Blended Retirement Gets a Mascot, the Benefit of Bigger Bonuses for Cost Cutters, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said a bill to increase financial incentives for reporting of wasteful government spending would likely not cost a significant amount, but it also might not be particularly effective.

The 2017 Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act (H.R. 378), introduced by Reps. Chuck Fleischmann, R-Tenn., and Jim Cooper, D-Tenn., would increase the maximum bonus available to employees who report wasteful spending from $10,000 to $20,000. It was voted favorably out of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last month.

By law, only agency inspectors general can dole out these awards, and agency heads, IG office employees and those who earn the highest pay grade on the Executive Schedule are all ineligible for the program.

CBO said the proposal likely would not make a big dent in the budget, given how much already is done on an ongoing basis to identify and eliminate government waste.

“In 2016 the government spent $2.7 billion for the activities of 73 IGs and their 13,000 employees to detect and deter fraud, waste and mismanagement of government funds,” analysts wrote. “Because of the large scale of these ongoing activities, CBO estimates that there would be no significant cost to produce additional reports concerning fraud or for increasing the amount of the awards payable to employees.”

Similarly, CBO said they do not expect a significant reduction in federal spending as a result of increased reports of wasteful spending because of the extensive existing efforts to root out fraud and mismanagement.

The bill could come up for a vote before the full House when members return from the August recess.

In retirement news, the Defense Department continued its awareness campaign about the new blended retirement system for military service members this week with the unveiling of Robyn, an up-beat self-described “fictitious” employee of the Office of Financial Readiness, to answer questions about the new retirement savings program.

In a video posted on Twitter, Robyn introduces herself and the blended program, which offers service members an employer match of between 1 percent and 5 percent to the federal government’s 401(k)-style Thrift Savings Plan in exchange for a less generous annuity calculation if they stay the full 20 years required to earn pension benefits. She then answers a number of common questions about the new program, particularly noting that enrollment will not affect one’s VA or TriCare benefits.

Beginning in 2018, all new service members will be automatically enrolled in the new system, while current personnel will have until Dec. 31, 2018, to decide whether to opt in.

Defense officials and Robyn will hold a question-and-answer session on Twitter on Sept. 14 at 1 p.m. using the hashtag #AskRobyn.

Although lawmakers won’t return to Washington until after Labor Day, congressional oversight leaders already are gearing up for a busy fall. As Eric Katz reports, House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., and Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-Wis., are asking federal agencies for detailed information about the practice of granting unpaid leave to employees for the purpose of working on political campaigns.

The request comes in the wake of findings by government watchdogs that the U.S. Postal Service unlawfully pressured managers into approving leave to let them campaign for union-endorsed candidates:

“The chairmen requested agencies’ agreements with labor groups on ‘union-official leave,’ general policies on leave without pay and all communications related to employees taking time off for union activity. They also asked for data since 2008 on the number of employees who requested leave without pay, and particularly who took time off for union activity and to participate in political activity. Agencies will also provide information on the number of denials issued in response to the leave requests.”