Big Bucks Wish List

Monday - 9/14/2009, 4:00am EDT

No-brainer quiz:

  • If you're a former fed who has returned to government (or Clinton appointee back on the payroll after 8 years in the wilderness) would you like cash-retirement credit for total time-served under FERS? Feds under the older CSRS retirement system have the incentive to save up their sick leave. But workers under the newer FERS system, which includes 80 percent of the workforce, are under a use-it-or-lose-it-system. For them, previous service is of no benefit. When they come back to government they start out at day one!

  • Would you like to transition into retirement by working part-time without penalty?

  • Should feds in Alaska and Hawaii trade their cash-free 20 percent-plus pay differentials for taxable locality pay adjustments?

  • Would it benefit you (and the government) as a retired fed if Uncle Sam allowed you to come back into federal service and collect both full pay and pension? Right now, for most folks, there is an offset that doesn't make it worthwhile to return.

If any of the above apply to you, keep an eye on the Defense Authorization Act. The House and Senate have approved their versions of this must-pass bill. Both contain new and valuable benefits for federal workers, postal employees, retirees and wanna-be retirees. Most of the pro-fed perqs that would impact the most people are in the House version.

Senate-House conferees will decide which (if any) of the four benefits in the House version, or the one improvement in the Senate bill, will be in the final version which will then be sent to President Obama. The administration is opposed to the proposal that would benefit most feds: Giving workers under the FERS retirement system credit for unused sick leave. But just how opposed is unknown.

Although nobody can guarantee what will happen, pro-fed lobbyists feel that the president will sign (albeit reluctantly) whatever version of the Defense bill Congress agrees upon. And because most of the pro-fed, pro-retiree perqs are in the House version, most feds should be rooting for House conferees to hang tough, stand their ground and insist that some (all would be nice) of the changes in their bill be incorporated in the final version.

So what's in the two versions? Here's a thumbnail sketch to bring you up to speed: D-Day Coming in September

What the House conferees do (or give up) in the Senate-House conference on the Defense bill will be critical. That's because last time these same perqs came up, as embeds in the Tobacco Bill, the House rolled over for the Senate. It passed its version with the pro-fed items in it, but made a rare concession (because the administration wanted the bill passed ASAP) to take whatever the Senate approved. And did so even after most of the pro-fed, pro-retiree provisions were stripped from it. In other words, the Tobacco bill never went to conference, meaning the Senate version went to the president.

For the back story on how the Tobacco bill evolved, and why it probably won't happen that way this time around, click here.

(Mr. Causey would like it noted that no animals were harmed in the making of this quiz. sk)

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

The Inside Science News Service reports scientists in Taiwan have discovered extracts from the roots of a plant used in 1918 to fight the Spanish influenza pandemic are more potent in killing the swine flu H1N1 virus than prescription antiviral drugs. The root is commonly known as "Dung of the Devil" because of its foul-smelling sap and grows primarily in Iran, Afghanistan and mainland China.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com