Premium Pay Cap Waiver Extended Through 2013 for Civilians in Iraq

By Kellie Lunney

June 27, 2013

Civilian federal employees working on stabilization efforts in Iraq are eligible to receive higher premium pay through the end of 2013, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

The June memorandum, released because of a May directive from President Obama continuing the national emergency in Iraq through May 22, 2014, allows civilians working in that country on reconstruction to take advantage of a premium pay cap waiver for a longer period.

“To be eligible in Iraq, employees must be performing work in direct support of, or directly related to, an operation in response to the current national emergency declared by the president, as described in the presidential notice of May 17, 2013,” the OPM guidance stated.

Eligible civilian employees in Iraq, including those who work for the Defense and State departments, can receive basic and premium pay up to $230,700 through Dec. 31. In March, before Obama announced the continuation of a national emergency in Iraq related to reconstruction and stabilization efforts, OPM issued guidance telling agencies they could not apply the premium pay cap waiver for civilians working there after May 18.

The latest memo from OPM acting Director Elaine Kaplan supersedes the March guidance. Without the waiver, premium pay for federal employees performing mission critical or emergency work cannot exceed the greater of the salary rate of a Grade 15, Step 10 on the General Schedule (including any applicable locality payment or special rate supplement), or Level V on the Executive Schedule, which is $145,700.

Premium pay typically includes additional compensation for overtime, night, Sunday or holiday work. The 2009 National Defense Authorization Act first authorized the waiver of the cap and Congress has continued to extend it during the past few years.

“This revised guidance applies to civilian employees working in qualifying overseas locations, including Iraq,” stated the OPM memorandum.

Other employees working overseas in support of military or emergency operations in areas covered by U.S. Central Command as well as those formerly of CENTCOM now under the U.S. Africa Command still are eligible for the waiver through 2013. The waiver authority extended by the fiscal 2013 National Defense Authorization Act expires on Dec. 31.

The amount of basic pay and premium pay in 2013 cannot exceed $230,700, which is the vice president’s salary. The vice president’s salary was set to increase to $231,900 this year, but remains at the 2012 level of $230,700 because of the extended pay freeze.

Any additional pay employees receive as a result of the higher cap cannot be used to calculate retirement benefits or for lump-sum payments for accumulated and accrued annual leave.

By Kellie Lunney

June 27, 2013