FEDweek

Buyout Amount, TSP Withdrawals, Defense Workforce Issues Before Congress

While Congress likely will spend much of its attention on tax policy in the time immediately ahead, it could also wrap up work on several initiatives of importance in the federal workforce and on which substantial progress already has been made.

Perhaps the lowest-hanging fruit within reach is a proposal to widen withdrawal options in the TSP. The House already has passed its version of a bill and so has the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, both with overwhelming bipartisan support and with the support of the TSP itself. The Senate could pass the bill without even a formal vote so long as there is no objection. The measure would allow multiple in-service age-based withdrawals, multiple partial withdrawals after separation, and additional options for those choosing to withdraw accounts as a series of substantially equal payments.

Also ready for a Senate vote is a measure to raise the standard buyout amount to $40,000 from $25,000 government-wide. The Trump administration proposed that change, which in addition would index the amount in the future to inflation, and as with the TSP bill, the Senate committee cleared it without objection. However, there is no counterpart bill in the House. That chamber’s only action on buyouts has been that as part of its version of the annual DoD budget it agreed to extend through 2021 that department’s already existing authority to pay the higher amount.

That sequence has raised the prospect that a government-wide buyout increase will become part of the DoD bill, which currently is in a House-Senate conference. The DoD authorization is considered one of the few annual “must-pass” bills in Congress.

Both versions further would deny the Pentagon’s request for another round of base closings, while extending several special benefits for employees working in dangerous areas overseas, and either extending or creating several DoD-only hiring and career development authorities for high-demand positions.