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News Items, by Subject

Government plans - federal

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Legislation Would Provide Paid Leave for Federal Civilian Employees Who Have or Adopt a Child for the First Time
"The bill marks the latest of a long string of efforts, thus far unsuccessful, to provide federal workers with paid parental leave. Last year, Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., introduced a bill that would provide six weeks of paid leave to [federal workers who are] new parents, with an option to take an additional six weeks of unpaid leave." (Government Executive)
GAO Report: Railroad Retirement Board -- Additional Controls and Oversight of Financial Interchange Transfers Needed
"This report examines [1] the steps taken to calculate financial interchange amounts, [2] factors that could account for trends in transfers over time, and [3] the extent to which RRB, SSA, and HHS provide oversight to ensure calculations are accurate.... GAO makes eight recommendations, including that RRB create formal policies and improve documentation of its processes, work with SSA to obtain data electronically, and that SSA and HHS increase their oversight." [GAO-18-323, May 21, 2018] (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO])
OPM Proposes Legislation to Tighten Retirement Benefits for Current and Former Federal Employees
"The request ... would save taxpayers $143.5 billion over the next decade ... [T]he proposed changes reflect the move by private sector businesses away from defined-benefit pensions in recent years." (Government Executive)
[Official Guidance] Text of OPM Final Regs: Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Flexibilities
"To correct an asymmetry in the insurance market for Federal employees and annuitants, this Final regulation provides all Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program carriers the ability to offer the same number and types of plan options. Currently, OPM regulations defining minimum standards for health benefits plans allow certain plans to have two options and a high deductible health plan, while other plans may have three options of any type or two options and a high deductible health plan, creating an asymmetry between the potential offerings of health benefits plans. We have revised the regulations so all health benefits plans are able to offer three options or two options and a high deductible health plan. This final rule will give FEHB enrollees more choices in selecting a health plan that best meets their family's health care needs." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM])
Administration Proposes Postal Service Cuts to Retirement, Health Benefits in $80B Savings Package
"The White House suggested USPS bring its retirement benefits in line with the same changes proposed for the rest of the federal workforce, which would save the agency $35 billion over the next decade. Under Trump's plan, the postal service also would increase employees' contributions toward their health and life insurance." (Government Executive)
CRS Report: Federal Employees' Retirement System -- Summary of Recent Trends (PDF)
20 pages. "This report describes recent trends in the characteristics of annuitants and current employees covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS) as well as the financial status of the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund (CSRDF)." [Report 7-5700, Feb. 2, 2018] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
[Official Guidance] Text of 2017 IRS Publication 721: Tax Guide to U.S. Civil Service Retirement Benefits (PDF)
33 pages, Jan. 25, 2018. "This publication explains how the federal income tax rules apply to civil service retirement benefits received by retired federal employees (including those disabled) or their survivors. These benefits are paid primarily under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS)." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])
[Official Guidance] Text of OPM FEHB Program Carrier Letter 2018-01: Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Call Letter (PDF)
"This is our annual call for benefit and rate proposals from Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program carriers. This letter sets forth the policy goals and initiatives for the FEHB Program for 2019. You must submit your benefit and rate proposals for the contract term beginning January 1, 2019 by May 31, 2018." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM])
[Official Guidance] Text of OPM Proposed Regs: Federal Employees Health Benefits Program Flexibilities
11 pages. "Currently, OPM regulations defining minimum standards for health benefits plans allows certain plans to have two options and a high deductible health plan, while other plans may have three options of any type or two options and a high deductible health plan, creating an asymmetry between the potential offerings of health benefits plans. [OPM is] revising the regulations so all health benefits plans are able to offer three options or two options and a high deductible health plan. This rule will give FEHB enrollees more health plan choices allowing them to select a health plan that best meets their family's health care needs." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM])
Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress (PDF)
19 pages; topics include: [1] Retirement plans available to members of Congress; [3] Age and length-of-service requirements; [4] Required contributions to retirement programs; [5] Pension plan benefit formulas; [8] Replacement rates; [9] Cost-of-living adjustments; [10] The Thrift Savings Plan; [11] Mandatory coverage under FERS; and [12] Retirement benefits for members with limited service. [Report RL30631, Dec. 5, 2017] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
Senate Tax Proposal Could End Feds' Catch-Up TSP Contributions
"The chairman's retirement savings amendment ... would increase the maximum catch-up contribution that all employees age 50 and older can make to their 401(k), 403(b) or 457(b) retirement savings plans in a given year from $6,000 to $9,000, but would require those contributions to be made to Roth plans only ... This would affect federal employees age 50 and older who make such extra payments to the TSP[.]" (Government Executive)
OPM Withdraws Proposed Rule on Health Care Premiums for Some Feds
"On the eve of open enrollment for 2018, the Office of Personnel Management announced that it is withdrawing a proposed rule that would have required some federal employees to keep paying their health insurance premiums when they are on unpaid leave.... Currently, agencies generally pay for the entirety of FEHBP premiums for employees on leave without pay. Employees then repay their portion of the insurance contribution when they return to work." (Government Executive)
TSP Hardship Withdrawal Programs Extended
"Officials at the 401(k)-style retirement savings program for federal employees announced Monday that they would extend the deadline for workers and retirees impacted by Hurricane Maria to make withdrawals from their accounts under relaxed rules.... The original deadline for submissions was set for Jan. 24, but ... federal employees and retirees now have until March 8 to request a hardship withdrawal. The funds must be distributed by March 15." (Government Executive)
GAO Report on FEHBP: Enrollment Remains Concentrated Despite More Plan Offerings and Effects of Adding Plan Types Are Uncertain
"[D]espite more available plan offerings in recent years [under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program], enrollment has become more concentrated within the largest health insurance carrier in a county. Specifically, the median share of enrollment held by the largest carrier in a county increased from 58 percent in 2000 to 72 percent in 2015. Further, one carrier -- the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association -- was the largest carrier in 93 percent of counties in 2000 and 98 percent of counties in 2015." [GAO-18-52, published Oct. 5, 2017, released Nov. 6, 2017] (U.S. Government Accountability Office [GAO])
OPM Finalizes Long-Desired Change to Postal Worker Pensions
"The U.S. Postal Service will finally see its payments into the federal employee pension account calculated using assumptions from its workforce specifically, rather than the federal workforce as a whole.... A 2017 USPS IG report estimated USPS' FERS liability has been overestimated by $4.1 billion due to a growing gap between the salary of the average postal worker and the salaries of other federal employees, among other factors." (Government Executive)
[Official Guidance] Text of OPM Final Regs: Federal Employees' Retirement System; Government Costs
"The Office of Personnel Management amends this rule to clarify the manner OPM uses for determining a supplemental liability under the Federal Employees' Retirement System (FERS), and to clarify the process by which the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and the U.S. Department of the Treasury may request reconsideration of OPM's valuation of the supplemental liability. The rule also clarifies the employee categories OPM uses to compute the FERS normal cost percentages. The rule also amends the definitions of actuary, present value factor, and actuarial present value to ensure these definitions are uniform and appropriate." (Office of Personnel Management)
House Approves TSP Modernization Bill
"The TSP Modernization Act (H.R.3031) ... would allow federal employees and retirees to make multiple age-based withdrawals from their Thrift Savings Plan accounts and remain eligible for partial withdrawals after they leave government as well.... The bill also would allow those receiving monthly payments to change the amount of their annuity at any time, instead of only once per year. Participants could change the frequency of payments as well." (Government Executive)
Federal Employee Health Plan Insurers Score Another Win in Federal Court
