Ahead of what could be a busy, if brief, autumn working session, on issues of importance to federal employees and retirees Congress has produced a mix of inaction and partial action, plus what likely is a final action to reject one of the few benefits improvement proposals it has actively considered.
The House is out of session through Labor Day and the Senate will be at work only off and on until then, focusing in that time mainly on confirming nominees and advancing spending bills for fiscal 2019. Congress has scheduled only five working weeks after Labor Day before recessing again for the elections, after which it plans to return for no more than four weeks.
One bill finalized earlier than usual is the annual DoD authorization bill (HR-5515), now awaiting President Trump’s signature after passage by the Senate last week. That measure appeared at one time to be setting the stage for increasing the buyout maximum from $25,000 to $40,000 government-wide and indexing the amount to inflation in the future, as the White House has proposed for several years.
However, Senate language to make those changes was dropped in a conference with the House, leaving the $40,000 amount applying only at DoD. A chance remains for attaching the boost to some other bill, but the DoD measure was the most likely vehicle for any action this year.
The defense measure does overturn a policy in effect at DoD since late 2014 that had reduced per diem reimbursements for employees on extended temporary duty assignments. It further extends several long-running special pay provisions for employees assigned to hazardous areas overseas and either or creates or extends several special authorities aimed at speeding up hiring for high-demand jobs in IT and other fields, as well as hiring of recent graduates.