Fed Retirement Fairness Act: "Long overdue"

Now pending in Congress, there’s a bill that would allow feds whose careers started in temporary or seasonal positions to retroactively contribute to their retirement for those intermittent or non-fulltime periods of employment: The Federal Fairness Retirement Act (H.R. 5389).

Many federal employees start their government careers in part-time positions, often working for many years on a non-permanent basis before deciding to make a full-time job of it. 

Unfortunately, to date, in many of these situations, there is no way to take advantage of federal employee retirement in a manner that credits feds with these intermittent stints in federal employment. 

Now, in Congress, there’s a chance to fix this unfair and unnecessary hindrance to bettering feds’ later lives (and recruiting future feds): The Federal Fairness Retirement Act (H.R. 5389). Backers are hopeful—the past year has seen a lot of movement toward greater recognition in the public mind, and among lawmakers, that good employees and their good work must be fairly compensated. 

The FFRA would allow feds who started in temporary or seasonal government work—such as wildfire firefighters, park rangers active only in tourist season, civilian help in military operations and some special programs—to retroactively “buy back” retirement contributions for their time at these posts. Such current full-time feds would cover a portion of what would have been the needed contribution to their retirement benefits had they been permanent full-timers. 

Participating in the program would be optional. But if an employee chose to do so, they ultimately would receive a retirement package that counts their earlier service—in some cases, greatly enhancing their financial picture at the end of their federal career. 

As one major union that backs the bill, the National Federation of Federal Employees, explains in a release: “Because the employee is paying (plus interest) for this time to count towards their retirement, the burden to the taxpayer is minimal.” 

“Seasonal and temporary federal employees who answer the call of duty deserve the same level of deference as the permanent employees they work with,” NFFE President Randy Erwin says in the release. “It is unconscionable to ignore temporary or seasonal labor upon becoming permanent employees, given many of these employees risk their lives and health for these jobs, as thousands of wildland firefighters do each year.”

“To deny counting that time on the job is akin to creating a second-class of employee,” Erwin continues. “If they put the time in, they deserve to have it counted toward retirement … It is long overdue that former seasonal or temporary civil servants have the option to count their time serving our Nation towards their well-deserved retirement benefits.” 

Other major unions and federal employee advocate organizations, such as the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), have backed past versions of the legislation and are behind the current bill. 

NEXT STORY: GAO: Climate change weighs on TSP

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