APWU President William Burrus met with postal officials July 8 regarding USPS plans to offer early-retirement opportunities to 40,000 employees. “I conveyed our strongly-held belief that the Postal Service is required to bargain with the union over Voluntary Early Retirement opportunities,” Burrus said.
“I also reiterated our request for all pertinent information,” he said, “including the Postal Service’s request to the Office of Personnel Management requesting authority to offer early-outs, and OPM’s response.” Under the law, federal agencies, including the Postal Service, must receive approval from OPM to offer Voluntary Early Retirement (VER) **See below information** opportunities to their employees.
Postal officials indicated that OPM has approved the request, and agreed to provide the union with the requested information. “We will review the information once we receive it and engage in further discussions with management,” Burrus said.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management -
Voluntary Early Retirement Authority
Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) allows agencies that are undergoing substantial restructuring, reshaping, downsizing, transfer of function, or reorganization to temporarily lower the age and service requirements in order to increase the number of employees who are eligible for retirement. The authority encourages more voluntary separations and helps the agency complete the needed organizational change with minimal disruption to the work force. By offering these short term opportunities, an agency can make it possible for employees to receive an immediate annuity years before they would otherwise be eligible.
An agency must request VERA and receive approval from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) before the agency may offer early retirement to its employees. The approval from OPM will stipulate a period of time during which the option will remain available. Agencies such as the Department of Defense that have been granted agency-specific VERA are not required to seek OPM approval for their use of this option.
Voluntary Early Retirement offers apply to employees covered under both the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). When an agency has received VERA approval from OPM, an employee who meets the general eligibility requirements may be eligible to retire early. The employee must:
Meet the minimum age and service requirements -
At least age 50 with at least 20 years creditable Federal service, OR
Any age with at least 25 years creditable Federal service;
Have served in a position covered by the OPM authorization for the minimum time specified by OPM (usually 30 days prior to the date of the agency request);
Serve in a position covered by the agency's VERA plan; and
Separate by the close of the early-out period.
Effect of Early Retirement on Annuity
Employees considering an early retirement must consult with their human resources office and follow agency procedures to receive an annuity estimate and obtain advice specific to their personal situation.
Commencing date of annuity - If the employee retires on the 1st, 2nd, or 3rd day of a month, annuity begins the following day. Otherwise, annuity begins the first day of the month following retirement.
Calculation of annuity - Annuity is calculated based on the average high-3 salary and years and months of creditable service. Unused sick leave can be used for additional service credit. If the employee is under age 55, this calculation is reduced by one-sixth of one percent for each full month he/she is under age 55 (i.e. 2% per year).
Commencing date of annuity - Annuity begins the first day of the month following retirement.
Calculation of annuity - FERS Basic Annuity is calculated based on the average high-3 salary and years and months of creditable service. Under FERS, unused sick leave can not be used for additional service credit, unless the employee is a FERS transferee with a CSRS component. A FERS transferee with a CSRS component receives credit for unused sick leave; the amount of credit will be the lesser of:
The employee's sick leave balance as of the date of transfer to FERS; or
The employee's sick leave balance as of the date of retirement.
There is no annuity reduction in FERS for employees who retire on an early voluntary retirement under age 55. A FERS Transferee with a CSRS Component in his/her annuity, who retires before age 55, will have the CSRS portion of the payable annuity reduced by one-sixth of one percent for each full month he/she is under age 55. No reduction will be applied to the FERS component of the annuity.
A FERS Annuity Supplement is payable to an employee who has completed at least one calendar year of FERS service when he/she reaches Minimum Retirement Age (MRA). MRA is age 55 to 57, depending on date of birth. The annuity supplement is payable until eligibility for Social Security begins at age 62, subject to an earnings limitation.
Effect of Early Retirement on Benefits
Health Benefits: Employees retiring in conjunction with a VERA or Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) authority must have been covered under the FEHB Program (1) for the last 5 years of their Federal civilian service in order to continue such coverage in retirement, or (2) if less than 5 years, for all service since the employee was eligible for these benefits unless these requirements are waived.
OPM will grant pre-approved waivers to employees who have been:
Covered under the FEHB Program continuously since the beginning date of the agency's latest statutory VSIP authority, or OPM-approved VSIP or VERA authority; and
Retire during the statutory VSIP or OPM-approved VSIP/VERA period; and
Receive a VSIP; or
Take early optional retirement (i.e., VERA); or
Take discontinued service retirement based on an involuntary separation due to RIF, directed reassignment, reclassification to a lower grade, or abolishment of position.
Coverage as an annuitant is identical to coverage as an employee, but premiums are not paid on a pre-tax basis.
