Sequestration: What it means for my family

My husband is in federal law enforcement.  It has been a long almost 17 years (he will have put in 18 years in June).  There have been many tears…many fears…many times I have wondered, will my husband come home tonight?  We have been threatened, yelled at and looked down upon.  He has been injured on the job with little compensation for his injuries.  It is not an easy life.  We have almost lost each other…when the job became more important than family.  We came back together and GOD became our focus and life has been smoother.  Not easy.  Never easy.  But more focused now that we have a focal point. (GOD)

So, with all this talk of sequestration…all the pundits talking about how it WILL NOT effect that many families; that this is just a scare tactic; that the cuts are good because we as a country need to cut spending…they are not looking at individual agencies and what they will face.

My hubby works for an agency that will take the lions share of the budget cuts within his main organization.  They are estimated to take 87% of their agency’s budget cuts.  To be exact, the main agency is looking at $285 million dollars worth of cuts with $245 million coming directly of his agency’s budget.  What does that mean for us and approximately 21,000 other families?  We are expected to take a 25% pay cut.  We are also going to be furloughed for 14 days…and this will be one day a pay period until the end of the fiscal year.  This penalizes us up to 40% in lost wages.  Would YOUR family be able to sustain a 40% pay cut for a few weeks?  A month?  Half a year?

Unlike other furloughed time periods for this agency, we will not recover any lost wages.  The last furlough was in 1995 and agents were given back pay because they were required to work those days even though they were not getting paid.  I personally, don’t have a problem with the furlough.  We can afford the furlough…seriously.  If 21,000 agents take a 1 day furlough over the course a set time period, say till the end of the fiscal year, it would save the agency close to $100,000,000.00.  That is 1 HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS.  Are we willing to do that for our country? YES!  Can the main agency as a whole make up the additional $185 Million in cuts without dipping their greedy little fingers into the agents remaining pay?  YES!  There are programs that are redundant (as in any government agency).  There are ineffective programs which make absolutely no sense.  And there are programs that can be cut back without negatively affecting the agency’s mission.

On one report this morning, I heard that my husband’s agency was going to lose their overtime.  Not a big deal, right?  Who cares, it’s overtime…right?  Well the problem with that is that it is NOT overtime in the traditional sense of the word.  Overtime is usually 1 and 1/2 times your regular pay.  So, if you make $10 an hour, overtime would pay your $15.  Not so with my hubby’s agency.

His “overtime” is discretionary anywhere from 10% to 25% of a base calculation.  If an Agent works 9+ hours of AUO within a 2 week pay period, they receive 25% of pay based on a GS 10-1 salary.  If they work less than 9 hours, then it is goes down from there.  If they work less than 4 hours of AUO in a pay period, they could become “de-certified” and are NO longer eligible for AUO.  So, that means if they have a case that they are working…and after their 8 hour shift they work another 6 hours…they will not get paid for those additional 6 hours.  Would YOU work at a job like that?

Here is a simplified AUO Calculation explanation based on an AUO case out of El Paso, Texas (you can read the case if you click on the link):

AUO pay is computed by application of a formula based on the number of AUO hours worked over a period of time to compute a weekly average of AUO hours. See id. at 6. The computation is applied on a sliding scale so that if an employee averages: (1) at least three, but not more than five hours of AUO per week, the employee receives 10% of his/her base pay; (2) between five and seven hours per week, 15%; (3) between seven and nine hours per week, 20%; and (4) nine or more hours, 25%. See id. Where an employee is off work for holidays, sick or annual leave, training, etc., with no opportunity to perform AUO, it would penalize the employee to include the “off” hours in computing the weekly average. See id. Thus, the concept of “excludable days” is applied, whereby time spent on leave or engaged in other activities, such as training, are excluded from the number of workdays used to compute the daily average of AUO hours. See id. “

Here is what OPM or Office of Personnel Management has to say about AUO and LEAP, another type of compensatory pay:

