Uncle Sam's less-fat, more-muscle plan...

Friday - 1/10/2014, 2:00am EST

Deep in a downtown D.C. government office building just blocks from the White House, experts are working on a formula that promises to help Uncle Sam slim down, pack on more muscle and become more tech-savvy in the process

And you'll be happier too, as experienced but exhausted long-timers move easily into retirement while their younger office mates are trained to move up the promotion ladder.

The anti-brain-drain plan is a combination of succession planning and legislative yoga. It promises to boost the morale of feds who, for the past few years, have served as hockey pucks in Washington's sometimes destructive political food fights.

Can it be done?

Short answer: Yes!

The potential miracle cure is under development even as you read this. It has the catchy title, PL 112-41, section 100121, the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act." Since we abbreviate everything here in D.C., it is better known as MAP-21 on the street. It'll catch on, trust me!

The Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act was approved by Congress in July. That is July 2012. If you are counting, that is coming up on two years ago.

The fact that MAP-21 is still theory, not reality, tells you something about the way things work here. It is one thing for Congress to approve legislation (and the President to sign it into law). It is another to get it moving. That project has been given to a development team of specialists at 1900 E St., N.W. That's the Office of Personnel Management headquarters here in Washington.

When finalized, full-time CSRS employees who are 55 with at least 30 years of federal service can be selected for phased retirement. For those under the FERS system must have 30 years of service and have reached their minimum retirement age.

Many retirement-age feds are anxious for phased retirement to become a reality. So are many younger and mid-career workers who would be more likely to get promotions if there is a surge in retirements.

A Navy employee said she had been offered part-time status but she is waiting for phased retirement. "They want to keep me and said they will do whatever I like," she said. "What I want is the phased retirement program."

What the yet-to-be-implemented law would do is permit thousands of retirement-eligible feds to go part-time. As part of the deal, the new part- timers would spend 20 percent of their time training and mentoring younger employees, including, in some cases, the person who would replace them if they are to be replaced.

The difference between phased retirement and going part-time is key to the program. OPM says it will work like this:

To understand the concept of Phased Retirement, consider two half- time employees who fill one full-time job. Employee one retires while employee two continues working. Employee one receives an annuity based on half-time employment, and employee two continues to work half-time for half-pay. Eventually, employee two retires, and receives an annuity based upon half-time service, including credit for the time worked after employee one retired. Now assume that employee one and employee two are the same person. That is in essence how Phased Retirement operates.

OPM has put out an excellent question-and-answer package on phased retirement. The only question it doesn't answer is the one most people are asking: When?


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

Ancient cultures the world over used to believe that tooth worms were responsible for boring holes into teeth and causing toothaches — which we now know to be the result of tooth decay and cavities. According to researchers, "Treatment of tooth worms varied depending on the severity of the patient's pain. ... Some tooth- pullers mistook nerves for tooth worms, and extracted both the tooth and the nerve in what was certainly an extremely painful procedure in a period before anaesthetics."

(Source: Improbable Research)


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