DoD sets up for phased retirement

Defense Department components are now working on implementation plans to put make phased retirement a reality.

DoD components are opting to introduce phased retirement on their own terms by creating individual plans and mentoring guidelines based on their needs, Taiwanna Smith, the chief of benefits and work life programs for the Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service, told Federal News Radio.

DoD does not yet have a timeline for when those plans will be completed.

Smith said employees that want to participate in phased retirement will have to get approval from their agencies before moving ahead.

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DoD announced it would offer phased retirement to its employees last month.

Retirees who sign up for the program agree to work part-time at their posts while receiving half of their salary and half of their accumulated retirement annuity. During the transition, outgoing federal workers mentor employees seeking to take over their workplace responsibilities.

Once approved, phased retirees must work half their full-employment hours, and dedicate at least 20 percent of that time to mentoring their successor. Mentoring isn’t limited to the employee that is being replaced.

DoD gives its components the option to waive the mentoring requirement in the event of an emergency or impracticality.

“We worked really hard to develop the policy. What we did is establish a working group from several of the components and we came up with recommendations for the program requirements, the application procedures, the criteria for approval and also the criteria for denying requests. Basically, we looked at everything that would be necessary to implement the program,” Smith said.

DoD civilian workers had been waiting and asking for the phased retirement policy, Smith said. DoD currently has about 77,000 people in the Civil Service Retirement System and Federal Employees Retirement System that are eligible for retirement.

Smith said it’s still a mystery as to how many employees will enroll in the program, however.

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In 2012, Congress passed a law allowing phased retirement for federal workers. But it took the Office of Personnel Management until 2014 to finalized the regulations.

Since then, extremely low numbers of employees across the government have joined the program.

“The department sees phased retirement as a mutual benefit for employees and the organization. We basically look at it as another management tool that supports knowledge transfer,” Smith said.

DoD is creating a resource point to help those managing mentoring programs. The portal provides checklists for the mentor and mentees on goals they should accomplish. The portal also gives participants a chance to give feedback on the program.