The federal cost to take care of a billionaire president and former presidential pensions and benefits

November 25, 2016

Did you know?, Government/Politics

The federal cost to take care of a billionaire president and former presidential pensions and benefits

NBC new reported that when President-Elect Donald Trump gets sworn in as president on January 20, 2017 the contingent of at least 150 Secret Service personnel will balloon to more than 920 Secret Service agents and support personnel in Washington and New York City.

Homeland Security and Secret Service documents, reviewed by NBC News, shows the current cost to the American taxpayers is more than $2 million a day.

The New York Police Department is already handling external security at Trump Tower at an estimated cost of $1 million per day.

The cost of protecting the 18 members billionaire Trump family presents unprecedented challenges as many are adults.

Former presidents are also protected for the rest of their lives.
Video: Protecting Trump and family costing taxpayers millions daily -New Yorkers will pay the bill

Video: Protecting Trump in NYC will cost millions

Former Presidents: Pensions, Office Allowances, and Other Federal Benefits


Congressional Research Service
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
March 16, 2016

The Former Presidents Act (FPA; 3 U.S.C. §102 note) was enacted to “maintain the dignity” of the Office of the President. The act provides the former President—and his or her spouse—certain benefits to help him respond to post-presidency mail and speaking requests, among other informal public duties often required of a former President. Prior to enactment of the FPA in 1958, former Presidents leaving office received no pension or other federal assistance. The FPA charges the General Services Administration (GSA) with providing former U.S. Presidents a pension, support staff, office support, travel funds, and mailing privileges.

Pursuant to statute, former Presidents currently receive a pension that is equal to pay for Cabinet Secretaries (Executive Level I), which for calendar year 2015 was $203,700. Executive Level I pay was increased to $205,700 for calendar year 2016.

In addition to benefits provided pursuant to the FPA, former Presidents are also provided Secret Service protection and financial “transition” benefits to assist their transition to post-presidential life. Pursuant to the FPA, former Presidents are eligible for benefits unless they hold “an appointive or elective office or position in or under the Federal Government or the government of the District of Columbia to which is attached a rate of pay other than a nominal rate.”

The President’s FY2017 budget request seeks $3,865,000 in appropriations for expenditures for former Presidents, an increase of $588,000 (17.9%) from the FY2016 appropriation level. The increase in requested appropriations for FY2017 anticipates President Barack Obama’s transition from incumbent to former President. For FY2016, President Obama requested and received appropriations of $3,277,000 for expenditures for former Presidents—an increase of $25,000 from FY2015 appropriated levels.

Some critics of the Former Presidents Act say the statute subsidizes Presidents who are not struggling financially. Others argue that although a former President is not in a formal public position, he remains a public figure and should be provided a pension and benefits that permit him to perform duties that emerge as a result of his public status.

In the 114th Congress (2015-2016), the House and Senate are considering similar legislation that would amend the FPA. Both bills (H.R. 1777 and S. 1411) would set a former President’s pension at $200,000 annually, with increases each year by the same percentage authorized for benefits provided by the Social Security Act (42 U.S.C. §401). Both pieces of legislation would provide a former President an additional $200,000 annual allowance to be used as he determined and would remove other benefits currently provided to former Presidents—including those currently provided for travel, staff, and office expenses. Additionally, the bills propose that for every dollar a former President earned in each fiscal year in excess of $400,000, his federal annuity would be reduced by $1.

GSA data on payments to former Presidents show that the value of benefits provided to each of the living former Presidents—when adjusted for inflation—have generally declined from FY1998 through FY2015. The nominal appropriation levels for former Presidents’ benefits, however, increased through FY2011 and then declined from FY2011 through FY2015.

This report provides a legislative and cultural history of the Former Presidents Act. It details the benefits provided to former Presidents and their costs. Congress has the authority to reduce, increase, or maintain the pension and benefits provided to former Presidents of the United States.

This report considers the potential effects of maintaining the FPA or amending the FPA in ways that might reduce or otherwise modify a former President’s benefits.

Prior to 1958, U.S. Presidents who left office received no federal pension or other financial assistance. Some former Presidents—like Herbert Hoover and Andrew Jackson—returned to wealthy post-presidential lives. Other former Presidents—including Ulysses S. Grant and Harry S. Truman—struggled financially. Still others—including Andrew Johnson, John Quincy Adams, and William Howard Taft—served formally in the federal government after their presidencies.

