About 2,800 of the federal government's 2.9 million workers have been offered early retirement this year. Just over 100 have taken it. That isn't many.

Most early-out offers have gone to Defense units. Defense has about 40 percent of the civilian federal work force, including more than 90,000 civilians here. Normally, one of every six people offered an early-out takes it.

Officials think some employees -- including those who are already eligible to retire -- are holding out for a better deal from Congress. It isn't likely to come through.

The officials suspect that early-out beneficiaries are holding out because of the 2 percent pension cut they would take for each year they are under age 55. They suspect that many workers are delaying retirement in hopes of getting a pension sweetener.

The House hasn't taken any action on an attractive but costly bill by Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.). Her plan would give any defense worker retiring immediately a five-year age/service credit. That would make thousands eligible to retire and would mean much bigger pensions for those already eligible to retire. But it is almost August. Congress is hoping to adjourn by early October. It has lots on its plate, and early retirement isn't on the menu.

This week, the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee (again) rejected the plan by Sen. William V. Roth Jr. (R-Del.) to open an early-out window for thousands of government employees. The Roth and Boxer bills look good -- to employees, but not to a majority of the members of Congress.

"Anybody who is passing up a legitimate early-out offer waiting for something better like the Boxer bill is crazy," a senior Defense official said this week.

A Senate Democratic staffer said the Roth bill has two chances: slim and none. "By the time the Roth bill becomes law, anybody who was looking for an early out . . . will be old enough to retire anyhow."

Health Insurance Holes

Most workers and retirees have good insurance coverage. But many with serious illnesses discover that their plans have serious gaps when it comes to paying for special procedures to treat some conditions. In November, federal workers will again be asked to decide what kind of coverage they want next year.

Tomorrow at noon on WNTR radio (1050 AM) Greta Tatken of Claims Recovery Inc. will talk about problem areas in federal health plans and how to get the most for your premium dollar.

Top Personnel Job

The Office of Personnel Management is looking for an assistant director for personnel. The Senior Executive Service job has a salary range of $71,200 to $83,600. For information, call Linda Moody at 606-2081.

Special Raters

More than 200,000 engineers, scientists and medical personnel are now paid salaries 2 percent to nearly 30 percent above scale for their grades. More than 30,000 Washington area clerical workers are paid special rates that could go even higher under a bill before the Senate. Check this space Sunday for details on the extra-special special-rate plan.