Civilians in Iraq Receive Higher Premium Pay Through 2016

The latest OPM guidance on premium pay also applies to feds working on reconstruction and stabilization efforts in the country.

Civilian federal employees working on stabilization efforts in Iraq are eligible to receive higher premium pay through the end of 2016, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

OPM’s Aug. 1 memorandum -- released after a May directive from President Obama extended the national emergency in Iraq through May 22, 2017 -- allows civilians working in that country on reconstruction to take advantage of a premium pay cap waiver for a longer period. Agencies can continue to apply the waiver authority, which allows eligible employees to earn more in premium pay through Dec. 31, 2016.

The latest guidance supersedes the agency’s February guidance on premium pay cap waiver authority.

Eligible employees can earn up to $237,700 in basic and premium pay in calendar year 2016 under the waiver authority extended in the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act. That $237,700 cap is the annual salary rate for the vice president in 2016. The actual salary that the vice president receives has been frozen at $230,700 since 2013, but “that freeze does not affect the officially established 2016 pay rates for the vice president or the Executive Schedule,” the Aug. 1 OPM memo stated.

In addition to civilian employees working on stabilization efforts in Iraq, government employees working abroad in support of a military operation or in response to a national emergency for at least 42 consecutive days in areas covered by U.S. Central Command, as well as those formerly of CENTCOM now under the U.S. Africa Command, are eligible to receive higher premium pay through 2016. It also applies to employees working in Iraq in support of Operation Inherent Resolve, the U.S. contingency operation.

Although the provision extending the premium pay cap waiver applies only to payments payable in 2016, “the 42-day period may overlap a calendar year—i.e., begins in 2015 and ends in 2016, or begins in 2016 and ends in 2017,” the guidance stated.

Premium pay typically includes additional compensation for overtime, night, Sunday or holiday work. The 2009 Defense authorization act first authorized the waiver of the cap and Congress has continued to extend it since then. 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.