In 1958, prompted largely by former President Truman’s financial difficulties, Congress enacted the Former Presidents Act (FPA; 3 U.S.C. §102 note). The FPA was designed to “maintain the dignity” of the office of the President by providing former Presidents—and their spouses—a pension and other benefits to help them respond to post-presidency mail and speaking requests, among other informal public duties often required of a former President and his spouse.

As administered by the General Services Administration (GSA), the act, as amended, provides former Presidents with a pension, funds for travel, office space, support staff, and mailing privileges.

According to the FPA, upon leaving office, former Presidents are to receive a pension that is equal to the pay for the head of an executive department (Executive Level I), which was $203,700 in calendar year 2015. Executive Level I pay increased to $205,700 in calendar year 2016.

The widow of a former President is authorized to receive an annual pension of $20,000.

Currently, four former Presidents and one former First Lady receive pensions and benefits pursuant to the FPA.

The President’s FY2017 budget request seeks $3,865,000 in appropriations for expenditures for former Presidents, an increase of $588,000 (17.9%) from the FY2016 appropriation level. The request includes language stating that the appropriation includes funding for “future former President Barack Obama.” President Obama’s anticipated transition from incumbent to former President is scheduled to occur on January 20, 2017.

For FY2016, President Obama requested and received appropriations of $3,277,000 for expenditures for former Presidents—an increase of $25,000 from FY2015 appropriated levels (P.L. 114-92).

The FPA is not the only authority that provides benefits to a former President. For example, pursuant to the Presidential Transition Act (3 U.S.C. §102 note), an outgoing President is entitled to receive seven months of “transition” services and facilities to assist his transition to post presidential life.

Federal law also provides former Presidents and their spouses lifetime Secret Service protection.

In 1994, the law was amended to limit U.S. Secret Service coverage to 10
years for any President who entered office after January 1, 1997.

President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush would have been the first former President and first lady who faced this statutory limit.

The Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-257), however, reinstated Secret Service protection for former Presidents and their spouses until their deaths.9 The bill also reinstated Secret Service protection to the children of former Presidents until they are 16 years old. The bill was signed into law by President Barack H. Obama on January 10, 2013.

GSA is authorized by the FPA to provide limited funding for an office staff and “suitable office space, appropriately furnished and equipped,” at a location within the United States designated by a former President, for the rest of his lifetime. In addition, each former President is authorized to receive a lifetime federal pension, travel funds, and franked mail privileges. Separate statutes provide U.S. Secret Service protection to former Presidents.

In 1961, the Comptroller General of the United States determined that the FPA also applies to office supplies, such as stationery and local and long distance telephone service. Table 1 shows the FY2015 GSA appropriation provided for former Presidents, disaggregated by category of expenditure.

The data in Table 1 show that in FY2015, that costs of providing benefits to more recent former Presidents is higher than for his predecessors. For example, in FY2015, George W. Bush, the former President who left office most recently (January 2009), had the highest annual pension and benefit costs among the four living former Presidents ($1,098,000).

Former President Jimmy Carter, the living former President with the longest tenure out of office (January 1981), drew the smallest pension and benefits ($430,000). Also in FY2015, former Presidents William J. Clinton and George W. Bush received larger appropriations to pay for personnel benefits ($119,000 and $102,000, respectively) than former Presidents Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush received ($0 for Carter and $65,000 for George H.W. Bush). The pension and benefits paid to former Presidents George W. Bush and Clinton in FY2015, when added together, comprise 62.2% of all benefits paid to the four living former Presidents and the widows of the former Presidents.

In FY2015, office space rental payments were the highest category of cost for former Presidents George H.W. Bush, Clinton, and George W. Bush. As shown in Table 1, former President George W. Bush received the highest FY2015 appropriation for office space ($434,000). Former President Clinton’s office space costs ($429,000) were $5,000 less than former President George W. Bush’s costs, which was a reversal from FY2014.

According to GSA, the appropriations provided for office space are estimates “based on prior year actual obligations and anticipated changes” to those obligations for the next fiscal year. As shown in Table 3, the actual office space costs for the former Presidents are lower than the appropriations displayed in Table 1.

According to GSA, excess office space funds can be reallocated to other costs for former Presidents that were underestimated or unanticipated. If excess funding is not needed during the fiscal year, it is returned to the Department of Treasury. In addition to office space, pension costs have historically been a large share of federal appropriations. Pension costs were the highest category of spending for former President Carter in FY2015, while they were second only to office space for the other three living former presidents.




Transition Expenses
The Presidential Transition Act (PTA),25 as amended, authorizes the Administrator of GSA to provide services and facilities to each outgoing President and Vice President, “for use in connection with winding up the affairs of his office,” for a period “not to exceed seven months from 30 days before the date of the expiration of his term of office.”

