January pay raise, retiree COLA looking good

With five months left to go in the cost of living countdown, federal, military and Social Security retirees are looking at a 3% increase in benefits beginning i...

With five months left to go in the cost of living countdown, federal, military and Social Security retirees are looking at a 3% increase in benefits beginning in January. It is a politics-free call based on the ups and downs of the marketplace. This year, the COLA was 1.3%.

White collar federal workers are on track for a pay raise that could range from 2.7% to 3.2%. The final amount will be both a political and budgetary judgement. This year they got a 1% increase.

The January COLA for retirees will be based on the rise in inflation between now and the end of September. You can get a gut feeling by watching the changes in gasoline prices when you fill-up, or an uptick in prices at the grocery store. The official number will be made public in October.

The January federal pay raise is based on political and budgetary judgements. The Biden administration is looking at a 2.7% increase. But congressional Democrats from states and districts with large numbers of civil servants have proposed a 3.2% January increase, with 1% going to locality pay adjustments. It could be higher if inflation increases between now and September. The retirees got a 1.3% COLA last January.

Under the system, people under Social Security and the old Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) program — the majority of current retirees — will get the full COLA, whatever that turns out to be. But those under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) that replaced the CSRS program would get a diet-COLA that is 1% less than the actual rise in the CPI.

On the pay front, the issue isn’t will white collar civilian federal get pay raise, but rather how big it will be. The White House is backing a 2.7% increase in January. Democrats in the House and Senate have proposed a 3.2% increase with one percentage point of that going to the locality adjustments. Feds got a 1% raise in January of this year.

Although often confused, there can and usually are major differences between a federal pay raise and a COLA for retirees. When Congress gets a raise, many members refer to it as a cost of living catch-up, even though the final amount is often a political call with little or no relation to the rate of inflation as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics Consumer Price Index-W. That’s a city-by-city pulse check by the Labor Department on prices for a market basket of goods. Groups representing retirees, such as the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE), say the government should be using the CPI-E — for elderly — that takes into account higher costs for retirees for things like health care and prescriptions. While both CPI indexes measure food, drink, housing, clothing, transportation and costs for education and recreation, the CPI-E gives greater weight to medical costs. That would benefit most retirees in the form of higher COLAs.

Speaking of retiree groups, the National Association of Retired Federal Employees is 100 this year. The vast majority of federal workers and retirees live and work outside of the metro Washington area. So local NARFE members have been pushing hard to let workers, retirees and neighbors know how important Uncle Sam’s presence is in their communities. Especially fed centers beyond the Beltway, such as Ogden, Utah and Huntsville, Alabama. Or anyplace with a military base, VA hospital, IRS or Postal Service Center. Or a federal prison, which may be the community paycheck generator. How big a deal is the federal presence? From Vancouver, Washington, long-time NARFE member Linda Wallers and other Washington state NARFE members are delighted with this proclamation from Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.). It’s one of many from around the nation:

I am pleased to extend warm greetings to all of those celebrating the centennial anniversary of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Association.

The NARFE should be proud of the work that it has done for the past 100 years to defend and advance the retirement benefits of civil servants who serve the United States, including valuable guidance and timely resources. The NARFE is a leading voice in the state of Washington and across the country for the federal community.

Washingtonians depend on more than 67,000 federal employees to carry out the important work of the federal government, including civilian defense employees who support and equip the United States Armed Forces; doctors and nurses who care for veterans; cybersecurity professionals who protect critical infrastructure and respond to emerging threats; scientists and researchers who respond to pandemics and develop new cures for diseases; federal law enforcement and intelligence officers who protect the United States from foreign and domestic threats; prosecutors and judges who uphold the laws; prison guards who maintain safety and security; postal workers who keep communities connected and the economy churning; air traffic controllers and airport security workers who protect our skies and travelers; land management workers who protect and service our national parks, national forests, and federal public lands; revenue agents who ensure the United States has the necessary funds to carry out critical functions; and scientists, engineers, and specialists who protect the air we breathe and the water we rely on for drinking and recreation.

Please accept my best wishes for an enjoyable celebration and many more years of providing federal workers and retirees with wise counsel as they make critical decisions about their benefits and gain confidence in a secure future.

-Very truly yours, Jay Inslee, Governor

Nearly Useless Factoid

By Adrian Dannhauser

The total weight of all of the bones in your body depends on how much you actually weigh. Your bones make up about 15% of your total body weight. For example, if you weigh 180 lbs., your bones weigh about 27 lbs.

Source: Spine Universe

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