The average federal worker in the Washington area gets $31,187 a year. That is fine if one is average, or above average.

The frequently used statistic, from the Office of Personnel Management, bothers some readers, especially those below the "average" level. Feds say it presents a distorted picture of federal compensation and makes it easier for bureaucrat-bashers to beat on civil servants.

Among the letters in today's Monday Morning Quarterback is one from a government retiree who wants to know who these "average" people are:

"I worked for the federal government for 23 years and my husband, now deceased, had approximately the same time. Although both of us worked very hard and reared three children, our salaries never went much over $20,000. I managed to acquire a college education during those years and still retired with a salary of less than $21,000. My husband was forced to retire because of heart problem for which he got very little compensation.

"I get angry when I read about the 'average' federal salary. I knew a lot of people when I worked and the number who made $31,000 was small indeed. Would someone please explain to the average nongovernment worker the truth about this figure.

"I would also point out that federal workers contribute 7 percent of their salary every payday for their pension. I am now getting mine and that of my husband. Expenses in this area are so high I find it necessary to work part-time to hold on to my modest home and meet expenses.

"I think it is about time somone gave credit to the hard-working government people and stop running them down." -- E.R., Rockville

Other comments on other subjects:

* "Although there is no firm policy against smoking, our boss recently asked cigarette smokers to cut back on-the-job smoking because some employes complained that the smoke made them ill. This caused a retaliation of unexpected proportion with the cigarette smokers turning to cigars. We now have bad feelings, threats and some really sick people while the cigar smokers laugh. The boss, apparently helpless, has washed his hands of the matter.

"Aside from the obvious discomfort to some, the people who smoke 10 to 20 cigarettes a day in our Air Force office waste millions of man hours. Want to really save money in government? Smoke only during specified break time. Want to save innocent lives? Smoke only in assigned areas apart from those who want clean air." -- Signed: I Want To Live, Sacramento, Calif.

* "The Grace Commission would have the American public believe that retirement at 55 occurs only in the government. Enclosed is a newspaper article (Topeka Capital-Journal) about 131 employes at the Topeka DuPont plant who retired on May 3. They are part of a program allowing them to retire on full pension at age 55 with 20 years of service. Government isn't the only place that allows this!" -- Y.W., Sterling Park, Va.

* "The State of Maryland has entered into a tentative agreement with the Defense Department to provide for the withholding of Maryland state income taxes from the pension checks of nearly 40,000 military retirees in the state . . . . This means many of these individuals will no longer be required to file quarterly estimated tax returns, after the June 15, 1985, payment. Requests for the withholding should be made to the finance center (Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or Coast Guard) of each individual's former service." -- Louis L. Goldstein, Comptroller, State of Maryland