Cutting Benefits: Readers Bite Back

By Tammy Flanagan

April 1, 2011

Last week, I wrote that I'd never seen so many proposals floating around that would affect the retirement security of employees in the 30 years I've been in the federal benefits world. Not surprisingly, readers had their opinions on plans to cut back benefits, and those views were not positive. Here's a sampling:

I guess Congress forgets that professional federal employees worked for years at lower salaries than what was offered by the private sector to ensure a secure retirement. Private sector employees receive bonuses sometimes several times their annual salaries. -- Federal Worker

As a retiree (1995) who does not get a pension until age 60, I am infuriated. You do your civic duty, you work at less than your commercial equivalents and then you don't get a retirement? If that would have been my only option I would have had to forgo the civic duty and get paid a more equitable wage. I left my position as a GS-13 on a Friday, came back as a contractor on Monday and was paid 2.5 times what I was paid as a General Schedule employee. If the downsized government creates this, then how are we saving money? -- Lou Lenkman

This is a real shame for lots of reasons. There are a lot of us within two to three years of retiring. With retirement pay, even two to three more dollars a month could make a difference. This will ultimately stop private sector employees from wanting to join the federal sector -- especially because of all the bad publicity we are receiving. We cannot even look forward to a 2 percent to 3 percent raise during the next two to three years. -- Robert

Can anyone tell me why there are caps on the Thrift Savings Plan investments and Roth IRAs to begin with? If it is the Republican intent to eliminate Social Security, defined retirement annuities and capital gains taxes -- and make everyone rely solely on investing for their retirement -- then why don't they make that alternative as attractive as possible? -- VCT

Cutting benefits to current federal employees who signed on to service under specific agreements should be a violation of law. The government committed to these benefits, just as the employees who join any organization commit themselves to that organization. There is a constructive way to revise future benefits (within reason) to new employees entering the workforce, as has already been done under the Federal Employees Retirement System. To be fair to the American people, the government always has a right to reconsider benefits to new employees. But this cannot be retroactive to people who joined federal service over 20 years ago, have contributed accordingly and are entitled to the compensation agreed to at the time they joined. -- Loyal Fed

Do not be fooled. Our politicians are only interested in looking in our direction when discussing necessary cuts to the budget. They want to leave untouched the vast out-of-control spending on new weapon systems for the military, for one. Both parties are following a carefully choreographed script that is supposed to program us (the dimwitted public) that they have no choice but to cut Social Security "entitlements" that we paid for through payroll taxes, or risk a "government shutdown." -- jay11

As a recruiter for a federal agency, I am amazed at the information coming out about what might happen to federal employees' benefits. While all this is going on, I'm supposed to recruit the best and brightest, do it faster -- and oh yeah, now the one shining star we had in our recruiting toolbox (benefits, retirement specifically) may be taken away. This truly is amazing. -- EM

We're already paying more for benefits, with yearly double-digit increases in our Federal Employees Health Benefits Program insurance premiums and higher co-pays and deductibles. -- Just Saying

It's penny-wise and pound-foolish logic that is driving the direction we are heading. When the economy turns around -- and it will eventually turn around -- those penny-wise thinkers who think having a civil service is a waste of money will be asking why the quality of the civil service has gone to heck in a handbag. At that point all they will need to do is stand in front of a mirror to see what caused the downfall. -- Jim

A total of $118 billion on Iraq and Afghanistan for fiscal 2011 alone. That figure does not include our remaining commitments in Kosovo, Japan, Germany, Korea -- and the list goes on. How much will we save by cutting government worker benefits? $10 billion over 10 years? I wonder if there will be anything left at all for U.S. citizens? -- Alan Stephens

Tammy Flanagan is the senior benefits director for the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc., which conducts federal retirement planning workshops and seminars. She has spent 25 years helping federal employees take charge of their retirement by understanding their benefits.

For more retirement planning help, tune in to "For Your Benefit," presented by the National Institute of Transition Planning Inc. live on Monday mornings at 10 a.m. ET on or on WFED AM 1500 in the Washington metro area.

By Tammy Flanagan

April 1, 2011