WAMU 88.5 : Morning Edition

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GovExec: Freezing Federal Salaries, OPM And Its Pension Backlog

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In this era of concern about the federal deficit, the federal workforce has been a common target for spending reductions. Federal salaries have already been frozen for two years, and now there are calls for additional curbs on compensation. Kellie Lunnie, a senior reporter at Government Executive, talks to WAMU Morning Edition host Matt McCleskey about what that could mean for federal employees. 

On legislation that would affect federal employee benefits: "There are a few major pieces of legislation that would extend the federal pay freeze for between one and two additional years," Lunnie says. "There are other pieces of legislation that … would increase the amount that federal employees and lawmakers contribute to their federal pensions. 

Likelihood of of the pay freeze being extended: "The odds are probably low," Lunnie says. "It does not have support of most Democrats."

What federal employees are saying about President Obama's 0.5 percent pay increase for federal workers: As far as how it's being received by federal workers, the sentiment seems to be 'thanks for the .5% pay bump for next year, but no thanks,'" Lunnie says.

On the backlog of federal retirees seeking retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management: "It's a very big problems, one that's gone on for 20 years," Lunnie says. "There's about 62,000 claims in the retirement backlog … Congress is really putting pressure on them to get this done." 

On the fix needed to clear the backlog: "Ultimately, an information technology system that automates the process," Lunnie says. "It is a complicated, right now paper-and-pencil system. Staffers … can process 3-4 cases a day, but that's not a lot when you're talking about thousands and thousands of retirement claims that are backlog."

Possible progress: "I think there will be  progress, because they're really getting their feet held to the fire," Lunnie says. "But it's really going to take a lot of pieces falling into place before this issue gets resolved."

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