The Senate has sent legislation to President Bush allowing some older federal employees and members of the armed forces to make additional contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan.

The legislation, sponsored by Sens. Daniel K. Akaka (D-Hawaii) and John W. Warner (R-Va.) and Rep. Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), would permit TSP participants 50 and older to contribute additional tax-deferred money toward their retirement.

The measure brings the TSP in line with recent changes in tax law that enable private-sector workers 50 and older to make "catch-up" contributions to their 401(k) retirement plans. The changes will allow eligible workers to exceed the regular limit on contributions ($12,000 next year) by $2,000 in 2003, $3,000 in 2004, $4,000 in 2005 and $5,000 in 2006.

The catch-up contributions were authorized because few 401(k) plans were created before the late 1970s, and many older workers could not set aside tax-deferred savings over their full careers. The TSP was not created by Congress until 1986.

"The 'over-50 catch-up contribution' provision . . . will allow workers to make up for years when they were not employed, didn't contribute to their plan or otherwise weren't able to save. It is especially beneficial for women who have returned to the workforce after taking time off to raise families," Akaka said.

New Benefit for Some Veterans Disabled military retirees who have been awarded the Purple Heart and some others with combat-related ailments will be entitled to special compensation under legislation approved this week by Congress.

The new benefit is an important step toward ending a dispute over a 105-year-old law that requires military retirees to give up a dollar of their Defense Department retirement pay for each dollar they collect in disability benefits paid by the Veterans Affairs Department.

Under the legislation, the amount of special compensation would equal the amount of retirement pay forfeited because of veterans disability compensation, allowing "concurrent receipt" of the benefits.

The measure falls short of what veterans groups wanted: full retirement and disability payments not just for some military retirees but for all veterans with service-related disabilities and 20 years of service. That goal seemed within reach until midsummer, when the White House lodged a strong veto threat against House and Senate bills favored by veterans groups.

The White House objected to concurrent receipt because of the precedent involved -- allowing federal beneficiaries to receive more than one type of benefit for the same period of service -- and the multibillion-dollar cost of an extra benefit payment.

Faced with a veto threat, Warner, the next chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) met with Bush administration officials to find a compromise.

Warner said the compromise represented "a beachhead" that will give Congress a chance next year "to get together the body of facts so there is a greater understanding of the complexity of this issue."

The new benefit will begin six months after Bush signs the fiscal 2003 defense authorization act, which includes the retiree compromise.

The special compensation would go to military retirees with 20 years of service who were awarded the Purple Heart because of combat injuries and to retirees who are rated at least 60 percent disabled because of armed conflict, hazardous duty, training exercises or mishaps involving military equipment. Conditions caused by Agent Orange, Gulf War syndrome and post-traumatic stress also will be covered.

About 35,000 miliary retirees should qualify for the special compensation, veterans advocates said.

Weekend Talk Shows Patrick Pizzella, the Labor Department's assistant secretary for administration and management, will be the guest on "The Business of Government Hour" at 8 a.m. tomorrow on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

"Is Your Agency's EEO Office Effective?" will be the topic of discussion on the Imagene B. Stewart call-in program at 8 a.m. Sunday on WOL radio (1450 AM).

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