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By Steven Puckett, FedSmith
Some of the biggest perks to working for the government are the benefits that you not only have while you are working but also the ones that carry over into retirement. The primary benefits of concern for most federal employees are their health benefits (FEHB), dental, vision, and life insurance (FEGLI).Health Benefits (FEHB)
Federal health benefits coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program is some of the best and most affordable in the nation. Part of the reason it is so affordable is that the government pays around 72% of the premiums for each plan, leaving the employee to pay the remainder.
The Partnership for Public Service has suggested follow-up steps to OPM’s recent guidance to agencies on making fuller use of the probationary period for a newly hired federal employee, saying improving the use of that period “is a low-hanging fruit for holding agencies and federal employees accountable for performance and encouraging emerging best practices in skills-based hiring.”
The House is set to recess later this week until after the first deadline to prevent what could be a two-stage partial government shutdown, without having addressed either regular spending bills or another temporary funding measure.
David DiMolfetta, Government Executive -
The U.S. Government Accountability Office was notified of a data breach by government tech contractor CGI Federal last month that impacted some 6,600 people, the GAO confirmed to Nextgov/FCW.
Eric Katz, Government Executive -
The Senate on Thursday moved one step closer to finally reauthorizing the Federal Aviation Administration and addressing the longstanding staffing issues that all parties and stakeholders have highlighted as reaching critical levels, though current employees are raising concerns the measure does not go far enough.
By Erich Wagner, Government Executive
Apair of House Democrats on Monday introduced legislation aimed at ensuring victims of the 2015 Office of Personnel Management data breach remain protected for the rest of their lives.Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., are the lead sponsors of the Reducing the Effects on OPM Victims Emergency Response Act (H.R. 7236). Last introduced in 2018, the measure would expand credit monitoring and identity protection services for the more than 21 million current and former federal workers and contractors whose Social Security numbers were exposed as part of multiple data breaches nearly a decade ago.
Molly Weisner, Federal Times -
As the Biden administration pushes for the government to be a “model employer,” inclusive and able to recruit competitively, lawmakers say they’re concerned that not enough federal employees are taking advantage of an important workplace benefit: paid family leave.
The Office of Personnel Management on Friday set a deadline of October for agencies to comply with new federal regulations barring the federal government from using a job applicant’s salary history when setting their pay.Earlier this week, OPM finalized regulations barring agencies from soliciting or otherwise relying on past compensation during the hiring and pay-setting process in most cases. The Biden administration also proposed similar rules this week that would ban the practice for federal contractors and subcontractors, though those would not take effect until at least April.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
Social Security Commissioner Martin O’Malley announced Tuesday that beginning this spring, employees at the agency’s headquarters, regional offices and area director offices will be expected to show up for in-person work more frequently, as the new leader seeks to get a handle on operations.
Carten Cordell, Government Executive -
Agencies can’t use non-federal salaries to help set pay for new or returning federal employees, under a new rule from the Office of Personnel Management.
The Office of Personnel Management issued a final rule Monday limiting the criteria on which federal agencies can set salaries for new or returning federal civilian employees.
By Eric Katz, Government Executive
Key congressional negotiators have reached an agreement on how to divvy up funding for the fiscal 2024 spending bills, clearing a major threshold that will allow appropriators to finalize those measures. The deal, confirmed by a source familiar with talks, was hammered out after weeks of negotiations between Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas, who respectively chair the Senate and House Appropriations Committees, and establishes how much money will be allocated to each of the 12 bills Congress must pass to fund government each year. With those allocations set, lawmakers can now complete their work of setting line-by-line funding for every program and office in agencies across government.
Glenn Davidson, Government Executive -
With nearly one million job openings across the federal government, agency leaders can help close existing workforce gaps by reimagining traditional hiring practices and embracing skills-based hiring initiatives. These efforts can broaden the talent pool and lower barriers to entry for public-sector roles by eliminating specific degree requirements.
By Eric Katz, Government Executive -
Updated Jan. 18 at 5:02 pm ET: Both houses of Congress on Thursday approved a two-tiered stopgap funding bill that kicked the shutdown deadlines into March, sending the measure to President Biden's desk just one day before the shuttering of some agencies. The House acted quickly Thursday afternoon in a 314-108 vote after the Senate approved the bill earlier in the day. Lawmakers had until the end of the day Friday to avoid a shutdown for the first tranche of agencies that would have seen their funding expire. The measure moved without much drama despite some conservatives making an 11th hour push for tactics to delay the process past that timeframe.