Life Insurance: Federal Employees Group Life Insurance can be continued through the retirement system provided the employee has carried the coverage for at least five years prior to retirement. Value and cost depend on elections made at retirement.
As with any incentive, when approved by OPM, this authority is used at the discretion of the agency. Each agency must develop a VERA plan to explain why the authority is needed, how it will be implemented, and which employees will be eligible.
Employment After Voluntary Early Retirement
Non-Federal employment: Employees who take voluntary early retirement are not subject to any restrictions regarding their annuity, should they subsequently accept non-Federal employment. EXCEPTION: Employees covered under FERS who qualify for the annuity supplement could have the supplement reduced or discontinued due to an earnings limitation.
Federal employment: If an annuitant (i.e., a retired Federal employee) is hired under a Federal appointment, the annuitant is then considered a "reemployed annuitant." This means the annuity will continue, and the new Federal salary will be offset by the annuity, unless the employing agency seeks and is granted a waiver of the salary offset by OPM. If the reemployed annuitant works full time for at least one year, the annuitant may apply for a supplemental annuity. If the reemployed annuitant works full time for at least five years, the annuitant may then choose either a supplemental annuity or a re-computed annuity.
5 U.S.C. 8336(d)(2)(D) for CSRS
5 U.S.C. 8414(b)(1)(B) for FERS
5 CFR Part 831.114 for CSRS
5 CFR Part 842.213 for FERS
U.S. Office of Personnel Management 1900 E Street NW, Washington, DC 20415 | (202) 606-1800 | TTY (202) 606-2532
“We do not oppose Voluntary Early Retirements,” he explained, “but we do object to any plan to offer them selectively and exclude some employees from eligibility,” he said. “We also believe that for this VER, which is not the result of contract negotiations, severance pay must accompany an offer of early retirement.”
“We intend to pursue our concerns over this matter,” Burrus noted. “As we receive additional information, we will share it with our members.”
Subject: National VER Authorities
This is an update of where we are with the upcoming implementation of the National VERs for craft and supervisory positions. We expect to have an OPM approval for the initial VER request for the clerks, mail handlers, SDO and SCS positions as early next week. We do not expect to receive the second OPM VER approval for Maintenance, Motor Vehicle, Carriers and Rural Carriers crafts until the end of July.
Some of you have asked for the list of VER eligibles but because we have not established a firm VER effective date, these names will not be provided. For your planning purposes, we can provide raw numbers of VER eligibles by districts and by craft for the first group (clerks, mail handlers, supervisors) with a proposed VER effective date of December 31, 2008. These reports will be available to you by the middle of next week. The second group (MV, Maintenance, Carriers) will have a later VER effective date and this report will be provided the week of July 7th. Once we have established firm VER effective dates, we will provide the names of VER eligibles as a part of our normal process to implement VERs-timelines and guidelines.
In the meantime, we have started to develop preliminary plans for the implementation of the national VER, including discussions with HRSSC and Eagan as it relates to the massive volume of VER offer packages and annuity estimates that will be mailed. Labor Relations (Bill Jones and John Dockins) will coordinate national notifications and we plan to have a national Communication Plan (Maria Pell). A teleconference will be scheduled within the next two weeks to get your input and to discuss the preliminary plans for the implementation of the VERs.
It appears that anyone with 25 years of service will be eligible for a Voluntary Early Retirement. FERS employees will have the age penalty waived. The APWU is asking for incentives.
APWU to Meet With USPS Over Possible 'Early Out' Offer
Burrus Update #08-08, July 3, 2008
The union has learned unofficially that the Postal Service has requested from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) the authority to offer early retirement to 40,000 postal employees. In response to an inquiry from my office, a meeting with Postal Service headquarters has been scheduled for Monday regarding these reports.
No specifics of the early-retirement plan will be available until full discussions have taken place with the USPS. The union interprets the national agreement as requiring negotiations over early-retirement offers, and a written demand for official notification and bargaining has been forwarded to postal management.
The Postal Service is experiencing serious revenue shortfall as a result of the slumping economy. Mail volume is down significantly, and revenue is not keeping pace with inflation. What was touted as “a new business plan” in the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act of 2006 (PAEA) serves only to place a cap on rate increases in response to the mail-volume loss. Excessive workshare discounts and the increased focus on contracting postal activities generate budgetary losses that cannot he recovered through internal efficiencies. It is within this environment that the postal monopoly and six-day delivery are being re-evaluated, which guarantees we will be seeing proposals for revolutionary change.
APWU is demanding bargaining on any proposal to offer “early outs.” We believe that all APWU-represented employees should be eligible, and that there should be monetary incentives for interested employees.
As more information is made available, the union membership will be informed.