Pay and Benefits Watch: No TSP for the troops

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While federal civilians ride the ups and downs of investments in the Thrift Savings Plan's C Fund, military personnel will have to keep waiting for the chance to get in on the TSP action.

Last year, Congress included a provision in the 2000 Defense Authorization bill opening the TSP to military personnel. But the provision came with a catch-the Defense Department could only begin allowing service members to contribute money to the TSP if the department found a way to offset $480 million in lost tax revenue through 2009. Contributions to the TSP are tax-deferred.

A Pentagon spokeswoman said DoD does not have any plans to submit offsetting legislation. That means the department is not going to suggest that Congress cut spending in another area to provide TSP participation to the military. Military personnel will have to continue investing on their own.

If DoD ever decides to find the funds to offset the TSP extension, then military personnel would be allowed to put 5 percent of their annual earnings into a tax-deferred TSP account, where the money could be invested in stocks, bonds or government securities. The department would not provide any matching funds for military personnel, even though agencies match contributions for civilian employees.

Civilians Wait, Too

Civilian employees across government are also playing the waiting game, for implementation of a new policy allowing them to begin taking up to 12 weeks of accrued sick leave to care for family members. An Office of Personnel Management spokesman said there's no target date for when OPM will finalize the change.

Under current rules, employees can take 13 days of sick leave a year to care for family members. Under the Family and Medical Leave Act, employees can also take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave to provide such care.

President Clinton announced the change in May 1999. At that time, OPM Director Janice Lachance said the new benefit would be in place within four to six months.

But OPM didn't release proposed regulations until Feb. 9 of this year. OPM gave interested parties until March 27 to comment on the proposal. The comments are now in the review process, the OPM spokesman said.

Leave Questions, Leave Answers

OPM recently posted 16 fact sheets about federal leave policy on its Web site, at www.opm.gov/oca/leave/html/factindx.htm. The fact sheets cover everything from annual leave to organ donor leave to leave without pay.

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