Appendix E


Administratively Uncontrollable
Overtime (AUO) Pay
Law Enforcement
Availability Pay (LEAP)
Authorized by 5 U.S.C. 5545(c)(2) and 5 CFR 550.151 through 550.163 Authorized by 5 U.S.C. 5545a and5 CFR 550.181 through 550.187
Paid to Border Patrol Agents and certain other employees (mainly in the Department of Homeland Security) Paid to criminal investigators or other approved law enforcement officers
Discretionary 10 to 25 percent pay supplement Entitlement to fixed 25 percent pay supplement
AUO is paid for all irregularly scheduled overtime work (i.e., not scheduled in advance of the workweek) Paid for (1) all irregularly scheduled overtime work, (2) any regularly scheduled overtime work that is part of the first 2 overtime hours on a regular workday, and (3) certain non-work hours during which employee is placed in availability status
AUO rate is based on the average number of hours of irregular overtime work performed per week (e.g., a 25 percent rate is authorized for an average of over 9 hours per week of irregular overtime work) Employees are eligible for LEAP only if they have an annual average of 2 or more hours of unscheduled duty per workday
If employees are covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) of 1938, as amended, they are entitled to receive an extra half rate for irregular overtime hours in addition to AUO pay LEAP recipients are not covered by the FLSA
AUO pay remains subject to the biweekly premium pay cap, even while other types of premium pay may be simultaneously subject to an annual premium pay cap LEAP remains subject to the biweekly premium pay cap, even while other types of premium pay may be simultaneously subject to an annual premium pay cap
AUO pay is considered basic pay for purposes of retirement benefits only for law enforcement officers;  Entitlement to retirement-creditable AUO pay is based strictly on the definition of “law enforcement officer” at 5 U.S.C. 8331(20) and 8401(17) LEAP is considered basic pay for purposes of retirement benefits, life insurance, and severance pay

Clear as mud, right?

AUO is an administrative overtime.  It is a crap way of being paid for the same amount of work.  If you receive a case in your 7th hour of your 8 hour day, you will be required to continue to work the case…but YOU WILL NOT BE PAID the same amount of pay for the 8th hour going into the 9th, the 9th rolling into the 10th or the 10th rolling into the 11th etc.  You don’t get time and a half.  What you get is a portion of your salary based on a calculation formula from the 1970’s.  One benefit of AUO is that is good for retirement purposes as stated in the chart above.

Anyway, I digress.  Other federal law enforcement agencies get paid LEAP or Law Enforcement Availability Pay.  That is fine.  They actually receive 25% up front, but they could potentially lose money based on their agency and how they deal with overtime and how many hours.  A detriment of LEAP is being on call-out hours and not getting paid for those hours once your 50 hour work week is done.  One nice thing about LEAP is that they could actually get paid OVERTIME.  Like, real-time and a half, overtime.  But again, that is at the discretion of the agency they work for.

For the type of work my husband does, I am not a fan of LEAP.  But, I am also not a fan of my family losing anywhere from 25% to 40% of our salary because the government cannot get its head out of its butt.

So…before you think that these agencies need to cut back…need to have this happen…look at the individual families it will affect.  We buy groceries, we buy clothes, we buy gas.  We are a part of your community and we spend money.  It’s not just us.  It’s all the businesses that depend on us to purchase from them.  It’s our communities and our tax base.  Our kids go to your schools.  Less money means less spending.  Period.  It could mean foreclosure and bankruptcy for many families.  Sigh.  It is THAT BIG.

My biggest issue with this sequestration is that it is not fair.  The across the board cuts ARE fair for all agencies.  From what I have read, most agencies are expected to cut 6% from their budgets.  Okay, I get that.  But within those agencies, and in our particular agencies case, taking 87% of that cut makes absolutely NO SENSE!

We have contacted our state representatives.  We are signing petitions.  But unless anything changes by Friday, March 1st, I will be looking for a job to help my family recoup that loss.  You know anyone hiring?

The one thing that is sustaining me, us…is God.  He is so faithful.  And I know He will be there for us.  Any hardship we face is nothing like the hardship His Son endured for us.  We are taking this as a growing moment.  A time to fully grasp our faith and walk it.  And yes…we have railed too.  Not at God.  Actually, we have thanked Him for answering prayers and giving us this glorious life.  We have railed at a government that is trying to reign in systematic abuse by screwing their employees.  Don’t actually fix the real problem…no…let’s just put a band-aid on it because that always solves everything.  YAY!  {<—-lots of sarcasm there}

Blessings be on you today, gentle reader.  God IS Good!