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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

What next?

Last year was a pretty good one for pay and benefits, so what is there to look forward to in 2001?

Here's a preview:

Pay, pay and more pay

The Senior Executives Association will lobby Congress for a solution to the executive pay cap that has left SESers at the top three pay levels with the same pay for years. Similarly, federal labor unions such as the American Federation of Government Employees and the National Treasury Employees Union will continue to battle for public sector pay that is on par with private sector salaries. The Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990 (FEPCA) was supposed to close the public-private pay gap, but a loophole in the law allowed the Clinton administration to sidestep its enforcement.

President George Bush signed FEPCA into law, a fact that union leaders find promising for its future in his son's administration. "Maybe the son will make sure that a law that his father signed is actually enacted," Bobby Harnage, AFGE's president,said in a December interview.

Windfalls and offsets

There are at least two major benefits provisions affecting federal retirees that Congress has yet to address. The government pension offset, which Congress passed in 1977, reduces the amount of Social Security spousal benefits Civil Service Retirement System retirees receive by two-thirds of the amount of their government pension. Rep. William J. Jefferson, D-La., hopes to turn his legislation, H.R. 1217, which would modify the formula for calculating the offset, into law next year.

Another pesky problem with Social Security that hasn't been solved yet is the windfall elimination provision. The National Association of Retired Federal Employees has been fighting this one for years and will continue to do so in 2001. The provision reduces the Social Security benefit of a retired or disabled worker who also receives a government annuity based on his/her own earnings. It applies to anyone who becomes 62 (or disabled) after 1985 and becomes eligible for her/his government annuity after 1985.

Free PCs

And finally, several readers have inquired about the Federal Workforce Digital Access Act, H.R. 4232, that would provide federal employees with one year of service with a free home computer and unlimited Internet access. A spokesman for Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., said Cummings has not yet determined whether he will reintroduce this bill in the next Congress.

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