The VGEA has worked successfully with General Assembly members, Governors and State agency leaders since 1959. The benefits and salaries enjoyed by State employees and retirees today came about through those years of effort. We’re proud of this legacy of continuous improvement and constantly strive to protect and expand these benefits. Without the support and efforts of VGEA members, these victories would not have happened. Protecting these benefits in the future requires a similar commitment.
- Base Pay Increases – The VGEA won the first real base pay increase in six years for state employees in 2013 with a 2% market pay boost. The same percentage increase was awarded in 2015 across the board. In 2016, the General Assembly and Governor approved a 3% salary increase, however it was contingent on revenues and they failed to reach projections and increases were canceled. In 2017, the VGEA fought hard for a non-contingent pay raise and won a 3% across-the-board salary increase given on July 10, 2017. Ten positions with the highest turnover received an additional 2% raise.
- Compression Pay Increases – Each employee with more than five years of continuous service received a base pay increase equal to $65 for each year of service to address salary compression in 2013. Another ‘compression raise’ was won in 2015 for state employees with five to 30 years of service as of 2015.
- Bonuses – During the Great Recession, the VGEA was successful in getting bonuses for state employees, the only public employee group recognized by the General Assembly for any type of affirmative pay action during that time period.
- Health Care – VGEA was successful in getting 1) over $64 million in additional funding committed to offset the impact of premium increases on employees and begin rebuilding reserves in the Health Insurance Fund, 2) increased coverage for outpatient surgeries, 3) increased frequency of eye exams from every two years to annually, and 4) enhanced diabetes management services including elimination of certain co-pays. The average state employee now pays just 15% of the cost for single health plan coverage, with their employer paying the other 85%.
- Retirement – VGEA was the leader in the 2012 retirement reform efforts by the Governor and General Assembly protecting the benefit promised to current employees and retirees and ensuring the General Assembly meets its funding obligations to keep the system financially sound.
- Worker Protections – VGEA led a change in state law dealing with improper payments made to state employees. Before the change, state employees were responsible for repaying any payments received improperly, regardless of the facts surrounding the situation and whether or not the employee could even have known the payment was improper.
The following major benefits provided to employees and retirees are among the many hard won accomplishments of the VGEA that many now take for granted:
- Health Insurance – A group health insurance plan was established for state employees through VGEA efforts with the State now paying most of the employee premium and a major portion of family coverage premium. Each year the VGEA continues to fight to protect the coverage and resist attempts to shift increased premium costs to the employee.
- Retiree Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) – An automatic cost of living adjustment (COLA), based on inflation, is made every year in retirement benefits. Legislative attempts to reduce or eliminate this benefit have been successfully defeated by the VGEA in recent years. There are only a few states who offer an automatic annual COLA; Virginia state retirees have it because of VGEA.
- Grievance Procedure – Disputes with agencies and individual supervisors or management can be addressed through a formalized grievance procedure. The grievance procedure has been improved by legislative action since its establishment in 1982.
- Life Insurance – Employer paid life insurance has been provided to both employees and retirees since the mid-’80s. The VGEA crafted and advocated for 2014 legislation to establish a life insurance floor – a minimum of $8,000 – that will be provided to cover final expenses upon a retiree’s death. The VGEA adds to this by automatically giving every member a $4,000 Accidental Death and Dismemberment (AD&D) life insurance policy. Survivors just contact the VGEA to file a claim.
- Retiree Health Care Credit – Retirees receive a health care credit to assist with the cost of health insurance premiums. The VGEA is currently fighting to have the credit increased from the present rate of $4 per month for each year of service.
- Deferred Compensation Program – Employees can set aside a portion of tax-free salary for individual retirement accounts with deferred amounts matched by the state. The matching amount has been increased also through VGEA legislative efforts since the program was initiated.
- Workforce Transition Act – Employees must receive severance benefits if their job is eliminated through reorganization, budget reduction or outsourcing as a result of VGEA efforts. The severance benefits are calculated using years of service and include extended health and life insurance coverage as well as severance pay. The package can also be converted to retirement service credit allowing the affected employee to retire rather than be laid off.