A decade-long pay freeze for Executive Schedule personnel, including the vice president, will remain in effect through at least March 8.

A decade-long pay freeze for Executive Schedule personnel, including the vice president, will remain in effect through at least March 8. ivandan / Getty Images

10 years on, OPM keeps its pay freeze in place for senior officials

With budget negotiations ongoing, OPM officials said that the pay rates for the vice president and other senior political officials will remain frozen until at least the expiration of the latest continuing resolution.

With federal budget talks still unresolved less than a month away from Congress’ latest deadline, the Office of Personnel Management said Friday that the decade-long pay freeze for senior political appointees like Vice President Kamala Harris and others will remain in effect.

In a Feb. 9 post, OPM Director Kiran Ahuja said that under January’s continuing resolution that extended federal funding to agencies until March 1 and 8, certain senior political appointees will continue to see their payable pay rates remain at current levels at least through the latter budget deadline, when Congress will have to decide whether it will continue to fund the federal government. 

“Future Congressional action will determine whether the pay freeze continues beyond March 8, 2024,” Ahuja said. “Until such time, the OPM guidance issued on Dec. 21, 2023, regarding the pay freeze for certain senior political officials continues to be generally applicable in applying the pay freeze in 2024.”

The suspension applies to appointees in an Executive Schedule position or whose rate of pay is fixed by statute at an EX rate, chiefs of mission or ambassadors at large, any non-career member of the Senior Executive Service making at least the EX-IV level of $191,900 in 2024, and any term-limited or emergency appointees or otherwise politically appointed employee making at least the official EX-IV salary.

While the freeze is in place, covered employees may not receive a pay rate increase, except if an employee moves “to a different covered position with higher-level duties and a pre-established higher level or range of pay than the level or range of the position held immediately before the movement.”

And while President Joe Biden’s December executive order raised the official rates of the vice president and the Executive Schedule by 4.6% in January, the freeze ensures the rates are not payable to the covered employees. 

That means Harris’ salary will again be $235,100 in 2024, as it has been for the vice president’s office since 2019, when Congress passed a spending bill that included a 1.9% increase for EX rates. Without the freeze, Harris’ pay would have risen to $284,600.

Congress has included the senior pay freeze in a series of spending plans since the fiscal 2014 budget, though its origins date back to President Barack Obama’s fiscal 2011 budget request in response to the lingering effects of The Great Recession.   

The freeze briefly expired during 2019’s 35-day partial government shutdown, though Trump administration officials quickly moved to advise agencies not to enforce the lapse without congressional authorization.

VA to Expand Claims Eeligibility Criteria for Vets Exposed to Agent Orange, Other Health Conditions

The Veterans Affairs Department is amending its regulations to expand the presumed area where Vietnam veterans may have been exposed to herbicide agents commonly known as Agent Orange. 

In a proposed regulation published in the Federal Register on Monday, the VA said it will add the Republic of Vietnam's offshore waters — as well as areas where herbicide agents were used, tested or stored outside of Vietnam — as a presumed area of exposure for veterans making medical treatment claims tied to non-Hodgkin's lymphoma as a result of that exposure.

The proposed regulation would also amend adjudication regulations to include provisions of the fiscal 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that would add medical conditions like bladder cancer, hypothyroidism and Parkinsonism to eligible herbicide exposure claims.  

Finally, the regulation also adds new locations and timeframes of potential herbicide exposure that resulted in hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy of undetermined significance (MGUS) under recognized claims in the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act of 2022, or PACT Act.

Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairman Jon Tester, D-Mt., who co-sponsored the PACT Act, said in a statement Monday that the addition of 12 U.S. states and other international locations in both the PACT and the proposed regulation will help veterans receive necessary treatments. 

“Every veteran exposed to toxins during their military service deserves access to the health care and benefits they earned and were promised,” he said. “We fought like hell alongside veterans to get the PACT Act passed to ensure this for generations of toxic-exposed veterans, and I’m glad to see VA is now using this law to add new presumptive benefits for veterans exposed to Agent Orange outside of Vietnam.”

The proposed regulation is open for public comment for the next 60 days.