In April, we wrote about the Federal Retirement Fairness Act (H.R. 5389), bipartisan legislation introduced by Representative Derek Kilmer (D-WA) and Walter Jones (R-NC). FMA endorsed the bill, which would allow a Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employee to make a deposit, plus interest, and receive credit toward his or her annuity computation for non-deduction service performed on or after January 1, 1989.
Currently, FERS employees who were put on intermittent or temporary time are unable to buy back that time towards their retirement. Many federal employees were on intermittent or temporary time, and they did not realize they would be temporary for months or even years, with none of that time available to be credited towards their retirement. Representatives Kilmer and Jones introduced H.R. 5389 as a solution to this issue.
Specifically, the legislation would allow FERS employees to buy back years served as temporary or intermittent employees to credit toward their retirement. The employee would be responsible for their share, plus interest, in addition to the government’s share of the contribution. In an April 30, 2018, Op-Ed, Representative Kilmer wrote, “While this is a lot of money up front, many of the folks I represent believe this is fair. Their payment would cover the amount of money that would have been put aside if they were permanent employees, plus interest, which means taxpayers are getting a good deal, too. In return, those workers will receive the same level of benefits they would have received if they had been permanent employees all along.”
FMA members and many other employees we have spoken with completely agree with Representative Kilmer. They fully understand the high cost associated on their end, but welcome the opportunity to buy back this time and be rewarded for their years of hard work. H.R. 5389 is designed to make the cost of the credit high for the federal employee only to make the cost for the government minimal in order to make the bill as attractive as possible to members of Congress.
Since its introduction, the bill has received a fair amount of bipartisan support. H.R. 5389 has 15 cosponsors, as Representatives Chellie Pingree (D-ME) and Tom Cole (R-OK) joined as cosponsors earlier this month. FMA members have been active in urging congressional support, writing more than 1,100 letters to decision makers in Congress.
Challenges remain for the legislation, including uncertainty about how many people are affected by this issue and who is covered by the bill as drafted. FMA agrees with Mr. Kilmer’s comments about taxpayers getting a good deal, as the bulk of the costs would be borne by the employees who take the option to buy back this time.
It is highly unlikely H.R. 5389 will be considered in the lame duck session of the 115th Congress when legislators return to Washington, D.C., after the November 6 elections. However, FMA remains grateful for Representatives Kilmer and Jones and every other member of Congress who has endorsed the bill. We will continue to work with these decision makers and others to make technical changes to clarify the bill and urge them to reintroduce it for consideration early in the 116th Congress.