"[A federal district court has] ruled a federal employee couldn't sue the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association for violating New York deceptive trade practices laws by allegedly misrepresenting the scope of its preferred provider network and the availability of in-network certified lactation consultants ... The court was one of the first to apply a U.S. Supreme Court decision from last term that took an expansive view of the ability of the Federal Employee Health Benefits Act (FEHBA) to prevent beneficiaries from pursuing state law claims against insurers for the way they run their federal employee benefit plans[.]" [Mahajan v. Blue Cross Blue Shield Ass'n, No. 16-6944 (S.D.N.Y. Sept. 22, 2017)] (Bloomberg BNA)
Retirement Benefits for Federal Law Enforcement Personnel (PDF)
16 pages. "Many employees in law enforcement occupations are not recognized as [law enforcement officers (LEOs)] by their agencies and OPM for the purposes of federal retirement coverage and, consequently, are not eligible to receive enhanced retirement benefits. Several employee groups and unions representing individuals in these occupations have sought enhanced retirement benefits through additional legislation." [Report R42631, Sept. 5, 2017] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
[Official Guidance] Text of Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Announcement Relaxing Hardship Withdrawal Rules to Help Victims of Hurricane Irma (PDF)
"Beginning today, the [Thrift Savings Plan] will treat any Financial Hardship In-Service Withdrawal Request received until January 24, 2018 as qualifying for a hardship withdrawal if the participant writes 'Hurricane Irma' at the top of the form and checks the block on the form for personal casualty on page 2, Item 18 of the form. The distributions must occur before January 31, 2018 to qualify for this treatment." (Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board [FRTIB])
Senate Considers Cutting Retirement Benefits for Feds Working for Unions
"The Senate is poised to vote on two measures aimed at curbing federal employees' ability to work on union representational issues while on the clock ... The more controversial measure ... would prevent employees from counting years where they worked at least 80 percent on union representational duties toward their retirement pensions." (Government Executive)
[Official Guidance] Text of Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Proposed Regs: Blended Retirement System
"The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (NDAA) ... changed the uniformed services' retirement plan from one that relied primarily on a cliff-vested defined benefit to one that blends a reduced defined benefit with enhanced TSP benefits, continuation pay, and lump-sum options. The new retirement system is known as the Blended Retirement System (BRS). This proposed rule implements the enhanced TSP benefits provided by the NDAA." (Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board [FTIB])
Hardship Rules Relaxed by Federal Retirement Plan for Persons Affected by Harvey
"The nearly 60,000 government employees living or working in the area hit by Harvey, as well as those supporting eligible family members in the region, qualify for withdrawals under the loosened rules. TSP also waived the rule barring employees from contributing to their investments in the six months after making a withdrawal, meaning employer contribution matching still applies." (Government Executive)
CBO Report: Options for Changing the Retirement System for Federal Civilian Workers (PDF)
50 pages. "Lawmakers have expressed interest in examining the current structure of retirement benefits to ensure that the government provides adequate compensation to attract and retain skilled employees while not paying more than needed to accomplish that goal.... [T]his report analyzes several potential changes to the federal retirement system and their impact on the federal budget over 75 years." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
The Blended Retirement System for the Armed Services: Retention Effects and Continuation Pay Cost Estimates
"Costs are initially higher under the BRS because of service expenditures for [continuous pay (CP)] and Thrift Savings Plan matching contributions, but costs will eventually lower because of the decrease in defined-benefit retirement costs.... The baseline enlisted force is achievable when the CP multiplier is set at or near the floor mandated by Congress. For officers, the floor-level CP multipliers do not maintain baseline retention for any service; CP multipliers close to one year of basic pay for active component personnel are required." (RAND Corporation)
Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the Military Health System
"Complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) comprises a large number of therapies (e.g., acupuncture and chiropractic) that developed outside the conventional biomedical model of care. About one-third of the general population report using CAM either on their own (e.g., yoga) or through the services of a CAM provider (e.g., massage).... Eighty-three percent of [military treatment facilities (MTFs)] offer one or more of a variety of CAM services with relaxation therapy, acupuncture, progressive muscle relaxation, guided imagery, and chiropractic being the most common. MTFs most commonly cite not having the necessary providers as the reason for not offering CAM." (RAND Corporation)
Would More Generous Buyouts Trigger Long-Rumored Federal Employee Retirement Wave?
