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FMA Washington Report: July 11, 2022

This report provides an update on issues affecting federal managers. As always, I encourage you to visit www.fedmanagers.org on a regular basis for more information on these and other matters.

Also, be sure to look for the monthly FMA Grassroots Update, where we offer links to action letters and FMA-PAC matters we do not address in the Washington Report. The grassroots newsletter is sent exclusively to non-governmental email addresses to avoid any Hatch Act violations. If you are not receiving it, contact the national office to provide your non-governmental email address.

Please feel free to provide feedback any time by emailing Greg Stanford at gstanford@fedmanagers.org or by calling the National Office at (703) 683-8700. Thank you for your membership in FMA. It’s an honor to represent your interests before Congress and the administration.

What's Affecting Feds?
OPM Announces Data Breach Class Action Settlement: You May Be Eligible for a Payment

If You Were Subject to the Data Breaches of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management and Its Contractor, and You Experienced an Out-of-Pocket Loss After the Breaches, You Could Be Eligible for a Payment from a Class Action Settlement.

At the request of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), we are notifying all Federal Managers Association members to advise you may be entitled a portion of settlement funds. This follows an email sent on July 7 to all FMA members. Please see the notice from OPM below, and if appropriate, submit a Claim.

A settlement has been reached in a class action lawsuit about the data breaches of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) and its security contractor that allegedly compromised personal information of then-current and former federal government employees and contractors, as well as certain applicants for federal employment. The Defendants in the case—OPM and its contractor Peraton Risk Decision Inc. (“Peraton”)—deny that they did anything wrong but have agreed to settle the lawsuit. The Court has not decided who is right.

Administration’s Covid Vaccine Mandate Enforcement Halted Through Mid-September at Minimum

Enforcement of the federal government mandate requiring the Covid-19 vaccine for all federal employees was delayed again by a decision reached in June by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit. The administration has been unable to enforce the vaccine requirement since January due to a variety of courtroom battles and rulings. The Court stayed the mandate until the current case is considered which expected to be in mid-September 2022.

As of January 2022, when the halt on enforcement was first ordered, the Biden administration said 98 percent of federal employees were in compliance with the Covid vaccine executive order, including 93 percent vaccinated. Agencies will continue in a holding pattern while the appeals take their course. They are not processing or determining exemption requests for medical or religious reasons, and also cannot make any preparations related to disciplinary actions for noncompliance.

FMA Working For You!
FMA Voices Member Concerns About the TSP System Update

If you have money invested in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) for your retirement, you may have noticed some bumps in the road for the transition to a new, modernized recordkeeping system. In May, we alerted all FMA members about the changes. Unfortunately, the transition has been rocky for some in recent weeks. We are aware of the challenges and have voiced member concerns directly to officials at the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), which administers the TSP. FMA National President Craig Carter also sits on the Employee Thrift Advisory Counsel (ETAC) which provides guidance to the FRTIB.

The FRTIB has been candid about the challenges with the update and has acknowledged the struggles many participants have faced. Tee Ramos, director of participant services for the TSP, said, “In conjunction with the login process and other transition changes, we had some other factors contribute to high call volumes, including pent up demand due to the blackout window [during the transition] and [volatile] market conditions.” FRTIB is actively working to smooth out the transition and provide assistance to those who have been impacted. Since June 1, approximately 420 additional staff have been added to TSP’s call center.

Legislative Outreach
Status of Fiscal Year 2023 Appropriations and 2023 Pay Raise

The House Appropriations Committee was active in June working on funding for Fiscal Year 2023. This is welcome news, given the fact Congress funded FY 2022 in March, after more than five months of continuing resolutions.

As of June 30, each House appropriations bill has advanced out of the committee, albeit predominantly on party-line votes. The Senate is planning to begin marking up their FY2023 funding bills upon their return from the Independence Day State Work Period. Legislators have not struck a bipartisan deal on overall discretionary spending levels, but the Senate plans to move forward in the hopes of making progress.

FMA is working with our colleagues in the Federal-Postal Coalition on a letter to all decision makers, urging Congress to provide funding for all agencies on time for FY2023. In recent years Congress has relied on CRs, flirted with a lapse of funding, or allowed a partial- or full-government shutdown, and FMA will work to prevent another similar outcome in this cycle.

House Committee Advances FMA-Endorsed Telework Improvement Bill

The House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced the Telework Metrics and Cost Savings Act (H.R. 7951) on June 14 by a vote of 23-16. The bill, introduced by Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) and John Sarbanes (D-MD), is now cleared for consideration by the full House.

The Federal Managers Association (FMA) endorsed the legislation and was named in the press release upon introduction.

In a statement, FMA National President Craig Carter called the bill “a commonsense approach to modernize the federal government’s telework programs, which was last significantly updated by the Telework Enhancement Act of 2010.” He cited “monumental advancements in technology and new realities as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic” to support telework where and when possible.

House Armed Services Committee Passes FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act

On June 23, the House Armed Services Committee passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 (H.R. 7900), by a strong bipartisan vote of 57 to one. Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA) made the following comment upon passage: “This year’s defense bill builds on the Committee’s six-decade-long tradition of investing in the people, programs, and technologies that strengthen our common defense. At a time when democracies around the world face enormous challenges and unprecedented threats, we have sent a powerful, bipartisan message to our allies and partners, global competitors, and the American people: democracy still works – and it can deliver real results.”

H.R. 7900 includes the largest service member pay raise in decades. Other provisions of interest in the bill include: Requiring a Comptroller General review of the Administration’s implementation of the paid parental leave benefit for federal civilians, a benefit FMA helped achieve; an extension of DOD authority to grant allowances, benefits, and gratuities to DOD civilian personnel on official duty in a combat zone, an FMA issue brief; and, requires the Secretary of Defense to use available authorities to increase the use of incentive payments for civilian behavioral health providers.

Agency Outreach
MSPB Issues Precedent-Setting Decision Affecting Whistleblower Protections

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) recently issued a noteworthy decision, Skarada V. Veterans Affairs Department, that impacts civil service protections and whistleblowers.

A Government Executive article summarized the case: “Timothy Skarada, a supervisory physical therapist at the Veterans Affairs Department, alleged in 2013 and 2014 his supervisor was impaired while providing care for a patient. He said he subsequently faced reprisal including his chain of command not communicating with him, excluding him from meetings, subjecting him to frivolous investigations and creating a hostile work environment.

OPM Updates Guidance on Covid Leave

On June 22, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced that federal agencies must allow employees to use administrative leave to take their children aged 6 months through 5 years to get vaccinated. The guidance broadens the availability to use this leave, following the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval of vaccines for this age group. Previous guidance directed agencies to grant administrative leave so feds could accompany older children and family members to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

To read OPM’s memo, please click here. For frequently asked questions about the government’s policies related to Covid, please visit: https://www.saferfederalworkforce.gov/faq/. These FAQs cover topics such as leave, building operations, quarantine and isolation, and many others.

OPM Director Ahuja Discusses Planned Reforms to Help Federal Workforce

Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kiran Ahuja, who gave the keynote address at FMA’s National Convention in March, spoke in June about her first year at the helm, OPM’s accomplishments and goals looking forward. Last month she became the first Senate-confirmed OPM Director to stay in her position for a full year since 2015.

Ahuja is hoping to enact reforms to enhance recruitment and retention to the federal workforce, renovate the retirement claims process, and follow recommendations from the National Academy of Public Administration to enhance the agency. She noted OPM is currently working on several legislative and regulatory efforts to modernize the civil service, as part of its four-year strategic plan.

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