Retirement applications up 24 percent from last year

Retirement applications for the first 10 months of 2011 are up 24 percent from the same period in 2010, according to statistics from the Office of Personnel Management and as reported Monday by Federal Times.

Federal Times said 92,000 applications have been filed so far this year, and a total of nearly 104,700 federal employees could file in 2011 if the rate continues. This would make 2011 the busiest year for federal retirement applications since at least 2001, the earliest year such statistics were available.

In addition to efforts by lawmakers to extend the federal pay freeze, other factors likely contributing to the spike in retirements include a congressional proposal to base pension plans on an employee's five highest annual salaries, instead of the three highest, as the system currently is set up. Such a move would give employees less of an incentive to stay in the workforce one or two more years with the aim of increasing their pensions, Federal Times reported.

Union heads and former OPM executives who spoke to Federal Times also indicated that a mass exodus of employees with decades of experience could create a "brain drain" in the federal workforce, because agencies would not have enough notice to adequately replace them with employees who have the proper skill levels.

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