Politics
Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius answers a question while she testifies before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the president Secretary of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius answers a question while she testifies before the Senate Finance Committee hearing on the president's budget proposal for FY2015, on Capitol Hill in Washington, April 10, 2014. (REUTERS/Larry Downing)  

Sebelius stays on just long enough to get government benefits

Photo of Alex Pappas
Alex Pappas
Political Reporter
  • See All Articles
  • Send Email
  • Subscribe to RSS
  • Follow on Twitter
  • Bio

      Alex Pappas

      Alex Pappas is a Washington D.C.-based political reporter for The Daily Caller. He has also written for The Washington Examiner and the Mobile Press-Register. Pappas is a graduate of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn., where he was editor-in-chief of The Sewanee Purple. While in college, he did internships at NBC's Meet the Press and the White House. He grew up in Mobile, Ala., where he graduated from St. Paul's Episcopal School. He and his wife live on Capitol Hill.

When the embattled Kathleen Sebelius announced her intention to resign as secretary of Health and Human Services, she pledged to stay in President Barack Obama’s cabinet until her replacement was confirmed by the Senate.

Turns out, there may be a financial incentive for the former Kansas governor to take her time getting out of Washington.

Next week, Sebelius becomes eligible to receive a government pension and continue certain taxpayer-funded health-care benefits when she hits her five-year employment mark with the federal government, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) policy indicates.

Under OPM rules, Sebelius, who was sworn into office on April 28, 2009, would be eligible to receive these benefits after completing five years of continuous service in the federal government.

While she announced her resignation on April 11, Sebelius does not mark her five-year anniversary with the federal government until April 28. Her successor is not expected to be sworn in until after that date. The Senate, which is on recess, comes back into session the same day Sebelius hits the five year mark.

Asked to confirm the existence of these benefits for Sebelius, an OPM spokesman would only direct TheDC to a website that answers questions for government retirees.

But according to a Daily Caller analysis based on information on the agency’s website, Sebelius, under the Federal Employee Retirement System, could receive an estimated $10,000 pension from the government each year.

This pension is calculated by averaging her top three years worth of salary, which is $199,700 a year, according to reports. Under OPM policy, she gets 1 percent of that amount multiplied by the years served. Five percent of a $200,000 a year salary would amount to a $10,000-a-year pension for the rest of her life.

To be vested in that pension at all, a person has to have worked a minimum of five years, under OPM policy.

“If she left this week, her pension would be zero,” a source with knowledge of these benefits explained to TheDC.

Sebelius is 65. The OPM website indicates that federal employees that are at least 62 years of age and have worked for five years are eligible for immediate retirement. Under this policy, Sebelius could start receiving benefits 30 days after she stops working.

She is also eligible to continue receiving government-subsidized contributions to her health care. Sebelius, according to reports, is enrolled in Medicare and in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program.

Under the law, Sebelius and her family may be eligible to continue these FEHB benefits. To qualify for this, federal workers must retire from the federal government at the age of 55 or older and have served at least five consecutive years in the federal government.

An OPM Q&A on its website said FEHB benefits and premiums change will not change for qualified retirees: “You will be entitled to the same benefits and annual premiums as federal employees enrolled in the same plan,” the website states.