"[OMB confirmed] that the Trump administration has asked Congress to expand government-wide a Defense pilot program boosting the cap on civilian employee Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments from $25,000 to $40,000.... [M]ore generous buyout offers could be a deal clincher for employees considering early retirement as a result of ongoing budget uncertainty and proposed cuts to retirement benefits and the federal workforce as a whole." (Government Executive)
TSP Modernization Bill Introduced in House
"If enacted, the proposed TSP Modernization Act would allow multiple, partial post-separation withdrawals by retirees, and for active federal employees older than 59-1/2, multiple age-based withdrawals. The bill also seeks to encourage retention in the TSP by allowing quarterly or annual payments, and permitting periodic withdrawals to be changed at any point during the year." (Pensions & Investments)
Text of CBO Answers to Questions from Senate Budget Committee on Funding Estimates for Federal Employee Pensions (PDF)
"Relative to cash estimates over a 10-year projection period ... an accrual measure would give policymakers a more accurate sense of whether proposed changes to deferred compensation would increase or decrease the deficit. That is particularly important when considering modifications to defined benefit pension plans because such plans involve commitments over long periods.... [But cost estimates] can vary substantially depending on the discount rate used for the accrual measure, which may make them less transparent than a cash-based measure. Accrual accounting also depends on decades of projections for future wages and inflation -- which are highly uncertain." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
CBO: Postal Reform Would Bring Cheaper Health Insurance Premiums to All Federal Employees
"A key component of the 2017 Postal Service Reform Act would be the creation of a new health benefits program just for postal employees and retirees, while also requiring all eligible annuitants to enroll in Medicare as their primary provider. Federal workers remaining in their current Federal Employees Health Benefits plans would see their costs shrink, as removing postal employees -- who are generally costlier to insure than the rest of the federal workforce -- from their pools would decrease the overall expenses associated with their insurance." (Government Executive)
[Opinion] Presidential Pensions as Broken Windows
"Why should federal taxpayers pay a post-presidential pension to a former President who is willing and able to enrich himself after he leaves the White House? ... [T]he presidential pension presents the classic case of a 'broken window,' the relatively small incident which suggests deeper disarray. The same 'broken windows' effect occurs when former state legislators manipulate state pension laws, taking short-term but highly paid state executive positions to boost their retirement pensions." (Prof. Edward A. Zelinsky, OUPblog)
Supreme Court Addresses Division of Military Retirement Benefits
"[T]he United States Supreme Court unanimously ... held ... that a military veteran cannot be required to indemnify (or reimburse) a former spouse who receives a reduced amount of the veteran's retirement pay resulting from the veteran's election to waive a portion of their military retirement pay in order to receive nontaxable disability benefits from the federal government in lieu of military retirement pay." [Howell v. Howell, No. 15-1031 (U.S. May 15, 2017)] (Butterfield Schechter LLP)
D.C.-Area Lawmakers Vow to Fight Proposed Federal Retirement Benefit Cuts
"Members of Congress representing districts near the nation's capital are gearing up for a fight with the Trump administration over the proposals to reduce federal employee retirement benefits in the president's fiscal 2018 budget plan.... [T]he budget proposed an increase in employee contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System over the next six years, an elimination of cost of living adjustments for employees and retirees under FERS and a 0.5 percent reduction in COLAs for Civil Service Retirement System participants. The budget blueprint also would eliminate the subsidy for FERS workers who retire before Social Security kicks in at age 62." (Government Executive)
[Opinion] Trump Leads Attack on Retirement Security
"Trump's 2018 budget would make federal employees pay more for their pensions, while simultaneously cutting their retirement benefits. His proposal: [1] Increases employee contributions to FERS by 1 percent per year for 5 or 6 years. [2] Calculates pension benefits based on the highest five years of salary rather than the highest three years. [3] Eliminates cost of living adjustments (COLA) for current and future FERS employees." (National Public Pension Coalition)
Trump's 2018 Budget Reportedly Targets Federal Retirement Programs
"According to [one report], Trump's spending plan ... will require federal workers to contribute an additional percentage point to the Federal Employee Retirement System each year until they match the federal contribution, likely within five to six years. The total increase in cost to employees would be around 6 percent at the end of the phase-in period.... The plan also eliminates cost of living adjustments for current and future FERS employees, and it would cut Civil Service Retirement System COLA adjustments by 0.5 percent." (Government Executive)
Testimony on the Costs of Federal Civilian Personnel: A Comparison With Private-Sector Employees (PDF)
"Average benefits were 52 percent higher for federal employees whose highest level of education was a bachelor's degree than for similar private-sector employees ... Average benefits were 93 percent higher for federal employees with no more than a high school education than for their private-sector counterparts. Among employees with a doctorate or professional degree, by contrast, average benefits were about the same in the two sectors. On average for workers at all levels of education, the cost of benefits was 47 percent higher for federal civilian employees than for private-sector employees with certain similar observable characteristics, CBO estimates." (Congressional Budget Office [CBO])
200,000 Postal Workers Would See Pay Raises, Benefit Cuts Under New Labor Contract
"In a potential hit for employees, the Postal Service would cut its contribution toward employees' health care plans by 3 percent through 2019. Still, even by the end of the contract USPS would pay for a maximum of 76 percent of any given plan, while the top contribution for the rest of the government caps out at 75 percent." (Government Executive)
[Opinion] Is the Thrift Savings Plan Shortchanging U.S. Government Workers?
