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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Clearance Job Pay Drops, Protections for Vets at FAA, and More


A survey released last month revealed that average compensation for jobs requiring security clearance has declined 1.27 percent since 2014.

According to, the average total compensation for all security-cleared workers worldwide is $86,902. Given the steady growth in defense and security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the results came as a surprise to experts.

“At, we’ve characterized the past several years as a ‘perfect storm’—sequestration, a government shutdown, the OPM hack, a reduction in the size of the cleared workforce, and a doubling or tripling of security clearance processing times,” the report said. “Couple that with a commercial sector experiencing the lowest unemployment rates of the past decade and it has been a challenging season for defense recruiters. All of that industry turmoil has yet to equate to higher salaries for cleared professionals.”

But the survey revealed a shift in survey respondents toward the lower level of the security clearance spectrum. Since higher levels of clearance typically correspond to higher pay, a recent effort in the security industry to attract employees with lower levels of clearance could have had an impact on the survey results.

“There is increased pressure to reduce the number of higher-level clearances, and that bore out in the 2017 survey responses,” the report said. “Professionals with a [top secret] or higher clearance made up 46 percent of the survey respondents in 2017—down 5 percent since last surveyed in 2014.”

Over on Capitol Hill, a bipartisan group of senators have introduced legislation that would extend employment protections to veterans working at the Federal Aviation Administration and the Transportation Security Administration.

The Federal Aviation Administration Veterans’ Preference Protection Act (S.1424) would provide administrative and judicial redress for alleged veterans’ protections violations, allow veterans to compete for vacancies under merit promotion, and institute hiring preferences for spouses of service members, disabled veterans and survivors of veterans.

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, is lead sponsor of the bill, and described it as fixing a “loophole” in federal employment law.

"In Hawaii, we are proud to have 300 veterans who have selected to continue to serve our country by filling critical roles in the FAA and TSA that help to keep our national airspace and the traveling public safe," Hirono said. "We owe it to them and all our nation's veterans to fix this unacceptable loophole so that the federal employment preference rights they have earned with their service can be adequately enforced and defended."

Other groups are also looking to find new ways to help veterans and their families. Last month, the American Bar Association, ARAG legal insurance and CuroLegal launched Legal Checkup for Veterans, a Web-based tool to help vets identify and resolve legal needs.

The website features a questionnaire that helps identify areas of their lives where legal issues might arise, and directs them to resources so they can take action.

“Legal Checkup for Veterans is a much-needed tool that offers a necessary first step in solving this important group’s access to justice issues,” said ABA President Linda Klein. “It provides veterans with free and fast help in identifying their legal needs and clear paths to resolution.”

In some cases, improving veterans’ ability to seek legal redress when needed can be as simple as informing them when the court system can help, said CuroLegal Chief Strategy Officer Nicole Bradick.

“The main cause of the access-to-justice gap is that people simply don’t know that their life problem might actually be a legal problem with a legal remedy,” Bradick said. “Our goal here is to create a demand for justice by alerting users to legal issues and making it really easy for them to take action to resolve them.”

Erich Wagner is a staff correspondent covering pay, benefits and other federal workforce issues. He joined Government Executive in the spring of 2017 after extensive experience writing about state and local issues in Maryland and Virginia, most recently as editor-in-chief of the Alexandria Times. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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