NARFE pans postal bill's FECA reform measure

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association is urging lawmakers to purge a Federal Employees' Compensation Act reform measure from postal legislation slated for mark-up Feb. 6 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association is urging lawmakers to purge a Federal Employees' Compensation Act reform measure from postal legislation slated for mark-up Feb. 6 by the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

The panel is scheduled to continue an earlier mark-up session that failed to resolve members' differences over a number of measures in the Postal Reform Act (S. 1486) draft—including the measure opposed by NARFE, which would amend the Federal Employees' Compensation Act by reducing FECA benefits for totally disabled enrollees to 50 percent of their pre-disability pay when the enrollee reaches full retirement age.

The measure is designed to encourage beneficiaries to transition to regular federal retirement rather than continue to receive FECA benefits. Currently, those beneficiaries receive a larger amount under FECA. Among other exemptions, the bill would exempt any enrollee who has attained retirement age by the date of the bill's enactment.

But opponents of the bill maintain that those beneficiaries who are forced off FECA at retirement age—because they have not accrued retirement benefits while disabled—would receive less than if they had not been injured and had continued to work and enter regular retirement.

NARFE points to a Government Accountability Office report that estimated that if forced off FECA, federal workers disabled as part of their service would receive up to 35 percent less in retirement income than if they were not injured and retired after 30 years.

“At its first markup session, the committee rejected a common-sense amendment offered by Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) to strip language from the bill that would unjustly and unfairly reduce workers’ compensation benefits for postal and federal employees disabled by a job-related injury or illness,” NARFE President Joseph A. Beaudoin said in a statement. "Because of the committee’s failure to pass this amendment, NARFE remains opposed to the bill as a whole."

“Changing the workers’ compensation system for the entire federal workforce has no place in a controversial postal reform bill, and I urge members of the committee to reject this misguided piece of legislation,” Beaudoin stated.

The National Association of Letter Carriers, which also opposes the measure, points out that the FECA language was originally proposed by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), who is no longer on the committee, in an earlier postal bill (S. 1789) from the previous Congress.

"Tester’s amendment failed, and the FECA reform language was retained," NALC said in an overview of the mark-up posted on its website. "However, Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), the committee's ranking member, admitted that the language was reflective of the last Congress’ priorities, and he said that even if it made it into the final bill, he believed it would be removed during House-Senate conference committee negotiations. Tester disagreed, saying that he was hearing that the House would likely follow the Senate’s lead on the matter and leave the language in the bill, untouched."

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