"While literally hundreds of factors have been discovered, only a handful have both withstood academic scrutiny and are 'investable' at a fairly low cost.... Yet, the Thrift Savings Plan has no funds that take advantage of these factors and this academic research. The result? Underperformance of a portfolio that uses only the TSP funds, relative to what could be achieved, is likely to occur by 1% to 2% a year (or greater) over most 10-20 year periods of time." (Ron A. Rhoades, JD, CFP)
Text of Supreme Court Opinion: Federal Employees Health Benefit Act Preempts Missouri Law Barring Subrogation and Reimbursement (PDF)
15 pages. "We hold, contrary to the decision of the Missouri Supreme Court, that contractual subrogation and reimbursement prescriptions plainly 'relate to ... payments with respect to benefits' ... therefore, by statutory instruction, they override state law barring subrogation and reimbursement. We further hold, again contrary to the Missouri Supreme Court, that the regime Congress enacted is compatible with the Supremacy Clause. Section 8902(m)(1) itself, not the contracts OPM negotiates, triggers the federal preemption. As Congress directed, where FEHBA contract terms 'relate to the nature, provision, or extent of coverage or benefits (including payments with respect to benefits),' Section 8902(m)(1) ensures that those terms will be uniformly enforceable nationwide, free from state interference." [Coventry Health Care of Missouri, Inc. v. Nevils, No. 16-149 (U.S. Apr. 18, 2017)] (Supreme Court of the United States)
[Opinion] Sensible Medicare and Federal Employees Health Benefits Reform for All Annuitants
"The Postal Service Reform Act of 2017 (H.R. 756) would force postal annuitants to buy Medicare insurance they neither need nor want. The Postal Service does need to address a serious retiree health care prefunding obligation imposed by Congress over a decade ago. But the problem can be resolved without forcing seniors to purchase insurance they do not need or want." (The Heritage Foundation)
[Official Guidance] Text of IRS Publication 721: Tax Guide to U.S. Civil Service Retirement Benefits, for Use in Preparing 2016 Returns (PDF)
33 pages. "What's New: ... The phased retirement program was signed into law by the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act. This program allows eligible employees to begin receiving annuity payments while working part time." (Internal Revenue Service [IRS])
White House May Favor Cutting Federal Employee Retirement, Health Benefits
" 'Federal employee health and retirement benefits continue to be based on antiquated assumptions and require a level of generosity long since abandoned by most of the private sector,' [White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer] said. 'Those costs are unsustainable for the federal government, just as they are proving to be unsustainable for state and local governments with similar health and retirement packages.' " (Government Executive)
OPM Asks FEHBP Carriers to Focus on Rising Prescription Drug Use and Costs
"All insurance carriers participating in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program [FEHBP] in 2018 should continue their efforts to effectively manage prescription drug use among beneficiaries while trying to rein in escalating costs ... OPM wants carriers to 'reexamine' opportunities to reinforce or add to management techniques that help balance those dual goals, since rising drug prices and more prescription drug use in health care are driving up FEHBP premiums. According the agency, 25.5 percent of the FEHBP health care budget was spent on drugs in 2015." (Government Executive)
[Official Guidance] FEHB Program Carrier Letter for 2018 Contracts (PDF)
"This is our annual call for benefit and rate proposals from Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program carriers. You should submit your benefit and rate proposals for the contract term beginning January 1, 2018 on or before May 31, 2017. Please send your proposals to your Health Insurance Specialist via overnight mail, FAX, or email. We expect to complete benefit and rate negotiations by mid-August to ensure a timely Open Season." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM])
CRS Report: Background and Recent Developments in Military Retirement (PDF)
24 pages. "[T]he National Defense Authorization Act for FY2016 [adopted a] blended system [which] will allow more service members to accrue retirement savings earlier in their careers through contributions into the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) coupled with government matching ... It will also reduce the defined benefit multiplier for calculating the retirement annuity ... The new multiplier will provide service members retiring at 20 years of service with 40% of their base pay at retirement rather than 50% under the current system. The changes will go into effect on January 1, 2018." [Report RL34751, Jan. 6, 2017] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
Administration Makes Long-Desired Change to Postal Service Pensions