The PTA authorizes appropriations for specified activities during a presidential transition, including both those just mentioned and those in support of the incoming President and Vice President. The act authorizes “not more than $3.5 million…for the purposes of providing services and facilities to the President-elect and Vice President-elect” and “not more than $1.5 million…for the purposes of providing services and facilities to the former President and former Vice President.”

In the event that the outgoing Vice President is becoming President, the PTA limits the authorized expenditures in this area.28 The law also requires that the authorized amounts be adjusted for inflation “based on increases in the cost of transition services and expenses which have occurred in the years following the most recent Presidential transition.”

In FY2009, during which the most recent presidential transition occurred, $8 million was appropriated.

In FY2013, the President’s budget requested $8.95 million for PTA-authorized purposes.

The President’s FY2017 budget request seeks $9.5 million for GSA to carry out the PTA. The President’s budget request states that anticipated PTA expenses include $1 million “for briefing personnel associated with the incoming administration.”

In addition to the $9.5 million requested by GSA, for FY2017 the Executive Office of the President’s Office of Administration requested $7.6 million “for data migration services for processing of records of the department President and Vice President … and for other transition related administrative expenses.” This request is separate from the $9.5 million.


Secret Service Protection
The Secret Service provides lifetime protection to former Presidents.45 Former Presidents’ spouses also receive protection until one of two events occurs: divorce from the former President or death of the former President followed by remarriage.46 Protection for a former President’s children is available until they reach the age of 16.47 Legislation enacted in 1984 allows former Presidents or their dependents to decline Secret Service protection.48 Former Vice Presidents, their spouses, and children under the age of 16 are authorized to receive Secret Service Protection for six months after they leave office.

The FY1995 Treasury, Postal Service, and General Government Appropriations Act50 amended 18 U.S.C. §3056 to limit protection to 10 years for former Presidents who began serving after January 1, 1997, and their spouses.51 Former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura Bush would have been the first former President and First Lady affected by this statutory limit.

On January 10, 2013, however, President Obama signed into law the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-257), which reinstated lifetime Secret Service protection for all former Presidents and their spouses. The Secretary of Homeland Security is authorized to direct the Secret Service to provide temporary protection to a former President or his spouse at any time.

Currently, former First Lady Nancy Reagan and former Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H. W. Bush, William J. Clinton, and George W. Bush, and their wives receive Secret Service protection.

The costs of providing protection for former Presidents and their spouses are funded through the budget of the Secret Service, as opposed to GSA. The Secret Service does not publicly disclose protection costs or details for security reasons.

Health Benefits
No statutes explicitly govern the payment of health benefits for former Presidents. Generally, however, former federal employees must be enrolled in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program for five years to qualify for health benefits. GSA, historically, has interpreted similar service requirements for a former President to qualify as a federal annuitant.

Presidential terms are four years. Jimmy Carter served a single presidential term, and, therefore, does not qualify for federally funded health benefits. Although George H.W. Bush served only one term as President, he is entitled to federal health benefits because of his extensive federal service in other positions, including Member of Congress, Director of Central Intelligence, Ambassador to the United Nations, and Vice President. While former President George H.W. Bush is eligible for federal health benefits, he opts not to receive them.57 Since former President Clinton served two presidential terms and receives a monthly pension, GSA’s position is that he qualifies for federal health benefits. George W. Bush is eligible for and receives federal health benefits.

The incumbent President is charged with officially announcing the death of a former President by presidential proclamation and ordering the U.S. flags on all federal buildings to be flown at halfstaff for 30 days (4 U.S.C. §7(m)). Former Presidents are entitled to an official state funeral, including traditions and requirements determined by the armed forces.

According to state funeral policy, the incumbent President must notify Congress that the former President had requested a state funeral, and then set a date for the ceremony. The Secretary of Defense is then designated as the representative of the incumbent President for the purpose of making all state funeral arrangements in Washington, DC. The Secretary of Defense may designate the Secretary of the Army as his personal representative, who may then delegate to the commanding general of the U.S. Military District of Washington (MDW) the overall authority for planning and implementing the funeral arrangements within Washington, DC and elsewhere.

The former President’s funeral plans are to be collected by those making the arrangements, and an aide is to be assigned to assist the former President’s next of kin. Certain military honors and traditions may be extended by the military, based on the wishes and requests made by the former President’s surviving family members.61 A guard of honor, which is composed of members from each of the armed forces, attends to the former President’s remains. If a former President dies outside of Washington, DC, arrangements are made to return his remains to the District.

See entire document

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