WASHINGTON — A partial government shutdown would interrupt the income of most federal employees, at least temporarily.


But that would not be the case for government retirees, since their payments come from permanent trust funds, and the government would make sure those payments continue to go out.

Retirement benefits also are a concern even for active employees, since those benefits are one of the more attractive aspects of working for the government.

Following are questions and answers regarding retirement benefits for those still working and those already retired.

Q. Will federal retirees get their annuity payments?

A. Here’s how the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association explains it:

“Because [Office of Personnel Management] retirement operations are not funded through general revenues, retirees should expect to receive their annuity payments deposited into their accounts or received in the mail on time as usual. OPM sends annuity payment tapes to the Department of Treasury in the middle of the month prior to the payment date so that Treasury has time to process the payment tapes/cut checks and ensure that annuity payments are received by the first of the month.”

Federal retirement annuities are timed to be received by retirees on the first business day of each month, which in this case would be Thursday, Oct. 1. All but a few retirees receive their payments by direct deposits made on that day, with paper checks for the rest timed to be delivered that day.

While OPM authorizes the payments, the Treasury Department is responsible for actually processing the direct deposits and checks.

Premiums in the federal health care plan and other insurance programs would continue to be withheld from those payments and thus there would be no interruption in coverage.

OPM did not respond to a request for information apart from relaying a standard Obama administration statement that it remains hopeful there will be no shutdown. The Treasury Department referred questions to OMB, which provided only that same statement.

Q. What about other retirement services to federal retirees?

A. OPM’s office that provides services such as answering questions and dealing with missed payments was excluded from the most recent shutdown in 2013, and presumably would remain open again because that office gets its operating money from the federal retirement trust fund.

That office also processes new applications for benefits, so that also would continue. However, processing applications often involves back-and-forth between OPM and the employing agencies, and the offices involved at those agencies may be closed, causing delays. Processing of applications has been plagued for years by backlogs that result in smaller “interim” payments for many months until the full benefit is calculated.

Q. What about Social Security payments and services?

A. Most federal retirees worked under a retirement program, the Civil Service Retirement System, that does not include a Social Security component. The CSRS system generally covers those hired before 1984.

However, some of those retirees earned Social Security benefits through other work, and others receive them from a spouse’s employment, although commonly reduced by one of several possible offsets. About a quarter of federal retirees worked under the newer Federal Employees Retirement System, or FERS, which pays Social Security benefits on the same terms as for other workers in addition to a civil service benefit smaller than what CSRS provides.

Like civil service retirement benefits, Social Security is funded through a trust fund, and payments would continue to go out on schedule. Those payments are sent on the second, third or fourth Wednesday of the month, depending on the recipient’s birth date.

However, certain parts of the Social Security Administration are funded through regular appropriations. The 2013 shutdown resulted in delays in processing medical disability reviews, verification of Social Security numbers to lenders and employers, and processing of claims appeals. Some services provided in field offices also were cut off.

The SSA did not respond to a request for information about plans for a possible shutdown this year.

Q. Will the shutdown affect the eventual federal retirement benefits of those still working?

A. Not unless it drags on much longer than any past shutdowns have lasted. A civil service retirement benefit is based on two parts: service time and the “high-3” salary, meaning the highest 36 consecutively paid months in an employee’s federal career.

The policy is that up to six months of unpaid leave in a calendar year counts as creditable service time. Similarly, the high-3 is based on the salary rate, not the salary actually received, for up to six months of unpaid leave in a year.

Q. What’s the impact of a shutdown on the Thrift Savings Plan?

A. Because it is self-funding, the 401(k)-style savings program for federal employees and retirees will operate as normal.

Employees invest in the TSP through payroll deduction (retirees may not make new investments, although they can continue to move money among the investment funds and request withdrawals). For employees still in paid status during a shutdown – those whose salaries are not funded by appropriations from Congress – investments will continue as normal unless there is a disruption in their agency’s payroll processing.

For those put in unpaid status, whether remaining on the job or furloughed, investments may be affected.

Employees invest in the TSP based on a dollar amount per two-week pay period or based on a percentage of salary.

