Senate bill would boost early buyout offers for all federal employees

As agencies consider how they’ll trim the size of their workforces, Congress wants to help them sweeten the deal with higher buyout offers.

Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced new legislation that would increase the maximum Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) from its current $25,000 to $40,000 for both federal civilian and defense employees.

The $40,000 figure would also be tied to the Consumer Price Index (CPI) and adjusted for inflation every year.

The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee will mark up the bill, among several others, Wednesday.

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Lawmakers originally approved a pilot program last year that increased the VSIP for DoD civilian employees in 2017.

But Congress hasn’t adjusted maximum VSIP payments for civilian federal employees since lawmakers first authorized these incentives in 2002.

The Trump administration sent a similar proposal to Congress this summer, asking that lawmakers include it in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The proposal didn’t make it to the House or Senate versions of the NDAA.

The Office of Management and Budget encouraged agencies to consider using Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) or VSIP incentives to encourage more attrition as they downsize or restructure.

Some agencies are beginning to offer early retirements and buyouts as their budgets tighten and leaders finalize the details of their reorganization plans.

The Environmental Protection Agency offered early outs to at least 1,200 employees in effort to cut 8 percent of its workforce by the end of this fiscal year.

The Interior Department also said it asked the Office of Personnel Management for VERA/VSIP authority, as it consolidates its own workforce and pushes more customer-facing services to field offices across the country.

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