months.
Two of the biggest legislative nightmares that bureaucrats have center on cutbacks in the COL adjustment system and plans that would force federal and postal employees -- who now enjoy their own retirement system -- to join Social Security.
Congress spent most of this year trying to approve a budget-cutting plan that would have held federal-postal-military retirees to a single COL adjustment each year. They now get regular COL raises each March and September.
Although the Senate and House initially approved the once-a-year COL adjustment formula, Senate and House conferees -- under heavy pressure from government unions and the National Association of Retired Federal Employees -- eventually scrubbed the one-a-year COL raise. That means federal and postal retirees, and ex-military personnel, will continue to get two inflation adjustments each year.
During the campaign candidate Ronald Reagan wrote NARFE, which is the largest of all federal employe groups, that he would not change the twice-yearly COL system. Reagan told NARFE members, who took an active role in the campaign, that his goal is to reduce inflation, not to reduce the number of inflation-catch-up raises that retirees get. President Carter orignally proposed limiting U.S. retirees to one COL raise a year, the same formula that applies to adjustments in Social Security benefits.
The White House took no stand on mandatory Social Security coverage for federal workers, although officials inside the Department of Health and Human Services are eager to bring 2.7 million federal employes and uncovered state and local government workers under the Social Security blanket. Such a proposal is almost sure to be introduced in Congress next session.
Despite conflicting statements from some Reagan aides about cutbacks in COL benefits and Social Security merger, the president-elect is on record in writing as opposing either change.
In an Oct. 13 letter to the Federal Executive Institute Alumni Association, Republican National Committee Chairman Bill Brock restated the opposition of the Republican Party and its presidential candidate to mandatory Social Security coverage, or any COL cutback for ex-government workers or the military. The prestigious FEIAA -- made up of graduates of the goverment's elite staff college for executives -- had asked for the GOP position on executive pay, Social Security and the retiree COLs.
Brock said the Republicans supported the Carter civil service reform plan, which created the Senior Executive Service, but took a swipe at the Carter administration for failing to "reward the work of federal employes in accordance with the effectiveness of their work effort." Optimistic executives read this as saying Reagan will support higher pay for career federal executives. Pessimists say they will believe it when the checks arrive.
But the GOP position is more solid regarding mandatory Social Security and the protection of two COL raises for retirees. This is what Brock wrote to the FEIAA:
". . . With regard to a party position on integration of the federal retirement system with that of Social Security as well as problems of cost-of-living allowance adjustment, Governor Reagan has said that he supports the system that gives federal, postal and military retirees inflation catch-up raises every six months. The governor has said also that he would oppose any more that would force federal employees who have their own retirement system to be included in the Social Security program."