Search Penny Hill Press

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

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

Wendy Ginsberg
Analyst in American National Government

The Former Presidents Act (FPA; 3 U.S.C. §102 note) charges the General Services Administration (GSA) with providing former Presidents a pension, support staff, office support, travel funds, and mailing privileges. The FPA 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.

Former Presidents currently receive a pension that is equal to pay for Cabinet Secretaries (Executive Level I), which is $199,700 in 2013. 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.”

For FY2013, the President’s budget requested $3,779,000 for expenditures for former Presidents, $108,000 (2.9%) more than the $3,671,000 appropriated for FY2012 (P.L. 112-74).

On January 10, 2013, President Barack Obama signed the Former Presidents Protection Act of 2012 (P.L. 112-257), which extended lifetime Secret Service protection to former Presidents and their children. Prior to the bill’s enactment, President George W. Bush would have been the first former President to have his post-presidency Secret Service protection limited to 10 years.

Some critics of the Former Presidents Act say it 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.

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 FY2012. The nominal appropriation levels for former Presidents’ benefits, however, have increased.

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.

Date of Report: March 21, 2013
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: RL34631
Price: $29.95

To Order:

RL34631.pdf  to use the SECURE SHOPPING CART


Phone 301-253-0881

For email and phone orders, provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.