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View Diary: After years of bashing and pay freezes, federal workers face sequester effects (146 comments)

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  •  I am a federal employee and I am a lucky one (5+ / 0-)

    Relatively speaking at least.

    Several reasons:

    1. I intend to retire at the end of the year after over 36 years of federal service so the pay cuts will affect me (immediately) only for a short period of time.

    2. I've been at the top of my pay scale for the entire three years of wage freezes so a decrease in this year's pay won't hurt me. Actually, if I am understanding OPM's guidance on the subject correctly, as long as the number of days in non-pay status is less than 30, "high-three" calculation is based on stated annual salary rather than on actual dollars paid.

    3. May agency's current intention is to limit furloughs to no more than seven days and potentially fewer depending on what other savings can be achieved by cuts to such things as travel and contracts which come out of the same budget line item.

    3. I have some flexibilities that exist ONLY because I'm about to retire. For those pay periods when I have a furlough day I can reduce the amount I put in the Thrift Savings Plan (our 401k) to the point where my actual take-home pay will not decrease. Once I retire I won't be able to make any more deposits and having a final balance a few hundred dollars lower than I had anticipated isn't going to make that much difference to me.

    4. I've been working long enough that I have an actual pension and therefore will not have to depend mainly on TSP payouts to live once I've retired. Now how any COLA increases are calculated on that pension in the future certainly concerns me but it's an abstraction I can't do anything about at this point. For the record, so much of my career has been in civil service that I will not collect a penny in Social Security benefits. Ever.

    Naturally I have some personal (some would consider them selfish) concerns about how quickly my application for retirement will processed once I submit it. As it is, OPM's attempts a few years ago to automate the retirement application process failed; so it is mainly a manual process that is already backlogged.

    That having been said, the vast majority of my colleagues are not nearly so well situated as I am. My agency's furlough schedule is a small one; others, such as DOD are planning the maximum allowable number of days, 22. Just so you know, furloughs for any period of time exceeding 22 days (which is considered to be the equivalent of a month's worth of work days) have to follow Reduction in Force procedures. Most of my colleagues in my own agency and elsewhere are NOT about to retire and don't have the same ability to adjust the amount of money coming out of their gross pay that I do. Many are raising kids and will have the same child-raising expenses whether or not they are drawing their full salary. To rebut a certain commenter above (who I considered HR'ing but decided not to), that situation is far more prevalent than having to forego a construction project.

    Since I am at this point (as most of my older colleagues have already retired or will soon be doing so) one of a small and rapidly shrinking pool of federal workers still under the old Civil Service Retirement System, most of my colleagues are far more dependent on their TSP savings for retirement than I am and will also be burdened by any changes to Social Security benefits. If they need to reduce their TSP contributions in order to pay current bills that affects them far more than it affects me. And, last I heard, nobody who works for the federal government is getting a rent reduction or a mortgage payment reduction. Their core expenses, particularly their cost of housing, isn't going to decrease just because of a decrease in pay.

    Yesterday we were briefed on the consequences of sequestration not only to ourselves personally due to furloughs but to the people we are supposed to be serving. Without giving too many specifics it was indicated that several hundred thousand individuals and families will be put at risk in various ways because of the effects of sequestration on our agency's budget and in our ability to deliver the services which Congress has charged us with providing (while removing the resources needed to fund those services). Beyond that the need for furloughs will make it harder to meet deadlines and in some cases may limit the scope of other sorts of services we'd otherwise provide.

    One of the first questions raised when we were briefed on the consequences of sequestration was whether we'd be able to obtain a letter from our HR department documenting that the pay decrease is due to sequestration rather than to termination or adverse action and that it is expected to be temporary so that such a letter could be presented to landlords, mortgage companies and creditors in order to obtain forebearances.

    Personally I'm sick and tired of being used as a political football, whether it's due to my sexual orientation or to the fact that I chose a career working for the government.

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