Fed dreams: Love, promotions, finally acronyms

Monday - 6/17/2013, 2:00am EDT

Do federal workers dream and, if so, what? Is there a pattern to their dreams and a correlation to their work? Apparently so.

In their youth, brand-new civil servants dream of romance, excitement and challenges.

As they get older and wiser(?), many switch focus to climbing the promotion ladder.

Then, feds of a certain age — after being tempered by time and battered by life's ups and downs, and maybe a bad boss or surly coworkers — lust for that great shuffleboard court in the sky. Their dreams often center around government-specific acronyms, usually VSIP and VERA. They stand for voluntary separation incentive payment, aka buyout, and voluntary early retirement, aka early-out.

Even though the value of a buyout ($25,000 before deductions) hasn't changed since the 1990s, many people say it's just the nudge they need. Make me an offer, many people say, and I am out of here. While it is hard to predict when and if buyouts and early outs will be offered, where and for how long, there are certain patterns and — in most cases — times for them.

Buyouts are most cost-effective to a federal agency early in the new fiscal year. That means getting you off the payroll in October, November and December. But there are exceptions to that. The Broadcasting Board of Governors offered them in May, provided the employees were gone by June 30. BBG approved them for 30 employees whose last day of work was Dec. 31 of last year.

The Office of Personnel Management offered a surprise buyout earlier this year. It will include some key employees working on the retirement processing backlog. Part of that big backlog is the series of buyouts and early outs offered this year and last by the U.S. Postal Service, which is frantically trying to slim down.

There was a lot of buyout action early in 2012 in places like the Air Force, Agriculture, GSA, the IRS, Small Business Administration and the Department of Veterans Affairs. They ranged from small numbers (117) at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration to 9,000 at Social Security and big numbers in Defense. This doesn't mean there will be repeats, but places — like the BBG, Air Force and the USPS — have done more than one.

For a look at what happened on the buyout front in 2012, click here.

This year, most of the action has been in sequestration-triggered furloughs. They range from IRS and HUD to the Environmental Protection Agency. For latest on that, click here.

If after studying the past and current track records of buyouts and furloughs, you figure out what is going to happen next, pass it on to me. I have this friend who writes a federal column and, between you and me, he doesn't have a clue what's going on.


NEARLY USELESS FACTOID

Compiled by Jack Moore

From Mental Floss:

Pencil makers manufacture No. 1, 2, 2, 3, and 4 pencils-and sometimes other intermediate numbers. The higher the number, the harder the lead and lighter the markings. (No. 1 pencils produce darker markings, which are sometimes preferred by people working in publishing.)


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