House bill extends agency authority to rehire retired feds

Thursday - 5/22/2014, 5:06pm EDT

A measure included in the massive Defense policy bill approved by the House Thursday would ensure agencies maintain the flexibility to bring federal retirees back on board on a part-time basis.

An amendment to the 2015 Defense Authorization Act, introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), extends the authority for agency heads to rehire retirees without specific approval from the Office of Personnel Management.

The House passed the $600 billion Defense bill 325-98.

Without Connolly's amendment, that authority — first granted in 2010 — was slated to sunset in October.

The measure allows agencies to waive a requirement that the salaries of rehired retirees be offset by their retirement benefits and to bypass OPM in the process. Before the authority was granted, agencies had to seek approval to rehire retirees from OPM. That was "often a slow process, preventing agencies from rehiring annuitants to meet their immediate needs," said Joseph Beaudoin, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association, in a statement.

Connolly: It's 'common-sense'

In a statement provided to Federal News Radio, Connolly said extending agency's hiring authority is a "common-sense flexibility at a time when so many federal managers and executives are eligible for retirement."

He added: "Over the past five years, agencies have demonstrated the value of this flexibility in addressing limited or part-time workforce needs that have arisen in the wake of rising retirements among our most skilled and experienced civil servants."

Rehired annuitants are restricted to working an average of about 20 hours a week and can't make more than 2.5 percent of an agency's entire workforce.

Federal-employee advocacy groups, such as NARFE, contend the hiring flexibilities have helped agencies plug knowledge gaps as more experienced employees retire from federal service.

"This authority helps mitigate the loss of federal employees in the current retirement tsunami and ensures that the government can function effectively, while also filling critical gaps and helping train the next generation of federal managers," Beaudoin said. "In its five years of use, the waiver authority has proven to be a valuable tool for agency leaders."

However, in a September 2012 report, the Government Accountability Office noted that the six agencies it reviewed "made very little use" of the authority over the course of 2010 and 2011 .

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