To the Editor: Congress passed a 3.1-percent salary increase for Federal employees effective Jan. 1, 2020. Then the President signed it into law.

Based upon end-of-year personnel evaluations, Federal workers are also eligible for cash awards ranging from several hundred to several thousand dollars or more.

There are also bonus in-grade step increases rather than waiting for periodic automatic in-grade step increases. These raise the base salary between $1,000 and $2,000.

They receive monthly transitchecks to help pay for commuting by public transportation to work. This can average $100-to-$200 monthly. They are usually converted to weekly or monthly bus, subway or commuter rail tickets. These transit passes can be used after work on evenings and weekends for nonwork-related travel.

Contrast all of the above with the meager 1.6% cost-of-living increases for retired Federal employees enrolled in the old Civil Service Retirement or newer Federal Retirement systems, along with millions more Americans on Social Security.

The current COLA calculation for retired Federal employees and those on Social Security fails to accurately measure seniors’ spending, especially in the area of health care. In 2019, spending by seniors for health insurance went up 18.6 percent, intercity bus fare 21.8 percent, repair of household items 8.7  percent, mens outerwear 8.3 percent, motor vehicle maintenance services 4.5 percent, medical care services 4.3 percent, pet services including veterinary care 4.2 percent and rent for private residency 3.7 percent.

Many retired people in their 60s and early 70s are taking care of parents, aunt, uncles, older brothers and sisters as more and more people are living into their 80s and 90s. Others serve as parents to grandchildren and foster kids.

Not using the Consumer Price Index for the elderly versus the current Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers is disappointing.

Cost-of-living adjustments for seniors collecting Social Security and Federal civilian and military retirement benefits are based on the costs experienced by urban wage earners and clerical workers. They are not based on the costs experienced by retired individuals.

For many, the 2020 COLA of 1.6% will be insufficient to keep up with various costs that have grown at a much higher rate.

Isn’t it only fair that the Congress and President offer retired Federal employees and those on Social Security the same Cost-of-Living Increases as current Federal employees?


(Larry Penner is a transportation historian, advocate and writer who previously worked 31 years for the US Department of Transportation Federal Transit Administration Region 2 NY Office.)

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