The Senate on Tuesday approved in a 68-13 vote a first procedural step on a stopgap measure that will set up two March deadlines to fund the government, looking to once again avert a shutdown this week by punting on the appropriations process.
Jennifer Shutt, Government Executive -
House Speaker Mike Johnson committed Friday to following the topline spending agreement he struck with Democrats less than a week ago, following a day of speculation that he was preparing to walk away from the deal.
The Office of Personnel Management made some of its best progress at reducing the number of pending retirement applications from federal workers last year, reducing the backlog by 34% in 2023 and breaking multiple recent records in the process.Long a source of frustration for the governmental HR agency, lawmakers and retirees alike, OPM’s inventory of pending retirement claims has been plagued by delays due to the still largely paper-based nature of federal employment records, staffing issues and other challenges. The COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated many of these issues, as the backlog climbed to a high of more than 36,000 pending claims in March 2022.
By Jory Heckman, Federal News Network -
The Internal Revenue Service is answering more calls and providing help to taxpayers at levels not seen since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.But the National Taxpayer Advocate, in her annual report to Congress, is telling the IRS that “business as usual” isn’t good enough, and that the agency needs to keep improving its level of service to the public.The annual report describes 2023 as a year of “extraordinary transition for the IRS” and taxpayers, and that with recent improvements in IRS operations, “despair has turned to cautious optimism.”
Prospects have improved of avoiding what could be a two-phase partial government shutdown starting next Friday (January 19), following a bipartisan agreement among congressional leaders over agency spending levels for the current fiscal year.
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Congressional leaders have reached an agreement on overall spending levels for the current fiscal year that could help avoid a partial government shutdown later this month.
The agreement largely hews to spending caps for defense and domestic programs that Congress set as part of a bill to suspend the debt limit until 2025. But it does provide some concessions to House Republicans who viewed the spending restrictions in that agreement as insufficient.
In a letter to colleagues, House Speaker Mike Johnson said Sunday the agreement would secure $16 billion in additional spending cuts from the previous agreement brokered by then-Speaker Kevin McCarthy and President Joe Biden and is about $30 billion less than what the Senate was considering.
Telework at federal agencies continues to fuel better employee engagement and retention while creating cost savings in areas like real estate and energy, the Office of Personnel Management found in its latest report on the workplace flexibility.Published last month, OPM’s annual report to Congress covers the 2022 fiscal year, which ended in September 2022, meaning it covers a period of time when agencies were developing and beginning implementation of re-entry plans after a two-year period of maximum telework during the COVID-19 pandemic, but before the Biden administration’s concerted push beginning last spring to increase “meaningful in-person work” across government.
Molly Weisner, Federal Times -
The Thrift Savings Plan, the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement plan, ended the year on a high note, with all five core funds yielding positive returns for the second straight month.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
The measure confirms that the federal workforce will see its largest pay increase in more than 40 years. As first proposed in his fiscal 2024 budget plan last March, the increase amounts to a 4.7% across-the-board boost to basic pay, alongside an average 0.5% increase in locality pay. As authorized in the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act, which Biden is expected to sign this week, military service personnel also will see an average 5.2% pay raise next year.
Following is a memo in which OPM told agencies to make “full use” of the probationary period, the (generally) one year period after federal employees are hired in which agencies evaluate them and may fire them without the legal protections that apply to employees who successfully complete the period.
The case was significantly delayed as the agency that initially hears federal worker appeals was non-functional for five years. The Supreme Court will issue a decision on a decade-old case regarding a federal employee whose agency furloughed him for six days in 2013, though the ruling is expected to be limited in scope and concern the timing of the challenge.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has received numerous questions regarding whether the Hatch Act restricts federal employees from expressing their views about the current conflict between Israel and Hamas and other related topics. OSC is therefore issuing this advisory opinion to inform federal employees of when and how the Hatch Act might apply to such speech. As detailed below, the relevant provision of the Hatch Act prohibits employees from engaging in political activity while on duty or in the federal workplace.
The Biden administration issued an executive order Monday updating the committee tasked with establishing security policies for installations across the federal government, now including best practices for a mobile workforce.
Under proposed regulations, the federal government’s HR agency would no longer need to approve waivers of traditional incentive payment caps in advance, potentially speeding up the hiring and relocation processes.
The Senate late Wednesday approved in an 87-11 vote a two-tiered stopgap spending measure, sending to President Biden’s desk a bill that will keep some agencies funded into January and others into February.
