Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Biden for President Black economic summit at Camp North End in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 23.

Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden speaks during a Biden for President Black economic summit at Camp North End in Charlotte, N.C., on Sept. 23. Carolyn Kaster/AP

Biden Vows to Raise Federal Employees' Pay and Protect Benefits

In a questionnaire published by the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, the former vice president said he would abandon efforts by the Trump administration to force federal workers to contribute more to their defined benefit retirement accounts.

Former Vice President Joe Biden this week promised that if he is elected president, he would provide federal employees with “regular pay increases” and abandon proposals by the Trump administration to make them contribute more to their retirement and other non-salary benefits.

The Democratic presidential nominee announced his vision for federal pay and benefits in a questionnaire published in the October edition of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association’s monthly magazine. The Trump campaign told NARFE that it was not participating in any candidate questionnaires this year.

Biden wrote that he respects federal civil servants’ devotion to public service and would ensure they are paid competitive salaries. In the first three years of the Trump administration, the White House proposed pay freezes for civilian federal workers, although those plans were rolled back after receiving congressional pushback. 

“Some Republican leaders use federal employees as scapegoats for any problems in the government as part of their strategy to reduce the size of government,” Biden wrote. “As president, I will value the contributions of federal employees and make sure they are protected and rewarded for their hard work . . . I commit to consistent and regular pay increases necessary to ensure federal salaries remain competitive and that federal employees can support their families.”

Biden also promised not to institute any cuts to federal retirement or health care benefits, a vow that comes in contrast to proposals put forth by President Trump in each of his budget proposals.

Among Trump’s plans, which were disregarded by congressional appropriators every year, are proposals increasing federal employees’ contribution to the Federal Employees Retirement System, eliminating the FERS special retirement supplement for feds who retire before age 62, reducing cost of living adjustments for FERS and Civil Service Retirement System retirees, and shifting the defined benefit annuity calculation to be based on the highest five years of salary rather than the current “High-3” model.

Trump’s budgets also proposed basing the statutorily mandated rate of return on the Thrift Savings Plan’s government securities (G) fund on the yield on short-term Treasury bonds.

“Defined benefit pensions are a pact between employer and worker that must be honored,” Biden wrote. “We must protect federal pension funds to ensure that government workers continue to receive the benefits promised and on which they rely for their retirement security. I will oppose any proposal that retroactively changes federal retirement commitments. I will reject calls to increase contributions, lower benefits, or reduce COLAs. And I will work to eliminate penalties like the Government Pension Offset and the Windfall Elimination Provision.”

Biden also said he would reject efforts to increase the proportion of Federal Employees Health Benefits Program premiums for which federal workers are responsible, and expand Social Security benefits both for feds and private sector retirees.

“We must make Social Security more generous and increase its benefits so that current and future retirees enjoy the dignified retirement they’ve earned,” Biden wrote. “That means using [the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly] to determine the cost-of-living increase. It means increasing benefits for those most at risk in retirement, including low-wage workers, widows and widowers, and those who have enjoyed long lifespans.”