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AF officials announce civilian early retirement, separation incentive options

RANDOLPH AIR FORCE BASE, Texas (AFNS) -- The Air Force is implementing civilian Voluntary Early Retirement Authority and Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay programs, Air Force officials announced today.

"Our goal with these programs is to mitigate the impact of reduced fiscal year 2012 funding on our permanent civilian workforce," said Maj. Gen. Sharon K. G. Dunbar, the Air Force director of force management policy.

Reduced Air Force funding starting in fiscal 2012 is the result of a Secretary of Defense efficiency initiative that holds civilian manning at fiscal year 2010 levels Department of Defense-wide. This initiative reduces previously planned growth in the Air Force civilian workforce by nearly 9 percent. Air Force officials estimate that reduced funding levels are sufficient to support just over 180,000 civilians as of October 1.

"Complying with lower civilian funding levels requires adjusting the size of our civilian workforce by about 1 percent this next fiscal year," Dunbar said. "To do this, we're postured to approve up to 6,005 VSIP applications along with implementing VERA. These voluntary programs will also help generate flexibility to balance positions with mission priorities."

Air Force officials also implemented hiring controls in May, followed by a 90-day hiring freeze that went into effect last month. Much like the voluntary programs, the temporary hiring freeze and ongoing hiring controls are designed to reduce the size of the civilian workforce and generate vacancies for permanent employees whose positions may be restructured, transferred or eliminated, the general explained.

"Our civilians have been asking about VERA and VSIP options, so we worked to make these voluntary programs available early in the fiscal year," Dunbar said.

Servicing civilian personnel offices have already started surveying eligible civilians for their interest in these programs. Surveys are targeted to those in job series that may be affected by downsizing or restructuring.

Targeting the surveys requires balance, the general explained.

"If we target too narrowly, the number of volunteers may fall short of what we're seeking. At the same time, an overly broad survey may cause angst among employees in positions that will not be affected.

To be eligible for VERA, employees must be at least 50 years old with 20 years of creditable service, or have 25 years of creditable service at any age.

Whereas VERA is a temporary measure to increase retirements, VSIP is a financial incentive to encourage eligible employees to voluntarily separate from civil service. A VSIP payment is equivalent to an employee's severance pay entitlement, up to a maximum of $25,000, before taxes.

Officials are authorized to approve a maximum of 6,005 VSIP applications from eligible civilians. VSIP applications may be approved if there is a direct link between an employee's separation and avoiding adverse personnel impact elsewhere.

"Employees who received surveys should familiarize themselves with the VERA and VSIP material on the Air Force Personnel Services website at https://gum-crm.csd.disa.mil," the general said.

Specific VERA and VSIP information can be accessed via the News and Announcements link. In addition, servicing civilian personnel offices are postured to assist interested civilians.

Employees should thoroughly consider all options therefore, prior to submitting an application for VERA or VSIP, officials said. Employees who apply for VERA and/or VSIP make a commitment to separate Dec. 31, 2011 if their application is approved. This commitment cannot be withdrawn except for extreme hardship or extraordinary circumstances.

"We're grateful for the immense contributions of our civilian workforce, and are committed to providing support through the changes ahead," Dunbar said. "We'll move through these changes and challenges together as a team."

The Air Force Personnel Services site includes a link to all secure applications (top right corner of the home page), as well as a VERA/VSIP link that will take users to a one-stop-shop of related links and information sources.

For specific eligibility information and guidance, employees who have been surveyed should go to their local civilian personnel strategic advisors in the Civilian Personnel Section.

For information about other personnel issues, visit the Air Force personnel services website at http://www.afpc.af.mil/.