D-Day for Buyouts Fast Approaching

What do federal buyouts and buffaloes have in common?

They were once plentiful, then almost disappeared and are now making a comeback.

The Government Printing Office is the latest federal operation, and the first legislative branch agency this year, to offer employees the chance to take regular or early retirement and receive a buyout worth $25,000, before deductions. GPO’s buyout pool is small and localized. It has 2,200 employees, mostly in the DC area, and wants to eliminate 330 positions. A buyout on that scale in a much larger operation would impact a huge number of employees. Also, it is a sign of the times and an indicator that more buyouts (called VSIPs) are coming to more federal operations.

The giant Agriculture Department is offering targeted buyouts to 544 employees in several operations. Early-retirement will be available to a much larger group of workers department-wide.

During an early-out, VERA in government lingo, employees can qualify for immediate annuities if they are at least age 50 with 20 years of service, or at any age if they have 25 years of federal/military service. The value of an immediate (as opposed to deferred) annuity is that the retiree can keep their health insurance for life.

The Justice Department’s Anti-Trust Division kicked off the buyout season this year, followed by the Federal Trade Commission, a large but targeted buyout ($20,000 max spread over two years) in the U.S. Postal Service, and the Smithsonian Institution.

Many workers would love to have the option to take early retirement IF accompanied by a buyout. Data indicates that early-outs are popular when coupled with a buyout, but that relatively few people take early retirement without a cash sweetener.

Interest in buyouts is high goverment-wide. That’s especially true in giant, high-burnout operations like Defense, Social Security Administration, the Internal Revenue Service and the VA. Air Force’s Materiel Command is considering buyouts.

Politicians and political appointees who are increasingly concerned about the deficit are looking at the salary and benefits of government workers, including military personnel. Defense is looking at pay and benefits for civilian and military people, and especially at the high-cost to the government of military health benefits.

Unfortunately for federal workers looking for clues, HR offices are often the last to know when a buyout is being seriously considered or about to be announced. But keep watching this space because, when they do come through, most employees will have a short take-it-or-leave it decision period.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

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