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Home > Pay & Benefits > Mike Causey > Mike Causey Columns

Deflation Blues

August 31, 2009 - 4:00am

Even on a "slow" day, Social Security Administration staffers who deal with the public work harder than a lot of us. Including people like me. And there haven't been many slow days at SSA lately.

That's because tens of millions of Americans, many of them very elderly, are all suffering from the deflation blues. That is no fizz (and no extra money) in their upcoming January COLA.

Most federal-military retirees are well aware that they will not get a COLA (cost of living adjustment) in 2010. In fact, we gave you the first alert in mid-April. But the bad news is just getting out and/or sinking in for many of the millions of Americans under the same Social Security COLA each year as federal retirees.

And they can't believe what's not going to happen.

The January 2009 COLA was 5.8 percent. But because living costs, as measured by the government, are down, there will be no COLA next year. Some people even predict that retirees will again be served the ultimate diet-COLA (no calories, no more money) in 2011.

So what has this late-breaking (for millions) news done to Social Security workers. Let them tell it:

  • "Those of us who deal with the general public are accustomed to taking some heat. But this beats all. We have clients who are angry, and scared. We've had to tighten security just in case." Don't Beat The Messenger!!!

  • "I work for Social Security. I am what they call a teleservice rep. I received hundreds of calls a week. The recipients are already calling me asking 'what am I going to do without a COLA!' I tell them that I pray for the answer because we've been asked the same question so many times. No COLA will make my job much more difficult. What can I say, things will get better when that doesn't help them now. Before my caller hangs up I strive to make them satisfied and glad they called. Unfortunately, I can't help them. No COLA is just crazy. We all know everything has increased in price." SSA in Tampa Bay

Postal Buyouts, What's Next?

After months of denying that it would pay people to leave, the U.S. Postal Service is offering buyouts. It hopes the payments, $15,000 in two parts, will lure as many as 30,000 clerical and mail handler craft workers to take regular or early retirement.

Many employees who agreed to take early retirement earlier this year won't get the buyout, and they are not happy. One recent retiree said he got a June 3rd e-mail from his HR office which said the voluntary retirement offer was about to expire. Employees could choose to retire either on June 30 or July 31, but the "irrevocable" drop-dead date to decide was June 19. Facing that deadline, a couple of thousand workers retired.

Workers under the FERS retirement system take a double hit. In addition to getting a reduced annuity, they are not eligible for retiree cost of living adjustments until they are age 62.

Bigger Buyout?

Now the postal grapevine is dealing with a new rumor. A 30-year employee says "...my job was abolished and I am eligible for the $15,000 buyout. Some of my friends who are also eligible for the buyout are saying we should wait for a better offer of perhaps $25,000. What is your opinion? Please respond soon as the deadline is September 25th." M.P.

Answer: It's unlikely the Postal Service will sweeten the deal. Remember, it reached agreement for the buyouts with the American Postal Workers Union after two months of quiet negotiations. Reading between the lines, the union advised employees NOT to take early retirement without a buyout because buyout talks were underway.

APWU says that while it wanted a bigger retirement payment (half a year of salary), the agreed upon buyout is a "modest" incentive to retire. That does NOT sound like a bigger buyout is in the works! For details, click here.

Nearly Useless Factoid
by Suzanne Kubota

Tac Bac - Tactical Canned Bacon has a shelf life of 10 years.

To reach me: mcausey@federalnewsradio.com

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