More SSA workers may get overtime pay


September 23, 1992|By Carol Emert | Carol Emert,States News Service

WASHINGTON -- The Social Security Administration has added 3,038 employees -- including 454 in the Baltimore area -- to its list of those eligible for overtime pay and back pay for previous overtime work as a result of a federal agency's ruling.

Piles of paperwork must be plowed through before the total amount of the reimbursement is known; sources were unable to estimate a total. Some employees will be entitled to thousands of dollars.

The addition of these employees to the overtime rolls stems from a Federal Labor Relations Authority decision in April. FLRA agreed with the American Federation of Government Employees, which represents the workers, that SSA was depriving 13,800 claims representatives and claims authorizers of overtime by wrongly classifying them as administrators.

Employees with administrative authority are not compensated for overtime. The FLRA ruled that the claims workers' jobs involved processing rather than administration.

Using the same criterion, SSA re-evaluated the status of 84 other job categories and decided that the 3,038 people in those positions, including claims technicians and recovery reviewers, should be getting overtime pay.

Some 1,500 more job categories with an unknown number of workers are expected to be evaluated for overtime eligibility by Sept. 30, said Diane Witiak, an AFGE spokeswoman. "We hope to have some settlement checks in the next 60 to 90 days."

Before that happens, several issues must be settled and millions of figures calculated. An arbitrator is still weighing conflicting labor laws that would put the statute of limitations at two or three or six years from the case's filing date in January 1988.

Interest on the back pay must also be calculated, based on differing salary levels and changing rates of inflation.

And the amount of overtime work must be documented; in many cases, it was not.

"This is a time-consuming process and we're working as fast as we can," Ms. Witiak said.

Employees at SSA headquarters in Woodlawn, Md., who may be looking forward to fatter paychecks include 311 in the Office of Disability and International Operations, 53 in the Office of the Deputy Commissioner of Programs, and 40 in the Office of Program and Integrity Review.

Fifty employees in the Office of Central Records Operations in downtown Baltimore also are eligible.

FUNDING FOR HHS -- Federal worker advocates are waiting with bated breath to see how much money Congress appropriates for the Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department for the 1993 fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Planned cuts in funding, designed to help alleviate the deficit, could result in "dire, devastating consequences equalling drastic reductions in U.S. revenues and horrible delays for the public who rely in essential public services," said Robert M. Tobias, the president of the National Treasury Employees Union, in a press release.

For HHS, which includes the Social Security Administration, the House committed $150 million less than President Bush's $4.8 billion request.

The Senate authorized $17 million more than the House, but with provisos that HHS staffing be frozen at 1992 levels and that only one employee will be hired to replace every two who are lost through attrition.

The Senate bill also provides $500 million in funds which the president can use if he declares an emergency situation at HHS.

House and Senate conferees are expected to begin work later this week on a compromise bill, which must be approved by both chambers.

The American Federation of Government Employees, which represents most SSA workers, is hoping to eliminate the hiring freeze and the replacement ratio. If that doesn't work out, the union will try to get an exclusion for SSA employees, said spokeswoman Diane Witiak.

Congress has pledged to trim $500 million from Treasury to match Bush's budget request. Even though Congress' proposed federal budget is less than the administration's, Bush has threatened to veto any of the individual appropriations bills that exceed his proposed funding level.

Such a cut would wreak havoc in the department and cause delays in income tax processing, said NTEU's Tobias.

The Defense Department appropriation bill also must be finalized before Congress adjourns in early October.

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