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Lawmakers press OPM to finally begin phased retirement for federal workers

Lawmakers from both parties are pressuring the Office of Personnel Management to finalize long-delayed rules for a phased-retirement program that Congress approved for federal employees two years ago.

Four Democrats and two Republicans sent a letter this month to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and acting Office of Management and Budget director Brian Deese expressing frustration with how long the OPM has taken to create guidelines for the program, which allows retirement-eligible employees to work part time while training their successors.

“As you may be aware, many federal employees have given up hope that OPM will ever take final action,” the letter said. “These employees are choosing to completely retire in frustration that they will never have the opportunity to support their agencies in mentoring and training the next generation of civil servants on a part-time basis.”

All but one of the lawmakers who signed the letter represent districts in fed-heavy Maryland and Virginia. The six are Reps. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.), Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), James P. Moran (D-Va.), Rob Wittman (R-Va.) and Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.).

The National Treasury Employees Union, one of largest labor groups for federal workers, commended the lawmakers for their letter and their “efforts in making phased retirement a reality.”

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), also sent a letter this month to Archuleta requesting a timeline for finalizing the phased-
retirement rules and an explanation for the delay.

An OPM spokesman said the agency is “working hard” to complete the guidelines and hopes to have them finished by October. “Most importantly, we want to make sure we get it right,” the spokesman said.

With phased retirement, employees can draw half of their pensions while working part time. The OPM issued draft regulations for the program more than a year ago, saying participants would need at least 20 years of experience and would have to spend at least 20 percent of their time mentoring successors or other employees.

But other details are unknown, such as whether there will be limits on the number of employees who can participate and for how long.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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