For those using the percentage method and who are put on unpaid status, the percentage invested will be of actual pay received in the pay period, reflecting days in paid status during that period.

Employees under the FERS retirement system also would face a reduction in the employer contributions to their accounts. The automatic 1 percent of salary contribution is based on pay earned during each pay period, and matching contributions of up to another 4 percent are based on the amount the participant actually invests. (Employees under the CSRS get no government contributions.)

Investments based on dollar amounts would be unchanged, if the employee received enough salary during the pay period to make that investment, after certain other required deductions are taken out. For FERS employees, that would mean the matching contributions would stay the same; but the automatic agency contributions would be based on the reduced salary rate.

When in non-pay status, employees may not take out new loans but they may continue to manage their accounts by moving money among the investment funds. They also could request a financial hardship withdrawal, although various conditions would have to be met before they would qualify, and there would be potentially severe tax consequences.

Those with loans must continue to pay on them during an unpaid period, although the repayments will not be made by payroll deduction. Borrowers would need to make sure that payments are caught up when they begin receiving pay. There would be tax consequences if they default, although that would not happen for several months.

Q. Will missed investments and agency contributions be made up?

A. Once funding is restored, employees who are kept on the job during a shutdown will be paid for that time, and their investments in the TSP will be made out of that pay; they also would then receive the agency contributions, if in the Federal Employees Retirement System.

Congress would specify if furloughed employees are to be paid retroactively, as well; the precedent is that they are. If so, the same policies would apply to them.

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Ride, acceleration and handling: This gets good marks in all three.


Head-turning quotient: It’s controversial. The Trailhawk’s sleek, forward styling offends some Jeep traditionalists. But many folks like the Trailhawk’s stylish body with its slanted narrow front grille and slender, wraparound LED headlamps.

Body style/layout: The Cherokee is a front-engine, compact four-door sport-utility-vehicle with a rear hatch available with front-wheel or four-wheel drive. There are four trim levels — Sport, Latitude, Trailhawk and Limited.

Engines/transmission: It comes standard with a 2.4-liter in-line four-cylinder gasoline engine (184 horsepower, 171 pound-feet of torque). The Trailhawk model used for this column was equipped with an optional 3.2-liter, 24-valve gasoline V-6 with variable valve timing. Both engines come standard with a nine-speed automatic transmission that can be operated manually.

Capacities: Seating is for five people. Cargo capacity is 24.8 cubic feet with all seats in place. The fuel tank holds 15.8 gallons (regular gasoline is fine). The Cherokee can tow up to 4,500 pounds.

Mileage: I averaged 25 miles per gallon in highway driving.

Safety: Standard equipment includes four-wheel disc brakes, ventilated front and solid rear; four-wheel anti-lock brake protection; emergency braking assistance; stability and traction control; post-collision safety system; and side and head air bags.

Recommended advanced electronic safety system: Rear parking assistance, blind-spot and rear cross-traffic monitoring, lane-departure warning, exterior mirrors with turn signals.

Prices: The 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk 4×4 starts at $30,395, with an estimated dealer invoice price of $28,000. Price as tested is $36,869, including $5,479 in options. Estimated dealer’s price as tested is $34,000.

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This other struggle involves the competition among former Florida governor Jeb Bush, Sen.


Marco Rubio of Florida and Ohio Gov. John Kasich. History suggests that whoever emerges triumphant in this three-way rivalry will be in a strong position to claim the nomination, though admittedly the past has been a poor predictor of events so far in this campaign.

Ever since Trump surged to the top of the polls, the other candidates have been trying to assess both his staying power and the cost-benefit analysis engaging him. Trump and Bush have clashed almost from the start, with growing intensity. More recently, as Rubio has risen, Trump has taken aim at him, and he’s responded in kind.

None of the other candidates has a clear strategy for taking down Trump. But they all believe he will look like a different candidate – and in their assessments, a less formidable candidate – once the field narrows to three or four finalists after the voting begins. So they are beginning to focus on one another as much as they are worrying about him.

With the first contests still months away, none of the three yet looks like a front-runner. In the average of recent national polls, Rubio and Bush run fourth and fifth behind Trump, retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson and former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina. Neither Bush nor Rubio breaks double digits. Kasich doesn’t even break 5 percent.

