Yesterday the president announced a two year pay freeze for federal employees. Assuming that a hiring freeze isn't announced next, this makes the ALJ position less attractive. If you are not already a federal employee, does the pay freeze substantially change whether you would accept an offer? Are there reasons that the pay freeze makes the position less attractive for current federal employees?
Personally, I haven't decided. I am certainly not taking myself out of the running, but am less enthusiastic about moving across the country and being stuck at the bottom of the pay scale for two or three years. For me, it would probably still be worth it, and I would consider myself lucky to be evaluating an offer.
Today's New York Times (11-30-10) WASHINGTON — President Obama on Monday announced a two-year pay freeze for civilian federal workers as he sought to address concerns over high annual deficits and appealed to Republicans to find a common approach to restoring the nation’s economic and fiscal health.
That would be a freeze on employee pay...COLAs are for retirees. what am I missing?
Post by peterprinciple on Dec 1, 2010 9:03:36 GMT -5
The so-called "COLA" and locality pay are two different things, but they are usually tied together in yearly budgetary negotiations. Congress and the President work out how much of any yearly increase will go toward locality pay and how much toward a pay raise. Locality pay is not based on cost of living, but on the cost of hiring in any given locality. The President is proposing freezing both of these types of pay raises.
Other pay increases are tied to performance and/or longevity. Many grade increases and most step increases are automatic after successfully performing for a given period of time (usually 52 weeks), but the longer an employee is in a specific position, the longer the period between increases (2 years per step after 3 years employment, 3 years per step at 7 years). Also, ALJ pay is capped by federal statute to the level III pay rate of the Executive Schedule. This makes steps 6 and higher mostly meaningless for ALJs.
These pay rates are often supplemented by performance awards. Small performance awards (usually less than 3 percent basic pay) are occasionally provided to GS (or GS equivalent) level employees. Large performance awards (often as much as 20 percent basic pay) are generally reserved for SES employees. www.cbo.gov/doc.cfm?index=7874&zzz=34641 I've never heard of an ALJ getting a performance award.
While I hate to be negative, I think things do not bode well for federal employees over the next few years. I agree that the current reading of the proposed pay freeze is limited to the annual increase (which this year was proposed to be 1.4%). However, a number of the members of the house who will be committee chairs and sub-committee chairs, of committees that deal with federal pay, in the next Congress have indicated that they think step increases should be included. Furthermore, some of the newly elected members are suggesting a pay decrease and downsizing. Remember it is Congress that decides our pay and, unfortunately, the President appears to be letting the federal employee take the hit.
While I hate to be positive, I think things generally bode well for federal employees working with SSA and in particular ODAR. One of the most prevalent telephone calls/contacts from the general public to the congressmen regards Social Security, especially the backlog. we have done a great job working on the backlog in the last year or two. This speaks well for us. The squeeking wheel always gets the grease and anything that will delay adjudication of benefits will cause an uproar and outcry of unbelievable consequence. We are talking revolution here. So, while many federal employees may be in jeopardy, not I, sayeth the Bard..
While I agree that SSA employees are likely to avoid a RIF they will still be subject to the same pay freezes, including freezes in step increases, decreases in pay, changes to the federal retirement system, requirements to pay a higher percentage of health benefits and other attempts to reduce federal employment costs that will be proposed in the next couple of years -- should any of those proposals pass.
This all is great news but any idea/opinions/announcements etc what this does to NEW hirings? I realize we are talking different "pots of money" but - and please excuse the analogy - the trickle down effect of cost savings - will it morph over into the hiring world of new ALJs or IJs in FY'11?
USN Judge - Reasonable question. Congress needs to cut the budget - employees are targets of opportunity. Agencies outside of the DoD are the same - even though DoD (especially its extremely well paid contractors) is where the money is spent next to interest payments, and entitlement programs. (No interest payments would help a lot - no wars in Iraq and Afghanistan would also help - doubt there would be a significant deficit without Iraq and Afghanistan.)
The certain problem Congress needs to face up to is that if they cut or do not expand SSA - especially ODAR, is that disability processing time will increase after getting better. Right now ODAR has gotten its hands around processing times and is seeking to reallocate resources, realign, you name it. Congress understands it takes money - for years the GOP Congress had to know this, but it was the Dems who ultimately pushed the $$ through (with some GOP support). It comes down to how much pain does the Congress want to bear on ODAR processing time. The Commissioner has done a superb job establishing that it takes money and people to keep the processing times down. He has pushed for productivity, achieved it and now no one can say if you work your current staff more efficiently you do not need more $$ and people. While the Commissioner may not be popular with our union, he is not exactly the enemy either. (I know that some folks will disagree, but coming from the outside, I know the enemy when I see it and Commissioner Astrue is not it.)
If Congress thinks and does not embrace thoughtless rhetoric, SSA and ODAR will be fine and there will be need, plus the money to hire 100+ judges next year - many just to replace the older retiring boomers - attrition will be with us forever.
If Congress thinks and does not embrace thoughtless rhetoric, SSA and ODAR will be fine...
Aside from the sense of impending doom factfinder's above statement causes me (neither Obama's, nor Congress', plans to freeze federal pay and/or compensation, rises above thoughtless rhetoric, IMO, if either saves only 28 billion or 50 billion over 5 years when the deficit is >1 trillion), there have been no announcements (at this time) that the COSS's and Dep COSS's plans for hiring in 2011 will change. A hiring freeze was already announced for SSA earlier this year, but it was stated that this did not apply to hiring in the field offices, which include hearing offices. Presently, the ability to hire at the ground level continues, absent congressional/presidential action to freeze hiring across the entire federal spectrum. Which is still a possibility.
Heard a suggestion the other day to basically eliminate the Department of Education except for a few services that would be put under another agency. Funding to states for education would continue at current levels and just be sent automatically under some formula. Not sure I'd want to be one of the 4200 or so people there.
Sound commentary all. Thanks for your feedback. I was feeling the same way - either on the OPM ALJ hiring lane or the DoJ/EOIR lane....SSA and Immigration are two hot topics - both with incredible case backloads requiring attention. I did not see hiring freezes even if a pay raise moritorium was directed. But I could see cost saving by letting natural attrition of retirements etc be the cost savings. Thanks to all.
Post by Legal Beagle on Dec 7, 2010 10:44:30 GMT -5
One report has been that the freeze does not apply to "federal judges" - as reported in the Roanoke Times. I would assume that is the Article III ones, but any argument it applies to us as well? Of course, Article III's haven't gotten a raise in a few years anyway, have they?
It appears that the pay freeze will extend to ALJs as well. I got this from the Washington Post:
"The two-year pay freeze that is now law for federal employees on the pay scale known as the General Schedule will also apply to hundreds of thousands of civil servants whose wages are set under a separate salary system, according to an executive order signed last week by President Obama.
Employees covered by the so-called Administratively Determined pay scale - not legislated by Congress but set by federal agencies - make up about 30 percent of the workforce of 2 million. They include public health doctors and nurses, medical personnel in the Veterans Affairs system, administrative law judges and attorneys, auditors and other staff at financial agencies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission."