Looking Ahead to 2016
Good news for federal workers — experts project 2016 may give relief from congressional attacks on pay and benefits.
This news comes from Bloomberg BNA, a legal, regulatory and business information source, which recently released a 2016 outlook on labor and employment law. In the 60-page report, dozens of senior government officials provided insight into the key issues 2016 will bring for Congress, the courts and federal agencies.
Election Year May Give Federal Workers a Break from Congress
The report forecasts federal pay and benefits will likely become a secondary concern for congressional leaders who are preparing for the 2016 election. John Palguta, vice president for policy at the Partnership for Public Service, was interviewed for the report, and noted how Congress had already passed a budget deal, which will fund the government through the end of 2016, so further calls to limit federal workers’ pay and benefits will likely subside.
“There’s very little political gain to be had in beating up on the federal workforce,” the report quoted Palguta in reference to the 2016 presidential and congressional election.
“You’re still going to see people running against government. But in an election year, the general public doesn’t care a lot about the structure of civil service.”
A “Conversation” About Civil Service Reform
Though Congress may shift its focus away from the federal workforce, the report suggested President Obama may attempt a few last-minute improvements for federal operations, as a way to boost his administration’s legacy.
“Part of a president’s legacy is what they leave behind in terms of a management structure,” said Palguta. “They want to leave behind a house in good order.”
Though a significant overhaul of the federal workplace is unlikely, the report notes 2016 may see a new “conversation” about civil service reform, which could carry over into 2017 and 2018 with the country’s newly elected president.
“The first two years of a new presidency is really the ideal time to work toward a comprehensive overhaul of the civil service system,” the report quoted Palguta, “You’re starting fresh and you’re not bogged down by other priorities.”
Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, was also interviewed for the 2016 Outlook report, and agreed the year ahead will likely be relatively uneventful for federal workers. In the report, Reardon discussed his pessimism when it comes to employee morale in the federal workplace.
“Federal employee morale remains incredibly low,” Reardon said. “People shouldn’t be surprised — there have been inadequate pay increases for federal workers and inadequate funding for agencies.”
The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) Will Continue to Work Through its Case Backlog
According to the report, the lack of funding has led to a staffing decline, which in-turn caused “a big increase in workload” for federal workers. One agency specifically noted for its staffing shortage is the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), which in 2016 will process its remaining case backlog from the influx of furlough appeals after the 2013 sequestration budget cuts. The agency’s workload more than quadrupled in 2013, when thousands were forced to take unpaid days off from work, and subsequently appealed their agencies’ decision to the MSPB. Though the MSPB is “about 97 percent done with the furlough cases,” it still has to adjudicate the cases, which were delayed because of the upsurge in furlough cases. The MSPB will hire temporary workers to help process the remaining cases.
MSPB’s Role in Federal Disability Retirement
Though federal disability retirement cases are initially reviewed by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the MSPB becomes involved in the adjudication process when a claim has been denied twice by the OPM. You can read more about the MSPB adjudication process in regards to disability retirement, however, it’s important to know the MSPB process is comparatively more formal. Given the present MSPB backlog, an appellant should seek legal advice as soon as possible. We’ve successfully represented federal employees through all stages of appeal for federal disability retirement claims, and are here to help! If you would like to speak with someone about your case, please call us at (877) 226-2723 or fill out an INQUIRY FORM for a free consultation.