Bill would allow retirees to return with full pay

Legislation introduced in the Senate late last week would allow federal retirees to return to government service without taking pay cuts.

The bill, unveiled by Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, on Friday is a top priority of Office of Personnel Management Director Linda Springer, and is backed by a range of retiree and good government groups. Some labor union officials have expressed concern about its potential implications for current federal workers.

Now, the salaries of federal retirees who re-enter the workforce are cut by the amount of their pensions. Collins' bill would allow them to earn full salaries if they returned on a temporary basis.

"Human resources research has repeatedly shown that . . . older workers equal or outperform younger workers" in a number of areas, including mentoring, Collins said. "Making good use of their talents is . . . not charity. It is common sense and sound management."

"It is crucial that we take measures to minimize the effects of this 'brain drain'" caused by retirements, said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, in a letter expressing support for Collins' legislation. "Your legislation . . . will encourage seasoned employees to continue their service to government and allow agencies to tap a needed source of talent."

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, the Federal Managers Association and the Council for Excellence in Government also have signaled their support.

But during an Aug. 2 hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce, Postal Service and the District of Columbia, J. David Cox, national secretary-treasurer of the American Federation of Government Employees, expressed concerns that allowing retirees to return to the workforce might block promotion opportunities for younger employees. Cox did agree with supporters that retirees could play a valuable role in training and mentoring a new generation of federal workers.

Collins' bill, which is co-sponsored by Sens. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, and John Warner, R.-Va., would place limits on the number of hours returning retirees could work. They would be capped at 68 days in the first six months after their pension payments began, 130 days in the first year and 780 days total. Collins said 4,500 retirees already have returned to the workforce under waiver provisions, and her bill would allow more to return to targeted projects.

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