March 27, 2018

Kilmer, Jones Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Help Shipyard Workers, Other Federal Workers Retire On-Time

In 1989, the government changed its retirement system for federal workers. Today, as the first generation under that new system begins to retire, some workers are discovering a bad surprise.   Workers who started as temporary employees and then converted to full-time employment are now finding that they may have to work years longer than their peers in order to receive the same retirement benefits. 

Some workers at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Fleet Readiness Center East (FRC-East) in North Carolina, and at federal facilities across the country are planning their retirements and finding out that this is their story. 

Today, Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Representative Walter B. Jones (R, NC-3) introduced The Federal Retirement Fairness Act (H.R. 5389) to fix this problem. 

“Folks who work hard for our country deserve a government that has their back,” Rep. Derek Kilmer said. “This bill lets people retire securely and on time. Workers shouldn’t have to put their physical health at risk because some government red tape says they should work longer than their peers.”

“H.R. 5389 rights an injustice to our civil servants by allowing them to ‘buy back’ the time they spent serving in ‘probationary status,’” said Rep. Walter Jones. “To all federal workers who have selflessly served our military and government, like at FRC-East and other bases in North Carolina, it is only right that they receive the accurate benefits for the years that they worked.” 

The Federal Retirement Fairness Act would help federal workers the government originally hired as temporary employees who then converted to full-time employees be able to retire on time. Temporary employees don’t receive the same benefits as full-time employees, and they don’t pay into the federal retirement system. The bipartisan bill would let employees pay into the retirement system for the years they worked under temporary status. That way, they can retire with benefits that match the total number of years they worked. Right now, federal employees are offered two choices: retire with a lower level of benefits than their peers, or work later into life.

Catch-up payments aren’t a new idea. The Office of Personnel Management permitted the payments for workers in this situation under the system it phased out in 1989. When the government switched to the new retirement system, the authority for the buy-backs ended. The bill would solve this problem by making the authority a law.