Although the program was approved some five years ago by Congress, it’s only fairly recently that federal employees are opting into a phased retirement program that allows them to work part time while continuing to accrue half credit toward their retirement annuity and being paid half their salary.
According to Federal News Radio, there hadn’t been much interest in the program, with just 90 employees applying for the program a year ago—compared with the 1,000 federal employees estimated by the Congressional Budget Office to enter the program per year back in 2012, when CBO reviewed the program.
But it’s only fairly recently that the numbers have come up, with the Office of Personnel Management estimating that 252 federal employees have applied for phased retirement and another 79 now having completed the program and retired.
Workers who apply for the program promise to work part-time in their positions while collecting half their salary and half their accumulated retirement annuity.
Once they’re approved for the program, the report says, “phased retirees must dedicate part of their working hours—20 percent in some cases— to mentoring other employees who plan to take over their job responsibilities once they leave.”
The increase in interest of the program might have something to do with various government actions in Washington, particularly since within the past year, the report says, agencies with the most continued interest in the program include NASA and the Environmental Protection Agency.
In addition, the departments of Agriculture, Commerce and Interior, along with the Smithsonian Institution, have seen an uptick just in the past year, as well as the Veterans Affairs Department and IRS.
Considering staffing changes and reductions under the current administration’s proposed budget, as well as proposed changes to the federal employees’ retirement plan—which have been highly unpopular—it could be that employees are viewing the phased retirement program in a new light.
The proposed retirement changes contained in the budget are so unpopular, in fact, that nine Republican lawmakers have signed a letter opposing them.
Another Federal News Radio report says that while the Republicans’ letter doesn’t go as far as one sent by Democratic lawmakers (more than 100 signed on to that one, reports Government Executive), it indicates that the cuts are pretty draconian—and retirement may be looking pretty good.