Rather than end the threat of shutdowns, Congress is barreling toward a possible one three weeks away.
A majority of senators this week voted to end shutdowns forever, but the bill failed to gain the requisite support and the chamber has moved on toward passing its bipartisan annual funding bills.
Laura Cooper, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia has been named the Federal Employee of the Year in the annual Service to America Medals award, considered the top annual honor for career federal employees.
Natalie Alms, Government Executive -
FMA National President Craig Carter represents federal managers at the Service to America Medals Gala.
The recipients join the over 750 awardees of the Partnership for Public Services’ recognition program since it began in 2002.
The Telework Reform Act also would authorize noncompetitive hiring of military and law enforcement spouses into remote work positions.
The counties of Clallam and Jefferson in Washington state could be included in the Seattle-Tacoma locality pay area as early as 2025.
The Biden administration on Monday has begun the queue of new regions to add to the federal government’s map where federal workers are entitled to higher pay for 2025, approving a recommendation to add Clallam and Jefferson counties in Washington state to the existing Seattle-Tacoma, Washington, locality pay area.
OPM’s latest update on its agency priority goals under the President’s Management Agenda, covering the third quarter of fiscal 2023, cites under the goal of improving recruitment and retention its issuance of proposed rules to streamline the Pathways Program, the government’s main internship and early career hiring and development program.
Following are questions and answers related to pay from OPM guidance on the impact on federal workers of a partial government shutdown caused by a funding lapse.
In what amounts to a preemptive strike against a potential future Republican administration, the Biden administration has proposed rules that effectively would block — at least for a time — the return of a future excepted service category for policy-related jobs that currently are in the competitive service.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, has requested investigations at every major federal department and agency into how telework and remote work have impacted service delivery, and whether federal workers are improperly receiving locality pay.
A bill from Virginia Democrats would automatically trigger a continuing resolution when there is a lapse in appropriations and restrict the Senate’s ability to consider non-spending legislation until funding is figured out.
Of the types of internal support the government provides for supervisory employees, dissatisfaction is highest for recruiting and hiring support, while other areas with “the most room for improvement” include pre-award contracting support, budget formulation and IT modernization, data newly posted on performance.gov show.
Erich Wagner, Government Executive -
New rules requiring high-income 401(k) participants to make catch-up contributions only to Roth accounts will not take effect until 2026.
GSA has announced the per diem rates for federal employees traveling on official business in fiscal year 2024, starting October 1, including an increase from $98 to $107 per day in the standard lodging rate for destinations without specific rates.
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., has reintroduced a bill (HR-5171) to provide relief from the pay cap that currently applies to employees in the upper reaches of the GS system that prevents them from receiving full annual pay increases. That cap, set at Level IV of the Executive Schedule, this year is $183,500.
My Federal Retirement -
In 2023, cost-of-living adjustments (COLA) for retirement programs — such as Social Security, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) — received the highest COLA in more than 40 years.
The IRS has a big order to fill: tens of thousands of new employees are needed in the next two years to fight a high attrition rate that is eroding ranks at a time when the agency says it needs to expand.
The White House is continuing its push for federal agencies to reduce their use of telework and remote work in favor of more in-person time at the office this fall.
Members of Congress jetted off for the August recess without a plan in place to avoid a partial government shutdown when the new fiscal year begins Oct. 1 — and the lawmakers who write spending bills acknowledge that it’s a real possibility, given deep divisions.
A Social Security reform bill (HR-4583) newly introduced with nearly all House Democrats as cosponsors would eliminate the windfall elimination provision and government pension offset provisions affecting benefits under that program for federal retirements under the CSRS system.
The legislation also would allow federal job applicants who were previously denied positions or security clearances over marijuana usage dating back to 2008 to have those decisions reviewed under the newly proposed policy.
In recessing until after Labor Day Congress has left behind much unfinished business for federal employees. On its return, one first issue demanding attention will be the need to prevent a funding lapse with the end of the current fiscal year September 30.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released three videos last week to help federal employees and retirees better navigate their online retirement services accounts.“OPM remains committed to helping federal employees transition from serving the American public to enjoying their hard-earned retirement,” said?Kiran Ahuja, OPM Director.
Jennifer Shutt, Idaho Capital Sun (Government Executive) -
A handful of ultra-conservative House Republicans rebuked their leadership on Tuesday over the annual government funding process, but appeared at odds on whether they should force a government shutdown later this year.
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) finalized regulations to give nearly 200,000 federal employees access to the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance program (FEDVIP).
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