Retirement Planning Retirement PlanningRetirement Planning
Advice on how to prepare for life after government.

Retirement Custodians


Editor's note: Retirement Planning columnist Tammy Flanagan will return next week.

Legislative priorities for helping the federal government's crop of retirees and soon-to-be retirees haven't changed substantially in a long time. At the top of the list is preserving existing entitlements: government health care and pensions, to be exact.

But for the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, the biggest lobbying group for federal retiree issues, a Democratic Congress will mean a change in strategy, and possibly in chances for success.

Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md., who has a good chance of winning the House majority leader slot, released a statement Wednesday evening predicting that "retired civilian federal employees will find a more friendly environment in a Democratic House next year." He also pledged to work to ensure "federal retirees have a fair retirement."

"We've never had somebody who is as good a friend that far up in the leadership before," said Dan Adcock, assistant director of legislation at NARFE. "So having someone like [Hoyer] will be invaluable to the entire federal community."

Hoyer's advocacy could play an especially important role as Congress struggles to cut a huge deficit.

"As we edge closer to the time the baby boomers are going to retire, there is a lot of heat being brought to bear on policymakers on what they're going to do about Social Security and Medicare and Medicaid," Adcock said. "And while federal retirement doesn't run into the same demographic problems … if the past is prologue, we know there will be calls to make reductions in our program, too."

In the 1980s and 1990s, federal retirees' annual cost-of-living adjustments were canceled or delayed multiple times to reduce the deficit.

"Regardless of who is controlling the Congress, they are faced with a mounting budget deficit and the same problems of Social Security and Medicare," Adcock said. "The conditions remain the same."

While NARFE and other advocates still will have to play defense, there are some offensive moves they may make, too.

First on that list is protection against the addition of consumer-directed health insurance plans to the Federal Employees Health Benefits program. These plans, which to date are still very unpopular in the FEHBP, have lower premiums but higher deductibles. As a result, they attract younger, healthier participants. NARFE thinks the plans, if they gain popularity, will siphon off the very employees keeping rates lower for retirees, who tend to have higher health care costs.

Consumer-directed plans are "strongly supported by the administration and the administration's allies in Congress," Adcock said. "On this issue, [Democrats] don't necessarily vote in a bloc, but they tend to have concerns…that are similar to [our] concerns."

Finally, there are the bills that have consistently been on federal retirees' wish lists for years: windfall elimination and premium conversion. Windfall elimination would roll back a 1983 law that reduces Social Security benefits for retirees who also receive a government annuity. Premium conversion would allow federal retirees to pay their FEHBP costs with pre-tax dollars, like current employees do. NARFE estimates it would save retirees an average of $400 a year.

Both bills fall under the House Ways and Means Committee, and current chairman Bill Thomas, R-Calif., has not been receptive to either. Rep. Charles Rangel, D-N.Y., who is likely to take over as chairman, has co-sponsored both bills in the past. They would be costly, though. Rangel's receptiveness would give NARFE and federal retirees hope, but it may not be enough.

Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.