The typical retired military officer now working as a federal civilian would take a pay cut of $15,800 next year if Congress okays a House committee plan to reduce dual compensation benefits in order to give white collar government workers a bigger October pay raise, and save twice yearly COL (cost of living) raises for government retirees.
Retired military enlisted personnel who have civil service jobs would lose about $9,200 a year under the pension-offsetting plan cleared by the Post Office-Civil Service Committee now under review by the House Budget Committee.
There are an estimated 175,000 career military retirees now working in government jobs, including between 12,000 to 15,000 here. Total loss of pay to the group would be $740 million a year.
Last week the House PO-CS Committee, which has charge of some federal pay and fringe benefits matters, was ordered to cut $5.1 billion from proposed spending outlays for federal salaries and fringe benefits. The House Budget Committee suggested that the PO-CS unit eliminate one of the two COL raises that retirees now get each year, and go along with President Reagan's proposal to give the million plus federal clerks, scientists and secretaries (300,000 of them in metro Washington) a 4.8 percent raise in lieu of the nearly 13 percent due them under a catchup-with-industry fromula.
Democrats on the committee balked at both the pay figure and the proposal to limit U.S. civilian and military retirees, who now get inflation adjustments each March and September, to one COL raise per year. Earlier its counterpart committee on the Senate side, the Governmental Affairs Committee (controlled by the Republicans), voted to go along with the once-a-year COL raise, and the 4.8 percent October pay boost.
In looking for offsetting savings, the PO-CS unit decided to subject military retirees working for the government to the same rules that apply to civilian federal workers who retire, and then are rehired by Uncle Sam. That rule reduces the pay for whatever job the rehired annuitant takes by the amount of his or her federal pension.
Under current law, career enlisted military retirees who take jobs with Uncle Sam get to keep all of their civilian salary, in addition to retirement pay.Retired reserve officers are also allowed to draw full pension plus full salary for their federal jobs. Retired regulars have their U.S. civilian salary offset. They are allowed to keep the first $5,999.44 of their military retirement, plus one half the remainder as well as their full civilian federal salary.
If the House okays the PO-CS plan, all military retirees working for government would be subject to the same offsetting formula. That is they would be able to keep their military pensions, but have their salary reduced by the amount of their retirement pay.
Data supplied by the Congressional Budget Office indicated that the typical retired officer (regular or reserve) in government today gets a military retirement of $15,800 each year. Enlisted personnel average $9,200. If the offset plan is cleared, their civilian federal salaries would be reduced accordingly. Many retirees would take a pay cut of from one-third to one-half of their current government salary.
The revised budget cutting plans (which include reductions in expenditures for federal personnel benefits) will be presented to Congress later this month. If the Senate goes along with the plan approved by its Budget Committee and Governmental Affairs Committee, federal workers would get a 4.8 percent raise this October, and retirees would lose one of their two annual COL adjustments.
If the House adopts the PO-CS compromise (a 5.45 percent raise, continuation of the two COL adjustments and the military retiree offset plan) the two versions will have to go to a joint Senate-House budget conference. Whatever they come up with will then be sent back to the Senate and House for final approval, and that will be that.
Many military retirees -- heavily concentrated in Washington, Norfolk, San Francisco and San Diego -- working for Uncle Sam are furious with the proposed change. They are hoping Congress will protect their dual benefits, even if it means dropping one of the COL raises they and other retirees now get. The million plus civilian-retirees are pushing equally hard to keep their COL system intact. Federal unions are split on the issue. They would like to keep the two COL raises, and want the biggest raise possible this October for their members. But many of their members and local leaders, are also retired military personnel so the unions find themselves between a legislative rock and a hard place.