From retiring to rehiring: An insider's guide

Blogger Judy Welles outlines the key provisions of legislation that makes it easier for agencies to bring back retired feds as part-time employees.

Judging from the comments I’ve received on my recent blog post about “bridge retirements,” the idea of allowing retirees to return to government jobs part-time with no loss of annuity is a winner. In response, I looked for more details on the provision in the recently-enacted 2010 Defense Authorization Act, especially on any limitations.

First, the provision takes effect immediately. Agencies have the authority right now, with the bill’s enactment, to hire federal retirees without any reduction in salary to offset pension benefits.

But in reality, how quickly agencies act on that authority will depend on whether they have vacancies to fill, funding to use and a need for people with critical skills. Agencies also might want to wait until the Office of Personnel Management provides some guidance.

No one should wait too long, however. In the next five years, 60 percent of federal employees will be eligible to retire. Agencies may need to use the new provision and hire skilled retirees sooner than they thought.

“This is among many tools available to enable agencies to respond to workforce needs and fill critical positions” said Dan Adcock, legislative director for the National Active and Retired Federal Employee association. NARFE and the Federal Managers Association advocated strongly for the retirement changes in the bill.

Adcock spelled out the specific limits on hours a re-hired retiree can work without any salary offset. The legislation permits no more than 520 hours during the first six months of service; no more than 1,040 hours in any 12 month period; and no more than 3,020 hours as a lifetime limit. Basically, that’s part-time work for three years.

Some agencies already have programs allowing retirees to be rehired without a salary offset for an annuity, but only with a waiver from OPM.

The largest current program is at the Defense Department which, under the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act, provided the Pentagon with specific re-employment authorities, including the ability to waive salary offsets without going to OPM. The defense program limits appointments to 2,087 hours (that adds up to one year full-time service or two years part-time).