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Federal Employees News Digest : May 27, 2013
May 27, 2013 Vol. 62, No. 43 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com Not ‘bonuses’ More important, Bransford told FEND, is that the whole notion underlying S.986 is invalid: The idea that the performance awards bestowed on some at SES are "bonuses"---and should be cut---at all. "Our point is, these are not 'bonuses'--- they are performance awards, they are part of SES's compensation system," Bransford said. "They have been---and they are by statute---there to reward excellence." "It's not a bonus system. 'Bonus' implies it's something handed to you that you didn't necessarily earn," Bransford clari- fied. "The terminology of a lot of people who call these bonuses is wrong---it gives the impression that these are not neces- sarily deserved, earned awards. These are performance awards only given to those who show superior performance and have excelled in their work." "Remember, SES executives are not allowed to receive within grade increases, promotions or locality pay," Bransford con- tinued. "General Schedule employees can receive all of those and receive additional money, too. It seems like all that senior execs can get [for superior work] is perfor- mance awards." No overtime Bransford told FEND performance awards are especially important now---in a time of retrenchment---even if there must be fewer of them. "It looks like all agencies are going to cut back on the performance awards, anyway, because [of directives to cut back] and they don't have adequate money to fund them," Bransford said. "But if they have a few SES executives who they feel deserve these performance awards, they should not be prohibited from awarding them---and particularly during sequestration." Bransford buttressed this statement by noting that SES employees, in general, are working longer hours "as agencies have tightened their belts." Yet, they are not allowed to get overtime or comp time. "Most SES employees do whatever it takes just to get the job done," he said. "SES employees are prohibited from receiving overtime pay, while GS employ- ees can get it," Bransford continued. "So, if somebody in SES is working 70 or 80 hours a week---and some are, especially in this particularly difficult time for many agencies---and they are doing a particularly good job, it should still be an agency's dis- cretionary call." "And they work harder not just because there are fewer employees, but because during sequester as there are furloughed people and funds are sequestered it takes extra time and energy to get the same job done." "The executive schedule [of salaries] puts pay caps on their pay, and the only way senior executives can be compensat- ed for extraordinary work is performance awards," he said. "When you add it all up, and think about how senior executives don't get within grade increases and other pay boosts---and you see the situation now, with OMB cutting back on SES bonuses, I really doubt that executives are now getting [that] 4 percent of the 'bonus' money, as described by McCaskill's office." Other awards The special performance awards--- broken down into Meritorious and Distinguished Rank Awards---Bransford pointed out, are in practice fairly rare. "These awards are for sustained perfor- mance over time---with Meritorious lim- ited by law to 5 percent of the SES and Distinguished to 1 percent---these are the very, very best of the SES," Bransford said. "These awards are judged by performance over a long period---not just over the last year. There is also a private-sector review as well as one by their agency, OPM and the White House before every one of these awards is determined." "Finally," Bransford concluded, "this is a very small investment for what it brings the taxpayer." Bransford said an SEA analysis showed award recipients' efficiencies saved tax-payers more than $90 billion in the last year. Bransford added that with approximate- ly 7,000 senior executives, the number of Distinguished awards was limited to about 70, and in fact only 46 were handed out. "Not very many," he said. Necessary incentive "I don't think it's good for government in the long run to tell agencies they can't provide these awards," Bransford told FEND. "People in SES are in a pay-for- performance system---they are required by statute to have a management system that makes meaningful distinctions based on relative performance. If you do away with performance awards, you have no way to make those meaningful distinctions based on relative performance. That means that everybody gets the same pay, year after year, and nobody gets a raise. Even if you do a great job, there's no way to reward you--- and that's very dis-incentivizing." Bransford also maintained that end- ing performance awards would negatively affect the government's ability to recruit and keep top leaders. "When you're in government and you see senior executives not getting perfor- mance awards---on top of not getting pay increases and not being eligible in any case for in-grade increases, locality pay, or promotions---I think you get a lot of people in private industry and government saying, 'Why would I want to be a senior executive?' he said. "It absolutely hurts recruitment." VA attacks claims backlog on several fronts The Department of Veterans Affairs over the last month has announced a series of measures aimed at eliminating the organi- zation's compensation claims backlog. Most recently, VA on May 21 rolled out the Fully Developed Claims Community of Practice, a joint partnership with the Disabled American Veterans and the American Legion that the department hopes will begin to ramp up the role of continued from page 1 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com. continued on page 4
May 20, 2013
June 3, 2013