National polls at this stage are less meaningful than state polls. In Iowa, where the first caucus will take place in early February, Trump and Carson lead, with Sen. Ted Cruz (Tex.) currently third. Bush and Rubio trail the first three, and Kasich is even deeper in the pack. In New Hampshire, Trump also has a big lead, but Kasich is jockeying with Fiorina for second, with Carson and Bush next and Rubio farther back.

In recent few days, Bush, Rubio and Kasich have shown how much they’re worrying about one another. They’ve been sniping at each other and making other moves that underscore the significance of their competition.

Rubio has long emphasized that the party needs a fresh candidate, not one tied to the past, an implicit criticism of his fellow Floridian who is part of an American political dynasty. Bush, a two-term former governor, has belittled Rubio’s experience, or lack thereof. Kasich, a two-term governor and longtime House member, has claimed his experience and record are unmatched by any of the other candidates.

Advisers to the three anticipate more attacks ahead. “The Bush campaign is feverishly doing their opposition research on Governor Kasich and Senator Rubio,” said John Weaver, Kasich’s chief strategist. “An empire like that is not going to go quietly into the night. We’re expecting pretty sharp elbows to be thrown. We’re going to handle it head on.”

Past Republican nomination contests often have devolved into competition between a candidate from the center-right or mainstream conservative wing of the party and a candidate from the hard right or populist conservative wing. Most times, the candidate from the mainstream conservative wing becomes the nominee.

This year, the race is more scrambled because of the added factor of the apparent desire by many Republicans for an outsider or non-politician. That has elevated Trump, Carson and Fiorina and forced the others to adapt. Rubio has been stressing that, despite being in the Senate, he’s really not of Washington.

Instead of establishment vs. tea party, one GOP strategist describes the race this time as a competition between those in the anger, or anti-Washington, lane, vs. those in the aspirational lane. Bush, Rubio and Kasich all fall more into the aspirational lane.

What will make the difference? Based on how the three candidates are running, it’s clear that they see the path ahead in slightly different ways, though each has handicaps they must overcome to win.

Bush has repeatedly pushed back at Trump by arguing that anger and insults cannot win the presidency. He seeks to be the aspirational candidate, conservative enough due to his record in Florida to be acceptable to a conservative party, while offering a positive and inclusive message that reaches beyond the GOP coalition.

But many Republicans see Bush as least able to appeal across the entire party – not much more able to appeal to the hard right than Cruz would be able to attract mainstream conservatives.

Lodged firmly in the establishment wing as the son and brother of former presidents, he faces resistance on the far right and among those yearning for an outsider. His hope is that he can change perceptions of himself, outlast his rivals with superior resources and persuade Republicans that he’s their best hope to win a general election.

Sally Bradshaw, Bush’s senior adviser, said the key remains what it has been from the start of the campaign: to portray Bush as a conservative reformer by stressing what he did in Florida. “People don’t know that yet,” she said. “When that message burns in, his numbers are going to change. That’s his path.”

Kasich is looking to the traditional model. He is the compassionate conservative of 2016 who hopes to strike first in New Hampshire and build from there. His advisers believe that, eventually, he can reach across the divide in the party to become the nominee.

But the party has not only moved right in the past decade, it also has developed a harder edge than when George W. Bush ran as a compassionate conservative in 2000. Kasich’s support for expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act is just one example of a position that will not sit well with many conservatives.

Rubio’s team sees crosscutting appeal as vital, a race that will favor a candidate who can best unite a fractured party. The senator’s goal is to demonstrate skills as a communicator, to show depth on the issues, to turn his personal story into a positive message for the party, to make as few errors as possible and over time generate enthusiasm across the GOP coalition.

Rubio too has vulnerabilities. His past support for a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, from which he has backed away, remains an obstacle in his path. So too does his personal profile, that of a youthful first-term senator with limited experience trying to become president – a profile not unlike that of President Obama when he first ran eight years ago.

David Axelrod, who was Obama’s chief strategist in both campaigns, often has said that voters look for a replacement rather than a replica in picking a new president. The adviser to one of Rubio’s rivals put it this way: “When was the last time this country elected two presidents with similar attributes?” Rubio will be trying to dissuade his fellow Republicans that he isn’t another Obama.

