The last 60 days have been eventful for news of federal employee pay and protections.

CBO Report on Federal Employee Pay and Benefits.

This contradicts many statements in the public forum relative to the level of fed pay.

A report from the Congressional Budget Office compared the average compensation of federal and private sector employees.  It is worth noting that the study added the overlay of sorting by level of education attained.  In addition, the report included both pay and benefits for the comparison. The report drew from 2022 data.

In sum, the report offered the following takeaways:

Federal civilian employee pay for workers holding a bachelor's degree or higher lagged, on average, their private sector counterparts. It is, however, worth noting that feds with educational levels below these thresholds earned wages above comparable private sector workers.

Evaluations of workplace benefits (including paid leave and retirement) were revealed to be higher across the board for those in federal service versus private sector equivalents. The study did note, however, that the benefits and advantages were smaller for feds with higher levels of education compared to private sector peers.

Federal civilians with master's degrees and above received lower total compensation than counterparts in the private sector.

When compared to the CBO's 2017 data, it shows that federal workforce compensation declined relative to private sector comp.  This decline was discovered to be driven primarily by lower across-the-board salary increases being enacted for federal employees by lawmakers during this period.

Other job attributes impacting federal employee recruitment and retention were job security, work-from-home flexibility, and deferred compensation.  These features can help the federal government attract and keep workers without necessarily increasing traditional wages and benefits.

Hill Bill takes no position on the 2025 pay raise.

Eying smallest increase in three years.

The House of Representatives released an initial draft of the annual appropriations bill. This is the first step in what will likely be a disputatious run in the attempt to fund the government past September. Of note on the federal employee pay raise front, the draft omits any mention of the President's proposed 2% raise.  Seasoned congressional watchers will draw from this that the 2% figure is likely to stand, making it the smallest raise since the 1% bump of 2021.  Hope is faint for an amendment to be proposed to increase this figure, perhaps to match the 4.5% recommended by the White House for military personnel.  Viewed through the lens of the CBO parity report, this 2% increase seems unlikely to address the existing earnings gap between Federal and private sector professionals.

Check out our webinars for federal employees!

Workforce retention improves at the Veterans Administration (but not without a hiccup).

Better pay for the VA, but checks may have been lacking.

Special pay authorities deployed by the VA are showing signs of improving team retention.  VA Secretary reported in April that "quit rates" for the agency workforce had fallen to historic lows. Data studied pointed to the agency's adoption of its Critical Skills Incentive. Working in conjunction with the PACT Act (which expands benefits for veterans exposed to toxins like Agent Orange and Burn Pits), the incentives can be offered to employees with skills that are in short supply or in high demand to serve the needs of the agency mission.  

The VA suffered losses in nursing staff during the COVID-19 pandemic due to aggressive recruiting by travel nurse organizations.  The agency is now seeing more success with nurse recruitment.  

Additionally, the VA implemented a Special Salary Rate for IT, cyber security and HR employees. 

It is important to note, however, that these deployments were not without issue, as recent reporting showed that sizeable amounts of erroneous awards were issued to senior executives in the central office.  

To its credit, the agency internally discovered and canceled the payments and referred the matter to the inspector general for review.

TSA attrition drops

Agency pay is drawn in line with GS scale.

In his April testimony before the House Committee on Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security, Transportations Security Agency Administrator David Perkoske reported that the agency attrition dropped to 9%.  This figure occurred while the TSA executed its responsibility for the security of over 440 federalized airports in anticipation of screening this summer for over 23,000 domestic and 2600 international flights per day.

The director further reported that the TSA implemented a new compensation system that aligned the agency's employee salaries with the GS scale for federal employees and completed negotiations on a new and expanded collective bargaining agreement.

OPM Finalizes and hardens Schedule F protections. Connolly leans in.

The agency takes a major position in defense of the career civilian workforce, and a trusted ally joins the fray.

With its April release, the federal human resource agency rolled out protections for career civilian feds against threats from the Schedule F policy.

Proceeding from its publication to the Federal Register for public inspection, the new regulation's goal is to provide defined protections to over 2 million federal employees from a future reapplication of Schedule F.  This schedule, advanced during the previous administration, would have converted as many as 50,000 career civil servants to political appointee status.

In the final rule, an employee's civil service status and protections cannot be removed through an involuntary change to excepted service (from competitive service).

Further, the rule states as clarification that "employees in confidential, policymaking or policy advocating positions" define employees under Schedule F as noncareer, political appointees and this definition will not be applied to career civil servants.  Further, the rule establishes an appeals process through the Merrit Systems Protection Board available to any employee being involuntarily transferred to an accepted service from the competitive service. 

The net impact of the ruling would require future administrations that might disagree with the policies within the regulations to follow the full rulemaking process to affect any changes.

In the same month, a longtime advocate for the federal workforce, 

Congressman Gerry Connolly (D- VA) introduced the Saving Civil Service Act. This bill enjoys bipartisan sponsorship and support and would require any president to seek congressional approval for any expansion of excepted federal service.

Until next time

Well, that's our rundown of federal employee pay and protections topics that you may have missed.  Visit our homepage at to subscribe to our newsletter, The Weekly Serving, so you can get the latest and best to help you in your federal career delivered directly to you every week.

The information has been obtained from sources considered reliable but we do not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any opinions are those of Serving Those Who Serve writers  and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James. Any information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Investing involves risk and you may incur a profit or loss regardless of strategy suggested. Every investor’s situation is unique and you should consider your investment goals, risk tolerance, and time horizon before making any investment or financial decision. Prior to making an investment decision, please consult with your financial advisor about your individual situation. While we are familiar with the tax provisions of the issues presented herein, as Financial Advisors of RJFS, we are not qualified to render advice on tax or legal matters. You should discuss tax or legal matters with the appropriate professional. **

Health Savings Account Contribution Limits for 2025 - piggy bank

Health Savings Account Contribution Limits for 2025