"The U.S. Postal Service could finally have its payments into the federal employee pension account calculated using assumptions from its workforce specifically, rather than the federal workforce as a whole, which has long been a sticking point at the mailing agency." (Government Executive)
[Official Guidance] Text of OPM Proposed Regs: Federal Employees' Retirement System; Government Costs
"OPM proposes to ... [1] clarify the process by which the Secretary of the Treasury and the U.S. Postmaster General may file a request for the Board of Actuaries of the Civil Service Retirement System to reconsider an amount determined to be payable to the CSRDF with respect to a supplemental liability.... [2] amend its definition of 'actuary' ... [3] establish separate normal cost percentages for FERS, FERS-RAE and FERS-FRAE employees within each employee category ... [4] include members of the Capitol Police as 'Congressional Employees' for purposes of deriving separate normal cost percentages for this employee group.... [5] include U.S. Postal Service employees as a separate category for which OPM will derive normal cost percentages.... [6] establish the procedures and requirements for a request for reconsideration of a supplemental liability determination filed by the Secretary of the Treasury or the Postmaster General.... [7] refine its definitions of present value factor and actuarial present value ... to ensure that these definitions are uniform and appropriate." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM])
CBO Report Identifies Changes to Federal Retirement Benefits That Would Help to Reduce Deficit
"Among the policy options presented in [the 116-page CBO report] is one that would affect participants in FERS who retire in January 2018 or later.... The first alternative would change the calculation of retirees' annuities on the basis of participants' five consecutive years with the highest earnings from three consecutive years, which the report said would save a total of $2 billion from 2018 to 2026 ... The second alternative would be to eliminate the special retirement supplement." (Pensions & Investments)
Most Federal Employees Could Save $2000 or More by Switching Health Insurance
"Carriers have widely different claim dispute rates. For example, Blue Cross, NALC and SAMBA plans have about three to eight disputed claims for every 10,000 enrollees, while many plans have dispute rates that are twice as high. Plan comparisons vary significantly depending on age, family size and retirement status." (Government Executive)
[Official Guidance] Text of OPM Final Regs: Coverage for Certain Firefighters and Intermittent Emergency Response Personnel under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (PDF)
"This final rule provides eligibility for health insurance coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program to certain wildfire protection employees and certain intermittent emergency response personnel.... OPM recognizes that there may be other groups of employees not currently eligible for the FEHB Program because of the nature of their work schedules, but who are similarly situated to firefighting personnel in that they perform emergency response services. Accordingly, OPM has also added a new subsection (i) to its regulations that permits agencies to request that OPM extend FEHB coverage to such employees. OPM intends to construe this subsection narrowly, applying it only to employees engaged in emergency response services similar to the services being performed by those responding to the wildfires, and only when requested by their employing agencies." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM])
Retirement Benefits for Members of Congress (PDF)
20 pages. "Under both CSRS and FERS, Members of Congress are eligible for a pension at the age of 62 if they have completed at least five years of service. Members are eligible for a pension at age 50 if they have completed 20 years of service, or at any age after completing 25 years of service.... There were 620 retired Members of Congress receiving federal pensions based fully or in part on their congressional service as of October 1, 2015. Of this number, 344 had retired under CSRS and were receiving an average annual pension of $74,136. A total of 276 Members had retired with service under FERS and were receiving an average annual pension of $41,316 in 2015." [Report RL30631, Nov. 10, 2016] (Congressional Research Service [CRS])
As Costs Go Up, FEHBP Benefits Don't Keep Pace
"[OPM] recently announced that premiums under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program [FEHBP] would go up by an average of 4.4 percent, with an increase to the employee share of the premium of 6.2 percent.... According to [HHS], prescription drug spending is projected to rise by an average of 7.3 percent annually from 2013 to 2018." (Government Executive)
TRICARE Lowers Mental Health Care Co-Pays, Expands Treatment Options