There are wild cards in the calculations of all three camps. Maybe New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, who occupies similar space, will catch fire in New Hampshire and elsewhere, although the resistance to him within the party is significant. Fiorina has demonstrated fearlessness that has jarred even Trump and can appeal across the party. Carson remains a candidate of unknown potential.

Finally, there is the Trump factor and what his support represents. For now he remains the dominant force in the GOP race. But the advisers to Bush, Rubio and Kasich see a turn in the campaign heading into the final months of the year, one that will heighten the competition among them with significant consequences for their party.

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By defusing a conservative revolt that threatened to end his speakership, Boehner’s announcement effectively ended the immediate threat of a government shutdown.


And because he is not leaving Congress until Oct. 30, some Republicans and many Democrats are hoping the speaker finds the resolve to push through some legislation that enjoys bipartisan support but has been stalled by conservative objections.

Yet any progress may be hampered by the internal politics of the House Republican Conference and the leadership races to replace Boehner and his lieutenants.

Measures that could advance in October include a long-term budget deal, a multiyear highway bill, a reauthorization of the Export-Import Bank and an extension of the federal debt ceiling. Some Democrats have made the unlikely suggestion that Boehner could move forward with the immigration reform package he has kept off the House floor for nearly two years because of a conservative outcry.

“He gets a chance to really go out on a high note,” said Rep. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio. “I expect to see a very busy month in October.”

But the possibility the Boehner might clear the legislative deck for the next speaker is complicated by the pending reshuffle of the House GOP leadership. Boehner’s deputies are looking to move up the ladder – starting with Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., who manages the floor schedule – and moving ahead with an agenda disliked by conservatives would be politically treacherous.

Quick elections could give Boehner room to maneuver in his final weeks, and in the past, leadership vacancies have been filled swiftly. When, for instance, then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va., lost his reelection bid and subsequently announced his intention to resign in June 2014, the GOP conference elected McCarthy to replace him nine days later.

But some are pushing back on an accelerated election schedule. Rep. Peter Roskam, R-Ill., who is seen as a likely candidate for a leadership post, on Saturday urged his colleagues to convene an extended conference meeting to conduct a “serious discussion about why we’re here serving, what we expect of our leaders, and how we plan to accomplish our goals.”

Quick elections, Roskam said in a interview, would be a “massive error in judgment.”

“We need to really take a look on ourselves, and we really need to reflect on this,” he said. “If we don’t reflect on it well or we move too quickly, nothing good is going to happen.”

In the coming months, the unresolved issues facing Congress include a host of deadlines – including hitting the debt limit, expiring tax breaks and a likely Dec. 11 limit for funding the government. Conservatives have seized upon those as leverage points with President Obama and congressional Democrats.

The last time Congress faced a such a long and contentious list of fiscal deadlines was during the 2012 “fiscal cliff.” That dispute over the fate of the debt limit, spending cuts and the tax breaks forced a rare New Year’s Eve session in the Senate.

In the short term, Boehner’s resignation resolved tensions over whether he would risk further alienating his party’s right flank by introducing a stopgap spending bill without controversial language to defund Planned Parenthood. He is now determined to move forward with a spending bill without the defunding language.

The Senate is expected to vote Monday on a measure to keep the government open through Dec. 11, giving the House two days to vote on the same bill or amend it with a different deadline. Republicans in the House said Friday that a short-term bill will pass the House, and a shutdown will not occur this week.

But conservatives see the stopgap as a way to buy time while they rewrite the stakes of upcoming budget negotiations to create a potentially explosive fight in December. They have been infuriated by the willingness of Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to negotiate with Democrats on a long-term budget deal that would increase domestic and military spending above existing “sequestration” caps.

“When you go into a negotiation and say, ‘Look, the one thing we’re never going to do is shut the government down,’ you have completely given up your constitutional ability to use the power of the purse, and I think that is an abdication of responsibility,” said Rep. Mick Mulvaney, R-S.C., a Boehner critic.

And holding fast to the budget caps is threatening to become a rallying point as conservatives evaluate candidates in the leadership races and exact pledges in return for their support.

