SSA: Phased retirement’s not right for us now

Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources Reginald Wells of the Social Security Administration said his agency opted not to pursue a phased retirement program.

The Social Security Administration has informed its workforce that a phased retirement program will not be implemented at the agency, at least not anytime in the foreseeable future.

“For now, we’ve opted not to pursue a phased retirement program. As we looked at the options and the impact on the agency, to try to launch a program like that at this time, it might destabilize us in ways that we really can’t afford,” Deputy Commissioner for Human Resources Reginald Wells told Federal News Radio’s Lauren Larson during an interview for Ask the CHCO.

Social Security has seen a significant amount of it’s workforce retire in recent years, topping the list of large independent agencies in the last 10 years with 26,586 employees leaving between 2005 and 2014. NASA came in second at 5,628 workers retiring. Roughly 25 percent of the workforce at SSA say they expect to retire within the next five years according to results from the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

Wells said the Reemployed Annuitant Program, which allows retired employees the opportunity to be rehired, gives them flexibility and has helped them tremendously with knowledge transfer and training.

Wells said SSA has gotten used to operating conservatively in recent years because of budget uncertainty due to continuing resolutions. At the same time, he said, they recognize a generational shift in the workforce at SSA and are committing — as much as the budget will allow — to robust training and development programs.

“We’re putting a lot of emphasis on being more strategic,” said Wells and indicated that decisions at the agency, especially in human resources, are data driven. “You’ve got to have the metrics to back up what you’re trying to accomplish. We’re not opposed to  phased retirement conceptually but at the moment we’re opting not to move in that direction.”

The Office of Personnel Management released the final regulations to implement phased retirement just about a year ago, and agencies have been slow to use them. Agencies could start sending applications for phased retirement starting last November.

The Defense Department, for example, still is a few months from finalizing its rules around phased retirement, meaning its employees will have had to wait almost 18 months before beginning to take advantage of this new tool.

The Energy Department, as another example, issued its phased retirement regs in February.

Congress passed the bill and President Barack Obama signed the provision into law in 2012 and it took OPM more than two years to finalize the regulations.

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