Details emerging for EPA’s early retirement, incentive payouts

Environmental Protection Agency employees can expect more information this summer about early buyouts and early retirement, as the agency develops its “workforce reshaping effort” in response to the government reorganization.

Which positions are included in the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority (VERA) and Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) program will likely be available in July, according to a June 1 email to employees from EPA Acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn.

“In developing our VERA/VSIP business case, we are considering multiple factors including increasing supervisor-to-staff ratio; consolidating support functions; restructuring or reducing highly graded supervisory and non-supervisory positions; focusing on core business functions, programmatic and STEM priorities, and consolidating and streamlining programs and functions,” Flynn said. “Details on the selection criteria for employees in the pool are still being worked out.”

Employees who accept VERA/VSIP offers must leave EPA by early September 2017.

EPA’s headquarters and regional offices are working on their individual plans, and the agency’s Office of Human Resources staff will combine them all into one business case, Flynn said.

The combined business case will be submitted for approval to the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget.

“As a result of these analyses, the agency is planning to use VERA/VSIP where it makes sense and where it is aligned with these efficiencies,” Flynn said in the email, which was obtained by Federal News Radio. “We will be working with the agency’s labor unions as we go through the VERA/VSIP process.”

The program, Flynn said, “can help us realign our workforce to meet changing mission requirements and move toward new models of work. The authority encourages voluntary separations and helps the agency complete workforce restructuring with minimal disruption to the workforce.”

EPA is setting aside $12 million to help cover early buyouts and early retirements. The $12 million in VERA/VSIP incentive payments are included in carryover funds totaling $24 million, according to an internal memo sent from EPA Acting Chief Financial Officer David Bloom, and obtained by Federal News Radio.

The EPA’s Office of Inspector General reported that in 2014, the agency spent $16.2 million under its VERA-VSIP authority — $11.3 million for early out/buyout incentives for 456 employees, and $4.9 million in annual leave payments.

John O’Grady, president of the American Federation of Government Employees Council 238, said the maximum amount of money an employee can get from a voluntary early retirement or buyout is $25,000.

The proposed budget for 2018 is $5.7 billion, compared to the $8.1 billion 2017 enacted amount. The coming fiscal year proposes 11,611 FTEs, a reduction of about 3,800 positions from last year.