Most of the area's 32,000 federal clerical workers were pleased last year when the Office of Personnel Management designated them as "special rate" employees and gave them raises ranging from 3 percent to 23 percent. Nationwide, more than 120,000 government workers, scientists, engineers, nurses and others in hard-to-fill jobs are paid higher, special rates.

But many of the specials have discovered a downside to their status: They didn't get the 2 percent general federal pay raise, and, as reported here Jan. 31, being a special-rate employee may disqualify them from taking early retirement.

Today's first Monday Morning Quarterback letter is from an Agriculture Department secretary who questions the value of special pay status.

Included are some comments from clericals outside the special-pay ranks who would like to get in them:It was never mentioned, when we received the {special rate} raise, that we would not be eligible for these future {benefits}. We signed nothing . . . . This shoddy treatment will further deplete the shortage categories.

There are very few opportunities for secretaries to further themselves, especially older {secretaries who} return to work after raising a family . . . .

As the younger generation continues to go to college, we may entirely run out of secretaries.

A computer cannot search the files, set up a meeting, make . . . copies . . . call for travel accommodations, mail out . . . your latest report, and run it to the mailroom.

We are the unsung heroes . . . . Our office would literally shut down . . . if we were not here, yet we continue to be treated shabbily. When you make under $20,000 (of which you get to take home about $13,700 and your housing takes half that) then 2 percent means a great deal. "Early out" means even more.

Congress . . . understood a 16 percent raise for themselves last year. They must understand . . . equal treatment of the secretarial force. Thank you for an opportunity to state my feelings on the latest injustices endured by the government's "critical categories."

This type treatment has much bearing on why the "critical category" vacancies exist. D.B., Beltsville

Last year the government gave more than 30,000 clerical workers in the Washington area a special-rate pay raise. The increases amount to 3 percent to 23 percent.

My question is this: Why are accounting technicians being left out?

Accounting technicians are also clerical workers. We have to type, use the PC, Lotos and word processing.

We are the backup professional clerical workers for the staff accountants.

We too need a special-rate pay raise. Who makes the decisions for approving a special-rate pay for accounting technicians? OPM? S.M.B., Silver Spring

I am a clerical employee with the federal government. But because my job description does not include typing, although I do type as part of my job, I was not included in last April's big, and long overdue, special raise for other clerical workers. Now I hear some secretaries and clerk-typists complain when we non-special-rate workers get a 2 percent raise.

I will gladly trade the 2 percent raise I got in January 1988 for the 23 percent adjustment that the special-rate workers got in April 1987. Am I missing something, or are they missing something? M.M., Fairfax