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

Phased Retirement’s Slow Rollout, Medical Pot for Vets and More

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The good news is that finally, one agency has begun the long-anticipated implementation of phased retirement, the program that allows some feds to ease into their post-employment lives by continuing to work part time, enabling their agencies to retain vital institutional knowledge. The bad news for most feds is that that agency is the Library of Congress—which employs a sliver of the federal workforce potentially eligible for the option.

As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, “The option has been so long in development that it gives new meaning to the word ‘phased.’ ”

The Office of Personnel Management issued final rules on the program last August—two years after Congress passed the law authorizing it—and technically began allowing feds to apply for phased retirement in November. But until now, no agencies have actually offered the program to employees. As Government Executive’s Kellie Lunney noted at the time:  

Agencies have broad discretion in deciding how to implement phased retirement, including deciding which jobs are eligible for it, determining mentoring activities and deciding how long an employee can remain partially retired.

Stay tuned for more on phased retirement soon.

Senate lawmakers moved a step closer to giving veterans access to medical marijuana. The Veterans Affairs Department expressly prohibits VA doctors from recommending or discussing medical marijuana with patients, but the Senate Appropriations Committee last week voted to back the Veterans Equal Access Amendment, which would allow department personnel to recommend medical marijuana to their patients in states where it is legal.

The bipartisan amendment was co-sponsored by Sens. Steve Daines, R-Mont., and Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and is part of the Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States (CARERS) Act, which would legalize medical marijuana nationwide. 

The Amendment is similar to the Veterans Equal Access Act, H.R.667, introduced in the House earlier this year by Reps. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., and Dana Rohrabacher, R-Calif., and 10 cosponsors. It directs the VA secretary to authorize VA medical personnel to tell veterans about marijuana programs available in their states and document their recommendations and opinions on the issue.  

“Post traumatic stress and traumatic brain injury are just as damaging and harmful as any injuries that are visible from the outside,” said Blumenauer in introducing the House legislation. “Sometimes even more so because of the devastating effect they can have on a veteran’s family. We should be allowing these wounded warriors access to the medicine that will help them survive and thrive, including medical marijuana, not treating them like criminals and forcing them into the shadows. It’s shameful.” 

In other veterans health benefits news, some lawmakers and others are pushing to overturn a VA ban on covering in vitro fertilization when vets suffer from combat-related fertility issues, the Post reports. The newspaper noted that the law “predates the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where widespread use of improvised explosive devices in attacks on U.S. forces has caused far more reproductive injuries than in past conflicts.”

And finally, feds aren’t the only ones feeling the pinch from stagnant wages. Rep. Steny Hoyer is calling for a pay raise for lawmakers, whose salaries have been frozen since 2010. The Maryland Democrat and Minority Whip argued that otherwise, Congress will become increasingly dominated by the rich. While many lawmakers applauded Hoyer’s bid, the Hill newspaper noted that it was a political nonstarter.  

(Image via underworld/Shutterstock.com)

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