Fast-tracking phased retirement

Friday - 5/24/2013, 2:00am EDT

The definition of fast-tracking is one of those depends-on-what-you-mean-by fast riddles.

A fast track probably means one thing to a snail, another to an antelope or NASCAR fan and still another thing to a federal lawyer whose job is translating fuzzy, sometimes contradictory language into regulations and reality.

There are fast-tracks that aren't very fast. And there are super fast-tracks which are faster, but not by much.

Which may explain why the person who coined the term "the devil is in the details" must have worked for the federal government at some point. Or be the descendant of somebody high up in the king's court.

Maybe the IRS, Labor Department, FDA or the OPM.

All those agencies must write — and in many cases enforce — rules, regulations and guidelines based on often shaky or confusing laws passed by the Congress and signed into law by the President.

Regulations can deal with everything from tax exemptions and coalmine safety regulations to which drugs can be marketed and exit strategies for ready-to-retire feds.

For instance: Last year — when Congress was temporarily thinking good thoughts about the bureaucracy — it passed legislation to permit people to ease into retirement. Under phased retirement, workers selected by their agency would be able to work a few days each week. They would mentor younger employees or their replacement while getting used to retirement. It was billed as a win-win for everybody. No problem, right?

All that was necessary was that OPM write the regulations and away you go!

Not so easy. Turns out there are lots of i's to dot and t's to cross.

OPM has been focused on reducing its backlog in retirement applications — and has generally done a very good job. The problem is that while OPM is moving faster than ever, more and more people have been putting in their papers. In a letter to the editor last weekend, a retired fed and Washington Post reader said he had waited more than a year, was frustrated by OPM and was turning to his member of Congress and two senators.

In a speech last year then-OPM Director John Berry said he was pushing the staff to come up with the phased-retirement rules as quickly as possible. At the time he hoped they would be out by early 2013. This week OPM told us that the proposed new regulations are still under review.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

A New Jersey bar was recently busted for trying to pass off caramel-colored rubbing alcohol as premium scotch. It was one of 29 bars and restaurants accused of watering down drinks following a year-long investigation by New Jersey officials dubbed "Operation Swill."

(Source: AP)


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