The Senate has taken up the annual DoD authorization bill, which would allow buyout amounts government-wide of up to $40,000. That would match the maximum already in effect for DoD; the maximum elsewhere now is $25,000.
The Pentagon first sought a higher amount in early 2016, saying that the $25,000 maximum in effect since the first buyouts began in the early 1990s is no longer a strong enough lure for employees to agree to leave government—to retirement or otherwise separate. The amount would have to be more than $47,000 to keep up with inflation or more than $42,000 to keep up with salary growth since then, it added, saying it settled on $40,000 as an amount rounded down from the lesser amount.
Congress later that year agreed to the higher amount for DoD but not for the rest of the government, even though the original proposal was to apply the higher amount across all agencies. The White House repeated the request for a higher amount government-wide in its budget proposal of 2017 but the result was only to extend the higher amount for DoD through 2021. The White House made the same request again earlier this year.
More on Buyouts, or Voluntary Separation Incentives at ask.FEDweek.com
The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs late in 2017 voted in favor of a boost to the maximum buyout—also called voluntary separation incentive payment, or VSIP—government-wide, but no progress had been made since then.
The Senate defense budget bill not only would make the higher amount government-wide, it would increase it annually by an inflation index, rounded to the nearest $1,000. The House version of the bill (HR-5515) does not contain similar provisions. That and other differences between the two bills would have to be settled in a later conference between the two chambers.
The DoD authorization is considered an annual “must-pass” although final enactment typically doesn’t happen until late in the calendar year.