“I would like to see our next leader try to renegotiate,” said Rep. Matt Salmon, R-Ariz. “It shouldn’t be the president saying my way or the highway on everything.”

Boehner could try to accelerate the budget talks to spare the new speaker an early showdown, but that isn’t the end of the drama: Congress must also decide how it plans to increase the nation’s borrowing limit and handle dozens of expired and expiring tax breaks.

The Treasury Department said this month that it will exhaust its congressional borrowing authority by early November, forcing a possible repeat of the 2011 debt-ceiling crisis. And the perennial “tax extender” deadline follows at year’s end.

Several Republicans said Friday that Boehner will probably use his remaining weeks to pass a long-term transportation bill ahead of an Oct. 29 deadline and, with it, an extension of the Export-Import Bank. The Senate passed a six-year bill in July, attaching the bank reauthorization in the process; the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee is now writing its version.

But paying for a transportation bill without raising taxes or the budget deficit has proven to be a difficult issue, and the Export-Import Bank has become a litmus-test issue for conservatives. McCarthy, for instance, opposes the bank’s extension.

Mulvaney said Boehner’s resignation “probably” makes it more likely that an Ex-Im or a debt-ceiling extension moves forward. But he warned that it might not be so simple.

“They have to pass rules in order to accomplish that,” he said, referring to the procedural measures that bring major pieces of legislation to the floor. “There’s a good rule of thumb: If you’re counting on Democrats to pass a piece of legislation, you better count on them to pass a rule.”

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said Friday that he has not spoken to Boehner or his deputies about moving on the bank reauthorization, which enjoys deep Democratic support. But he said, “If the speaker wants to bring that to the floor, we’ll certainly be big supporters.”

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Medical personnel, the officer wrote in an email, were becoming “the ones who are dedicated to maximizing the benefit in a safe manner and keeping everyone’s butt out of trouble.


As described in the Senate Intelligence Committee report released this week, CIA medical doctors, as well as psychologists, were intimately involved in virtually every interrogation session to a far greater extent than was previously known.

Staff physicians from the CIA’s Office of Medical Services served as observers, with little evidence in the report that they intervened to stop the use of harsh interrogation methods.

In some cases, they warned that interrogation sessions, both planned and underway, risked exceeding guidelines they had compiled. But in most instances documented, medical personnel appear to be enablers — advising that shackles be loosened to avoid extreme edema while a detainee was subjected to prolonged standing or stress positions; covering a wound in plastic during water dousing; and administering “rectal feeding” and “rectal rehydration,” which one medical official described as an apparently effective way to “clear a person’s head” and get him to talk.

Prior to the interrogation of the first detainee in 2002, alleged al-Qaida facilitator Abu Zubaida, the report noted, “CIA headquarters, with medical personnel participation, stated that the ‘interrogation process takes precedence over preventative medical procedures.’ “

“So it begins,” a medical officer emailed to OMS headquarters in Langley, Virginia, after observing Abu Zubaida interrogation sessions, which included placing him in confinement boxes and waterboarding him.

Abu Zubaida “seems very resistant to the water board,” the medical officer wrote. “Longest time with the cloth over his face so far has been 17 seconds. This is sure to increase shortly. NO useful information so far. . . . He did vomit a couple of times during the water board with some beans and rice. It’s been 10 hours since he ate so this is surprising and disturbing. We plan to only feed Ensure for a while now.”

“I’m head[ing] back for another water board session,” the Aug. 4, 2002 email said.

A CIA attorney who later viewed videotapes of those interrogations noted that “the person he assumed was a medical officer was dressed completely in black from head to toe, and was indistinguishable from other [interrogation] team members.”

Medical ethicists have expressed outrage at the participation of medical personnel at the sessions ever since descriptions of their role emerged in CIA and Justice Department documents released by the Obama administration in 2009.

“To some degree it’s a higher-resolution view,” Steven Miles, professor of bioethics at the University of Minnesota Medical School, said of the Senate report. “Things including the withholding of care are much more graphically displayed.”

