House resuscitates FERS sick leave fix

House lawmakers on Wednesday revived federal retirement reforms that were stripped out of the newly enacted tobacco legislation.

H.R. 2990, which would allow veterans receiving disability benefits from the Veterans Affairs Department to receive full retirement benefits from the Defense Department, included a provision that would let employees in the Federal Employee Retirement System count unused sick leave toward their pensions. The House, which approved the bill under a suspension of the rules, plans to roll H.R. 2990 into the fiscal 2010 Defense authorization bill.

Other measures included in H.R. 2990 would make it easier to rehire federal retirees part time; modify how the Civil Service Retirement System calculates annuity payments for employees who retire as part-time workers; and move federal employees in Alaska, Hawaii and U.S. territories from cost-of-living adjustments into the locality pay system. In addition, H.R. 2990 permits FERS workers to redeposit retirement funds, including interest, collected after leaving government upon returning for a second round of service. It would also allow District of Columbia Circuit Court employees, who are now considered federal workers, to count their time as district employees toward their retirement.

One federal retirement reform not included in H.R. 2990 was a provision that would allow federal retirees rehired by the government to keep their full annuity payments. Supporters of the measure had argued it would give agencies more flexibility to use experienced workers to meet agency needs, but some unions said it would put current workers at a disadvantage and circumvent fair hiring procedures.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association issued a press release praising H.R. 2990, but criticized lawmakers for leaving the rehiring provisions out. That provision could be included in the Senate's version of the Defense authorization bill.

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