A group of five Democratic senators on Monday unveiled legislation that would standardize the annual increase in annuity payments that retired federal workers receive in retirement systems.

The COLA Equal Act (S. 4221), introduced by Senator Alex Padilla, D-California, will ensure that federal retirees in the Federal Employee Retirement System and the Civil Servants Retirement System receive the same annual percentage increase in the cost of living each year.

Currently, according to rules dating back to 1986, the CSRS calculates the cost of living adjustments based on the annual change in the consumer price index for workers for the third quarter. But FERS COLAs are based on extrapolation from this adjustment: if the CSRS sees an increase of less than 2%, FERS retirees will receive the full COLA. If the adjustment is between 2% and 3%, those enrolled in FERS will receive only a 2% increase. And if the CSRS COLA is 3% or more, FERS retirees will receive this adjustment, minus 1 percentage point.

For example, this year, CSRS retirees received a 5.9% boost in their defined benefit annuity payments as inflation rose. But those enrolled in FERS increased by only 4.9%.

Padilla’s bill, which reflects similar legislation introduced by House Speaker Gary Connolly last year, will link the annual increase in both systems directly to the CPI-W. Although the issue has long been a priority for groups of federal officials, it has received new urgency amid record high inflation last year – this year COLA is the highest since 1982.

In a statement, Ken Thomas, president of the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees, approved the legislation.

“Due to inherently unfair policies, retirees from the Federal Employee Retirement System do not receive a full adjustment to the cost of living when consumer prices rise by more than 2%,” Thomas said. “This is a departure from the way COLA is defined for both civil service retirees and social security beneficiaries. . . This policy, introduced in the 1980s with the creation of FERS, fails to fully protect the earned value of FERS annuities, which reduce the real value in times of high inflation – exactly what COLA aims to prevent.

OPM focuses on mental health resources

The Human Resources Office on Wednesday called on federal agencies to ensure that their employees are aware of and have access to the mental health benefits provided to federal workers, in light of May being a month of mental health awareness.

IN note to the heads of agenciesOPM Director Kieran Ahuja noted that promoting the well-being of the federal workforce, including mental health, is a priority on President Biden’s management agenda.

“We want to make sure that all federal officials understand the support they have and emphasize that there should be no shame or stigma in caring for their mental health,” Ahuja wrote. “[As] reminder, employee assistance programs and health plans for the health benefits of federal employees offer mental health services to employees and their family members. We encourage agencies to communicate proactively with their employees about their capabilities, and we encourage employees to contact their employees for the benefit of the agencies or the EAP coordinator to learn more. “

Ahuja also stressed that the agencies need to make sure that federal officials are not discouraged from taking advantage of mental health benefits for fear of jeopardizing their positions or security clearances.

“The agency’s human resources and personnel verification services (security, fitness and certification) are important partners in dispelling the myth that seeking medical treatment will disqualify candidates or employees from working for the government or passing the audit,” she wrote. . “Everyday people with mental illness perform their duties without posing a security risk. We encourage proactive management of mental health conditions to support the health and recovery of federal officials and others. “


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