The CIA use of techniques such as “rectal feeding” were previously unknown, said Miles, who also serves on the board of the Center for Victims of Torture. “There is no such thing as rectal feeding. It can’t physiologically be done; the colon does not have a lining on it that can absorb nutrients. . . . This thing is not any kind of medical procedure, it’s purely an instrument of causing extreme pain.”

The American Medical Association, in a statement Friday, said that “the participation of physicians in torture and coercive interrogation is a violation of core ethical values.”

In the wake of the report, Physicians for Human Rights called for health professionals to be held accountable for complicity in the program, saying that their participation “was central to providing legal protection” to those carrying it out.

But “the medical community can do damn little except say this is a bad thing to do, because you don’t know who these people are,” said George Annas, chair of the Department of Health Law, Bioethics and Human Rights at Boston University. Names of all CIA medical personnel are blacked out in the report.

The CIA’s Office of Medical Services is a little-known corner of the agency. Part of the Directorate of Support, it has traditionally provided employee-related health care and referrals.

Asked about the OMS, a CIA spokesman said that “CIA’s medical personnel are dedicated intelligence officers committed to upholding the highest standards of their health profession” and referred questions about their role in the detention and interrogation program to the agency’s June 2013 initial response to the draft Senate report.

That declassified document states that “medical concerns” were one reason why waterboarding was discontinued as an enhanced interrogation technique, or EIT, in 2003, and notes that medical personnel “intervened” to ensure that those being subjected to sleep deprivation were given breaks. It also notes that medical personnel were “on scene” working with interrogators in general.

The Senate report includes dozens of references to OMS personnel present at the “black sites” during interrogation sessions where EITs were used against a total of 39 detainees over a four-year period.

At one point, an OMS official complains about a conflict of interest among psychologists working on the program — contractors rather than CIA staff — who were both administering the techniques and assessing their effectiveness, “at a daily compensation reported to be $1800/day, or four times that of interrogators who could not use the technique.”

At another point, a medical officer expressed concern that the aggressive waterboarding of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, known as KSM, the alleged mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, was stressful for interrogators. “The requirements coming from home are really unbelievable in terms of breadth and detail,” the officer emailed.

In March 2003, the OMS completed draft guidelines for EITs, including waterboarding. Risks, it said, were “directly related to the number of exposures and may well accelerate as exposures increase.” It recommended an upper limit of “perhaps 20 in a week.”

During one of the 183 waterboarding sessions with KSM, the CIA reported that the medical officer present was “not concerned about regurgitated gastric acid damaging KSM’s esophagus,” because his gastric contents were so diluted by water. Later, the medical officer reported that KSM was “ingesting and aspiration a LOT of water” and that with “the new technique we are basically doing a series of near drownings.”

“I am going the extra mile to try to handle this in a non-confrontational manner,” the medical officer later reported of his interactions with interrogators.

While medical personnel expressed concerns about care of wounds suffered by Abu Zubaida, who had been shot during his capture, the report does not indicate they took action. “We are currently providing absolute minimum wound care (as evidenced by the steady deterioration of the wound)” an OMS official emailed to headquarters. Abu Zubaida “has no opportunity to practice any form of hygienic self care (he’s filthy), the physical nature of this phase dictates multiple stresses . . . and nutrition is bare bones (six cans of ensure daily).”

After two detainees each broke a foot during an escape attempt, medical personnel cautioned that they should not be subjected to certain EITs. The techniques were then administered while the detainees were “seated, secured to a cell wall” rather than being shackled while standing, according to internal documents quoted by the Senate report.

In a May 4, 2005, letter to the CIA, Acting Assistant Attorney General Steven Bradbury referred to several medical journal articles and posed a series of questions. Was it possible, Bradbury asked, “to tell reliably (e.g. from outward physical signs like grimaces) whether a detainee is experiencing severe pain?”

The CIA responded that “all pain is subjective, not objective,” but said that “medical officers can monitor for evidence of condition or injury that most people would consider painful.”

Medical officers “can and do ask the subject, after the interrogation session has concluded, if he is in pain,” the CIA response continued, “and have and do provide analgesics, such as Tylenol and Aleve. . . . We reiterate, that an interrogation session would be stopped if, in the judgment of the interrogators or medical personnel, medical attention was required.”

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Washington Post researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

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