Sweeping Changes Coming to Retirement and Job Security

Jan 20, 2017


Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. He has big plans once President-elect Donald Trump takes office. He says he can focus more on the ‘reform’ part of his job since a republican will be in office. Below are some of the plans he has for federal workers.

One of his top agenda items will be to focus on legislative changes such as eliminating defined-benefit pensions for new federal employees and making it easier for agencies to dismiss employees accused of sexual misconduct.

He said his committee will push to move that new federal hires receive only a defined-contribution benefit, like the Thrift Savings Plan. He still needs to “work out the math” as to whether those employees would receive a more generous contribution toward the TSP to make up for the loss of pension, but did promise a “healthy” match from agencies. Now who really knows what a “healthy” match is in this case.

Chaffetz has also promised to protect employees already vested in their pensions saying that he didn’t want to scare an employee already on the job and it would be “difficult” to go after existing workers’ retirements. He has spoken to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis, but he hasn’t worked out an avenue for the reform yet.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va of the oversight committee, said his party would “resist and fight back” against any effort to lessen federal employees’ compensation. “It’s a cynical, destructive, and dishonorable way to approach civil servants who work awfully hard for the government every day.”

Chaffetz said his committee is also considering ways to shrink the size of the federal workforce. Republicans are “looking at” legislation to require 2-3 federal employees to leave before agencies could hire one new worker. He vowed to avoid a past issue where reductions in workforce have led to more contracted work, contradicting their intentions. He has also said that there are a lot of good quality workers but there are too many of them.

The committee will also make a clearer definition of what constitutes sexual harassment and assault for federal workers. Currently, it varies from agency to agency. The goal is to make rules for them to be dealt with in a much quicker manner. Chaffetz expressed a wariness of pursuing across the board reforms to federal hiring procedures, saying he would prefer to tackle the issue at individual agencies or regarding particular issues. He also wants Congress to pursue changes to the way agencies handle Senior Executive Service employees separately from the rest of the federal workforce. The committee will look at expediting terminations of SES workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. He notes current laws provide far too much leniency for federal employees.

On the other hand, Connolly warned that the Republicans’ approach would undermine efforts to recruit a new wave of civil servants at a time when the federal workforce is disproportionately eligible for retirement, telling the party “you want to do everything in your power to make it a less attractive career path.” He went on to say, “Who is going to be motivated to work for the federal government?….Maybe that’s your intention.”

Added to all this, Chaffetz wants to reform the United States Postal Service. He will meet with cosponsors of this bill soon, including Gerry Connolly. It includes requiring all postal retirees to enroll in Medicare as their primary health insurance provider.

He also wants to push federal agencies to seek more opportunity to move their offices and employees outside DC. This could save the government a significant amount of money. About 15 percent of federal employees work in and around DC.

To end, he promised not to pursue exclusively trying to diminish and dismiss the federal workforce, noting there are some areas where Congress should boost compensation for government employees; for example, those working in IT positions.

Any new transition in Washington comes with changes and the promise of change. While we don’t know what exactly will happen, it’s important to be informed of these proposed changes. If you are thinking about leaving federal service now, we want you to be aware of all your options. Many federal employees don’t know about federal disability retirement. This is a benefit available to all federal workers who meet the eligibility requirements. You may qualify for it and not even know. If you think you fall under this, give our office a call and see if we can help you get the benefits you have earned. Call us at 877-226-2723 or fill out this INQUIRY form. The consultation is always FREE!

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