Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.
Will the unions have any grounds for challenging the elimination of the FERS supplement? With my 23 years of service under the assumption of a FERS supplement, shouldn’t I be entitled to 23/30 of what I would have received before they started monkeying around with the law?
No. FERS is a congressionally passed statute. It can be totally changed or repealed, although it is not likely to happen except in the around-the-edges manner being discussed in Congress. Your union’s continued effective lobbying in Congress is the best and only recourse.
Bill Bransford is managing partner of Shaw Bransford & Roth PC.
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The elimination of the FERS supplement is perfidious and a betrayal of the substance of a commitment. And I do hope that the unions are paying attention. When the agreement was reached to change the retirement system in the mid-eighties, one of the plums offered to induce the unions to give up their generous 2 percent times years of service in exchange for a paltry 1.7 percent for the first 20 years followed by a single percentage point for each subsequent year, was the promise of the addition of the social security supplement, previously unavailable to Foreign Service retirees. My father, who retired under the old system with 27 years of service, therefore retired with 54 percent of his high three. I retired after 27 years of service under the “new” system and received 41 percent of my high three, plus the supplement. To remove the supplement now, without going back to the old retirement system or replacing it with another monetary benefit, is a form of robbery. It also represents bad faith and the unions should take heed.