Sick Leave: Use, Abuse or Lose

Should federal and postal workers be rewarded for not taking sick leave. Some members of Congress think so but Senior Correspondent Mike Causey says don\'t spen...

What are the odds that Congress will allow all federal workers to credit their unused sick leave toward their retirement? Both groups get 13 days of sick leave a year which they can store up as a form of long term disability insurance.

Currently those under the old CSRS retirement system can, once they are otherwise eligible to retire, apply their unused sick leave time to their total civil service time. Result: Larger, in some cases considerably larger annuities (like $1,000 to $2,000 more per year) that are fully indexed to inflation. By contrast the majority of working feds, who are under the newer FERS retirement program, don’t get anything for staying well. Except maybe the thanks of a grateful nation! Hah!

So what are the odds that FERS employees will get the same sick leave credit available to CSRS workers? It’s a question many readers have asked. Short answer: The odds are slim and none. How come? Think about it…

It seems like half the Senate and at least a quarter of the House is (are?) running for President. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. After all we haven’t had a direct Senate-to-White House move since JFK. The way things stand after Super Tuesday (still undecided but…) it seems more likely than not.

It is hard (sometimes painful) to turn on the TV and not see your Senator, who is supposed to be here doing Senatorial-type things, opening a supermarket in California or shaking hands with weenie factory workers in the midwest. Or looking at tornado wreckage in the south and wondering why the folks in Washington (which should include him/her) aren’t doing anything to help? One House member from a formerly “safe” seat had to abandon the campaign and hurry home to Ohio to save his job. Others have dropped out for lack of (from the public) interest.

But there’s a lot of campaigning left and even the people who aren’t running for President are very likely running for reelection. All House seats and one-third of all Senate seats are up for grabs in the November election. And although the odds favor the majority of incumbents winning again, nobody is taking this one as a safe bet. What that means is that the congressional work schedule this year is, how to say this diplomatically, a joke.

Extended Home Work Periods (that’s legislative-ese for a long break) are numerous. So are actual at-the-office work hours. The TWT Club (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) is working (actually not) overtime.

Even when the Senate and House are actually in session, doing things, many members (all those running for President plus those running for Vice President, or a Cabinet or Ambassador post) are out campaigning.

Meantime, Rep. James Moran (D-Va.) has introduced a bill that would give FERS employees a one-shot payment at retirement. That payment would be pro-rated based on how much leave they turned back to Uncle Sam. Experts say that the one-time payment would be less costly to the taxpayers than boosting lifetime COLA-indexed annuities.

It seems like such a good, fair idea, that many FERS employees assume it must be high on the congressional agenda. Duh! Not so. Look there are budgets to approve, wars to be financed and micro-managed, an economy that wants to head south and – most important to many pols – an election coming up. And many of the candidates, if you listen closely, are running against Washington. And in this case, no matter where you live or work, you as a fed are part of the Washington problem as they see it.

So what are the odds Congress is going to approve payments for federal workers who didn’t use sick leave because they weren’t sick? Especially when many small firms don’t give sick leave, and many large ones limit the amount and don’t allow people to carry it over from year to year.

What do you think?

Nearly Useless Factoid

As of 2005, Starbucks spends more on health insurance for its employees than it does for its raw coffee beans.

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