By Reg Jones
Q. If someone uses the Family and Medical Leave Act beyond the 80 hours leave-without-pay duration, will it delay their within-grade increase date?
Q: I work for postal service as a PS-06 mail processing bargaining clerk with a base rate of $53,102. I have been offered an Inspection Service ISLE 09 position (equivalent to a GS-09) that will include a locality pay of 24.22 percent. As far as I know, as a bargaining employee who gets an EAS promotion, the salary schedule would receive a 5 percent increase to my existing bargaining-unit salary. In my case, the new base pay rate would be $55,757. So how would the locality pay be computed? Would it be new base pay rate of $55,757 + 24.22 percent locality pay?
A: I can’t tell you what your new salary would be because I don’t know anything about the Postal Service’s rules governing pay adjustments upon promotion. However, I can tell you that locality pay would be on top of that new salary, whatever it is.
Tags: Postal Service
Q: I just heard the news about the freezing of federal employees’ pay rates. Does this also mean that we will not receive within-grade increases that are due to us in the next two years?
A: Because a pay freeze is a proposal and not a fact (the Congress would have to pass legislation to make it happen), it’s far too early to say what would happen to within-grade increases.
Q: How is an annual leave buyout calculated? Is it “accumulated hours x current hourly wage”? Is this considered unearned income? I have also heard they take 40 percent in taxes for this.
A: Lump sum annual leave payments are calculated using the hourly rate of basic pay you would have received had you remained on the agency’s rolls. Therefore, if you were to retire before the annual pay adjustment becomes effective, any hours before that will be computed at the old rate and those after on the new rate. Any step increase that would have occurred after you retired won’t be included; you have to actually be on the job to receive that. For tax purposes, lump sum payments are treated as earned income. Check with your agency to find out what it will deduct from your payment.
Q. I work for the Air Force in Germany (YA-02/GS-13). In a recent question/answer on your Web site, it was stated locality pay would start for “affected employees” in 2010. In my situation, would I be an “affected employee?” It further states the locality pay will be phased in. In 2010/2011, overseas employees would only get one-third/two thirds of the locality pay. Will we still be getting some type of post allowance/COLA so that we don’t end up getting paid less than we did in 2009?
Why are overseas employees going to be tied to the “rest of the U.S.” locality pay table? This is one of the lowest salary rates of all the locality pay tables. Overseas living expenses are as high or higher than many other specific-city locality pay rates especially with the low Euro-dollar rate. Are overseas employees going to get some type of post allowance/COLA in addition to locality pay to account for currency fluctuation, or are overseas employees going to continue getting the worst pay deal of all, like they have been getting for many years now?
A The change in law only applies to those employees who work in nonforeign areas of the U.S., specifically, Alaska, Hawaii, Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
For employees, 2010 is a mixed year for benefits. For retirees, it’s pretty much a bust.
General Schedule employees received a 2 percent pay increase, with 1.5 percent going to all employees and the remainder being distributed through locality pay. If you want to compare how you made out against employees in other areas, go to the Salaries and Wages page on the Office of Personnel Management Web site.
The maximum taxable earnings for Social Security withholding stay at the 2009 level — $106,800. So, if you are a Federal Employees Retirement System or Civil Service Retirement System Offset employee, any amount you earn above that amount won’t be subject to the 6.2 percent Social Security deduction. However, the 1.45 percent of salary that goes to pay for your eventual coverage under Medicare Part A will continue to be deducted.
Of course, depending on which Federal Employees Health Benefits Program plan you are enrolled in, a substantial bite may have been taken out of your pay increase. The same is true if you are enrolled in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program, where premium increases triggered a loud and anguished cry from affected enrollees.
If you are a retiree, you have the same concerns about increases in health insurance and long-term care insurance premiums. But you also have a bigger problem. For the first time in decades, you won’t receive a cost-of-living adjustment in your annuity. If you receive a Social Security benefit, you won’t get an increase in that, either.
COLAs for retirees and Social Security beneficiaries are determined by changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers from the third quarter of one year to the third quarter of the following one. Not surprisingly, considering the tumble the economy took, the CPI-W dropped. The good news is that there’s a “hold harmless” provision in the law: It prevents benefit recipients from having their annuities and Social Security benefits reduced, and it means most Medicare beneficiaries who are enrolled in Part B won’t see an increase in their monthly premiums. In fact, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said 73 percent of beneficiaries will be protected.
However, about 27 percent of Medicare beneficiaries will see increases because they are new enrollees, are subject to the income-related additional premium or don’t have their Part B premiums withheld from Social Security benefit payments.
If you receive a Social Security benefit, the Social Security exempt amount — the amount you can earn from another job or self-employment without causing that benefit to be reduced — is the same as it was in 2009: $14,160 for an individual or $37,680 for a couple.
If you are under full retirement age, $1 in benefits will be deducted for every $2 you earn above the limit. In the year in which you reach full retirement age, benefits will be reduced by $1 for every $3 you earn above the limit. There isn’t any limit beginning with the month in which you reach full retirement age.
While there’s been talk in Congress about giving all Social Security recipients a $250 payment to compensate for their loss of a COLA in 2010, and there have been finger-pointing hearings about the increases in premiums for health benefits and long-term care insurance, I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for something positive to happen.
While things look bleak for retirees in 2010, they won’t be any better next year. According to those who crank out the numbers at the Social Security Administration, there won’t be any COLA increase for 2011 either. Sad to say, it’s just the way the numbers crunch in a downturn that hasn’t yet turned up.