Your Threat Assessment Score Card!

Friday - 5/27/2011, 4:00am EDT

If you are feeling threatened because of where you work and what you do, you are not alone. And you are not crazy. At least not in that respect.

In fact there are so many things that could happen to federal workers, postal employees and retirees that you literally need a score card to track them.

The upside is that in most cases this is fiscal, not personal. But personal or not, there are people in high places - in Congress and within the administration - who believe something drastic must be done to get a handle on federal costs and spending. And in many cases that handle is right on your, uh, hide. As in...

Cutting your take home pay, your future retirement benefits and forcing feds and retirees to either choose less comprehensive health insurance coverage in the future or pay much, much higher premiums for current coverage.

The most immediate threat to the most federal and postal workers is a bipartisan proposal that would reduce take home pay of four out of every five current workers to the tune of $4 billion. That's BILLION with a B!

The proposal is part of a bi-partisan, deficit-reduction package under serious consideration by the so-called Blair House group. The group is headed by Vice President Joe Biden and is made up of Republican and Democratic members of Congress as well as representatives of the Obama administration.

The sweeping plan is simple enough: If enacted into law, it would require everybody under the Federal Employees Retirement System to contribute 5.8 percent of their salary to help finance their future retirement benefits. At present, the FERS employees contribute only 0.8 percent of salary to their future total retirement benefit. If implemented as part of an up-or-down money-saving package Congress would deal with on an up-or-down-vote, FERS employees would have to pay 5.8 percent of salary into their retirement, and continue to contribute 6.2 percent to Social Security.

Also in the works are plans, some already before Congress others still in the talk stage, that would:

  • Extend the current 2 year federal pay freeze for white collar federal workers by at least another year. This one, by the way, is being considered as "highly likely" to happen.

  • Congress likes a proposal that would fire federal and postal workers who are seriously behind in their taxes.

  • There are also plans to freeze ALL federal hiring.

  • Eliminate within-grade raises for federal workers. The White House earlier ordered a 2-year white collar federal pay freeze, but it left alone the semi-automatic longevity pay raises (worth 3 percent) that federal workers get every one, two or three years depending on which step of their grade they are in, and how long they are in it.

  • Base future retirement benefits for federal and postal workers on their length of service and highest-5 year average salary. Under current rules, annuities are based on service time and the employee's high-3 average salary. Benefits were based on the high-5 for many years until Congress changed them. When this change would take place (and it has NOT been introduced in Congress yet) is anybody's guess. For more on that, click here.

  • Change the formula used to compute future cost of living (inflation-catch-up) raises for federal and postal employees. The proposal in question could reduce future annual COLAs by a full percentage point each year.

  • Revamp the formula used to determine how much of your health premium the government pays. Right now Uncle Sam pays most (about 70 percent) of the total premium for most plans. In some cases more, in some cases slightly less. The Postal Service, thanks to a union contract, pays even more of its employees' (but not retirees) premiums. But that would change if the new system is put into place. Each year the government would pay a smaller portion of the fast-rising premiums while employees and retirees would pay more each year. For details, click here.

For a run-down on the hit list, including details on what they would do, when and where they are at, listen to our Your Turn with Mike Causey radio show which ran Wednesday. Federal Times editor Steve Watkins, and senior writer Steve Losey go into detail about the plans, and give you their risk assessment for each one. Listen when you can by clicking here.