A chemistry lab technician at the Veterans Affairs medical center in Jackson, Mississippi, Rigdon wanted to cap her 33 years of federal service with two years of phased retirement, during which she could mentor younger employees and create a guide to cover issues that do not come up in employee training.
But when she was told her center would not participate in phased retirement, she decided to retire at the end of 2015 – she puts in her retirement paperwork in March.
"I am pretty disgusted with everything about phased retirement," Rigdon said. "When we were told that our center wasn't going to offer it I said 'I am done, I am just done with this'."
Phased retirement would allow eligible employees to work half-time while receiving half a pension. OPM said agencies could start accepting applicants as soon as Nov. 6, 2014 if they finalized their programs. But so far federal employees have been kept waiting as agencies take months to conduct reviews of the OPM regulations.
OPM has not received a single application for phased retirement from anywhere across government, according to the agency. And no agencies Federal Times asked said they had finalized a phased retirement program.
The OPM regulation does not make it mandatory for agencies to implement phased retirement programs, and some agencies have expressed doubt about whether they will.
The Social Security Administration is still evaluating OPM's phased retirement regulations and whether it will implement one at all, according to spokeswoman Dorothy Clark.
"Once we conduct a thorough evaluation, we will make a decision whether or not to implement a phased retirement program within the agency. Until a decision is made, Social Security is not soliciting applications from our employees," Clark said.
The Health and Human Services Department said nothing has changed since last year, and that the agency is still reviewing the final phased retirement rule. There is no specific deadline for when the review will be finished, according to a spokesman.
The Interior Department is still developing its plan for phased retirement, according to an agency spokeswoman, which could not give any more details on when that plan might be completed.
The Department of Homeland Security is also still analyzing the idea of a phased retirement program, according to a spokeswoman. After that the agency would decide whether or not to implement one.
The Defense Department was the only agency able to give a timeline, saying their phased retirement policy would be finished "in the next few months," according to spokesman Nathan Christensen.
DoD had previously estimated that there are close to 60,000 employees eligible for phased retirement, but the department does not know how many employees from which careers or job areas would be interested.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., who helped push phased retirement regulations through Congress and OPM, said while it was disappointing that agencies had not started phased retirement programs he is not surprised by the slow launch.
He said he is planning on asking agencies to provide Congress with detailed descriptions of how they plan to implement effective phased retirement programs in the most expeditious way possible.
Agencies that have decided not to implement phased retirement programs will be expected to provide lawmakers with a detailed business justification for why the agency does not want to pursue it, according to Connolly.
Lawmakers might explore modifying the phased retirement law to require agencies to use it more, according to Connolly. But first lawmakers will exhaust its oversight options to achieve wider phased retirement adoption.
Congress approved the law for phased retirement on June 29, 2012, which means federal employees and agencies have been waiting almost three years for OPM to finalize the rule and for agencies to craft phased retirement programs.
Federal employees are incredibly eager to move forward with phased retirement and it's unclear why agencies are dragging their feet, said Jessica Klement, legislative director at the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association.
Klement called phased retirement a "win, win" for allowing agencies to keep on experienced employees as they transfer their knowledge and experience to a new generation.
"This is a management tool as well as a savings for the American taxpayers. Agencies should be jumping on this opportunity and not dragging their feet," Klement said.