The Social Security Administration sent employees notices on Monday, giving them an option for voluntary early retirement.
Employees who accept the offer must retire by Sept. 30. To qualify, employees must have completed 20 years of creditable service and be at least 50 years old, or have 25 years of creditable service at any age, according to the notice. Civil Service Retirement System employees must have served in a CSRS position one year of the two before retirement. SSA employees under the Federal Employees Retirement System are not subject to this requirement.
About 9,000 employees meet the eligibility criteria, representing 14 percent of SSA’s 62,000-strong workforce. According to SSA spokeswoman Kia Green, typically 3 percent to 4 percent of eligible employees take advantage of early retirement offers. Green also emphasized the agency was not offering buyouts.
SSA is under intense budget pressure. In May, Commissioner Michael Astrue testified to the Senate Finance Committee that Congress has provided less money than SSA has requested for the last 20 years. The agency suffered a 6 percent cut in its workforce in 2011. Astrue said this has hampered SSA’s ability to handle increased service demands from baby boomers.
“Inevitably . . . increasing workloads combined with declining budgets damaged service delivery,” Astrue said. “Even with consistent year-over-year increases in employee productivity, our reduced staff could not keep up with the rising workloads.”
A report that the office of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, released on July 25 warned that if sequestration occurs in 2013, then SSA employees could face six-week furloughs, and the agency could lose temporary hires and 5,000 staff through attrition.