"TRICARE retirees, as well as non-active duty dependents and survivors, generally will pay roughly half the co-payment for outpatient mental health care and substance abuse treatment -- from $25 to $12 per visit -- effective Oct. 3. 'Co-pays and cost-shares for inpatient mental health services will also be the same as for inpatient medical/surgical care,' said a press release." (Government Executive)
The Fed Offers A Generous Retirement Plan, But Funds It Responsibly
"For 2015, the Fed used a discount rate of 4.05%. Based on this discount rate, the Fed's retirement plan had $13.27 billion in liabilities. Combined with the plan's $12.5 billion in assets, this produces a funded ratio of 94 percent. That figure would look good even compared to state and local pensions' typical stated funded ratio of about 75%. But the state and local figures are calculated using a 7 to 8% discount rate. Were the Fed to use that approach, its pension liabilities would shrink to $7.96 billion and its funded ratio rise to 157 percent." (Forbes)
Federal Employees Will Pay 6.2 Percent More Toward Health Care Premiums in 2017
"Federal Employees Health Benefits Program [FEHBP] enrollees with self-only coverage will contribute an average of $5.27 more per paycheck, while those with family coverage will pay about $12.97 more.... Federal employees and retirees' share of their health care premiums will go up by a higher percentage than the government contribution, which will rise 3.7 percent. OPM pays about 70 percent of FEHBP participants' premiums." (Government Executive)
[Opinion] Postal Service Health Benefits and the FEHBP: The Urgent Case for Getting Reform Right
"The 2016 Postal Service Reform Act proposes shifting postal retirees' primary health care coverage from the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) to Medicare.... The proposal's impact on both postal retirees and taxpayers could be substantial.... This arrangement drives excessive Medicare use, and thus imposes ever higher costs on both Medicare beneficiaries and taxpayers. Postal annuitants would be forced to enroll in Medicare Part B while continuing premium payments to the FEHBP if they want to maintain any FEHBP benefits or choice among FEHBP plans." (The Heritage Foundation)
Military's New Hybrid Retirement Plan a Mixed Bag
"The military, which currently has a traditional defined benefit plan, will adopt a new hybrid program next year that blends an existing defined benefit for career personnel with a matching contribution to a 401(k)-style account aimed at covering those who don't make a lifelong career of the military. It's the biggest overhaul in retirement benefits in years -- and it's a mix of good and bad news for military personnel.... Under the new blended system, the value of defined benefit retirement pay will be cut by 20% to make way for matching contributions to service members' defined contribution accounts." (Morningstar)
[Official Guidance] Text of OPM Proposed Regs: FEHB Employee Premium Contributions for Employees in Leave Without Pay or Other Nonpay Status
15 pages. "Under current regulations, a Federal agency pays the employee's share and the Government's share of FEHB premiums if an employee in [leave without pay (LWOP)] or other nonpay status elects to continue coverage while in LWOP or other nonpay status and agrees to repay the agency ... for their employee share upon return to employment for up to 365 days. In other words, the agency must allow an employee to incur a debt for the employee contribution to premium.... This proposed rule would provide an agency with the flexibility to require that all of its employees in LWOP or other nonpay status, except as a result of lapse of appropriations, pay their employee share for FEHB coverage directly to the agency and keep the payments current, if those employees elect to continue FEHB enrollment." (U.S. Office of Personnel Management [OPM])
Group Proposes $333 Billion in Cuts to Feds' Pay and Benefits
"Federal employees are overpaid because the government operates independently of market pressures, according to [The Heritage Foundation], which proposed $333 billion in savings over the next decade aimed at federal personnel costs.... [The] Foundation proposed $26 billion in cuts specifically to federal employees' pay, which researchers argued far outpaces that of the private sector. The rest of the savings came from proposed reforms to retirement benefits, paid leave and health care." (Government Executive)
Are Federal Pay and Benefits Too Generous?
"[Personnel reforms proposed by The Heritage Foundation] included: [1] Requiring new federal hires and employees with between five and 25 years of service to pay more for their retirement benefits by decreasing the government contribution.... [2] Requiring federal workers to shoulder more of their health care costs under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program [FEHBP].... [3] Eliminating the FEHBP government contribution for retiree health benefits for new hires.... Federal employee unions took issue with the proposals." (Government Executive)
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