Lawmakers Pressure OPM to Begin Phased Retirement

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

This story has been updated with comment from OPM. 

A bipartisan chorus of lawmakers is ramping up pressure on the Office of Personnel Management to put out final guidance that would allow federal employees to partially retire while training their successors.

Four Democrats and two Republicans wrote a letter to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and Office of Management and Budget acting Director Brian Deese calling the agency’s delay in implementing final phased retirement regulations unacceptable. The lawmakers asked for a specific date to expect the final rule and offered to assist in OPM’s efforts.

“As you may be aware, many federal employees have given up hope that OPM will ever take final actions,” Reps. Gerry Connolly, D-Va.; Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; Jim Moran, D-Va.; Rob Wittman, R-Va.; and Frank Wolf, R-Va., wrote in the letter. “These employees are choosing to completely retire in frustration that they will never have the opportunity to support their agencies in mentoring and training the next generation of civil servants on a part-time basis.”

The Office of Personnel Management issued a proposed rule in June 2013 outlining the new option for eligible federal employees who want to partially retire, collecting prorated pension payments and working part-time for the government. The so-called phased retirement provision, included in the 2012 transportation reauthorization act, allows eligible federal employees to work 20 hours per week, receiving half their pay as well as half their retirement annuity.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, wrote a separate letter to Archuleta last week charging her specifically with finalizing regulations “in a timely manner.”

“It has been two years since enactment of the statutory authority, and one year since proposed regulations were issued,” Issa wrote. “This raises concerns that OPM is unnecessarily delaying the rule and impeding the law from being carried out as Congress intended.” Issa asked for an explanation for the delay by July 14.

An OPM spokeswoman said the agency hoped to issue a final rule by the end of September.

“We are working hard on the phased retirement rule, and hope that it will be completed in fiscal year 2014,” the spokeswoman said. “Most importantly, we want to make sure we get it right.”

Virtually all stakeholders consider phased retirement a win-win: Uncle Sam gets to keep valuable employees -- who are required to spend 20 percent of their time training and mentoring their replacements -- for a bit longer, and partially-retired employees will earn more money than they would by fully retiring, or simply working part-time.

The group of six House members said their constituents have found OPM’s tone on phased retirement “dismissive and condescending.”

“What they want to know, what we want to know, is when will the regulations be issued?” the lawmakers wrote. “The wait has been too long already.”  

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