Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Student loan help on hold

ARCHIVES
It took the Office of Personnel Management 10 years to issue a regulation allowing agencies to pay back employees' student loans, so what's another two months of waiting? In 1990 Congress gave agencies the authority to pay back some employees' student loans. Shortly after that, a governmentwide downsizing effort began, so there wasn't much demand for a benefit that would help keep employees. But hanging on to employees became a problem in the late 1990s, so last year the Office of Personnel Management worked on the rule. The rule would allow agencies to pay back up to $6,000 in student loans per employee per year. An agency could ultimately pay back as much as $40,000 of an employee's debt. OPM didn't get the regulation cleared through the Clinton White House and into the Federal Register until Jan. 11 of this year. The regulation was to take effect on Feb. 12. Then on Jan. 20, the new Bush White House put a hold on all regulations that had not yet taken effect. That included the student loan repayment regulation. In Wednesday's Federal Register, OPM officials announced that the effective date for the student loan regulation would be delayed from Feb. 12 until April 12. The delay gives the new administration time to review the regulation. While the administration reviews the rule, you can take a look through it to see how it could affect you. To read the regulation, click here. Benefits Counselor Check-Up Do you get the information you need when you call your agency's benefits counselor? In a recent Office of Personnel Management survey, federal employees said they generally get good help from benefits counselors, but they want more information on retirement benefits, financial planning and Social Security. Employees also want more pre-retirement counseling. The survey also checked in with benefits counselors themselves, who said they need more training to help people with questions on Social Security, the Federal Employees Retirement System, the Thrift Savings Plan, Medicare and workers' compensation. Federal benefits counselors feel harried. Most have numerous other responsibilities in addition to benefits counseling. In addition, there have been a lot of changes in federal benefits recently, including new transit benefits, conversion of health premiums to pre-tax dollars and life insurance changes. This year, two new funds will be available through the Thrift Savings Plan, and next year long-term care insurance will become available. Benefits counselors are worried that they won't be able to keep up with all the changes. Based on the survey, OPM officials promise to provide better training to benefits counselors across government. Read the report here: "Federal Benefits Counseling: Putting the Pieces Together". OPM has also revamped classification standards for federal HR professionals, including benefits counselors. The new standards are online here. Retirement Correction Hotline If your agency placed you in the wrong retirement system, you need to enter your information in the Office of Personnel Management's retirement corrections database. The database is online at http://www.opm.gov/benefits/correction. But if you also want to talk to a real person about your predicament, call 1-888-689-3233. That's OPM's new retirement corrections hotline, which you can call to ask questions about the Federal Employees Retirement Coverage Corrections Act, get help entering your information into the database or correct and update your information. New Faces The House panel that oversees federal employee pay and benefits issues is taking shape this week. GovExec.com reported on Monday that Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., would retain his post as chairman of the House Government Reform Subcommittee on Civil Service and Agency Organization. The Republicans on the House Government Reform Committee are holding an organizational meeting Thursday at which members will officially be assigned to subcommittees. In addition to Scarborough, the Republican members of the civil service subcommittee are expected to be Reps. Dave Weldon, R-Fla.; John Mica, R-Fla.; Butch Otter, R-Idaho; and Connie Morella, R-Md. Weldon and Otter would be new additions to the subcommittee. Mica chaired the panel before Scarborough took over. Morella, whose suburban Maryland district is home to many federal employees, is a familiar face on the subcommittee. Democrats on the Government Reform Committee met Wednesday to get subcommittee assignments. The ranking member of the civil service subcommittee will be Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill. Serving with him on the panel will be Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-D.C., and Reps. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., and Major Owens, D-N.Y. Last year, the subcommittee's members were the force behind passage of long-term care insurance legislation, which will make discounted long-term care insurance available to federal employees in 2002.
 

Brian Friel is founder of One Nation Analytics, an independent research, analytics and consulting firm for the federal market.

FROM OUR SPONSORS
JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Close [ x ] More from GovExec
 
 

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from GovExec.com.
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by Brocade

    Best of 2016 Federal Forum eBook

    Earlier this summer, Federal and tech industry leaders convened to talk security, machine learning, network modernization, DevOps, and much more at the 2016 Federal Forum. This eBook includes a useful summary highlighting the best content shared at the 2016 Federal Forum to help agencies modernize their network infrastructure.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    GBC Flash Poll Series: Merger & Acquisitions

    Download this GBC Flash Poll to learn more about federal perspectives on the impact of industry consolidation.

    Download
  • Sponsored by One Identity

    One Nation Under Guard: Securing User Identities Across State and Local Government

    In 2016, the government can expect even more sophisticated threats on the horizon, making it all the more imperative that agencies enforce proper identity and access management (IAM) practices. In order to better measure the current state of IAM at the state and local level, Government Business Council (GBC) conducted an in-depth research study of state and local employees.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    The Next Federal Evolution of Cloud

    This GBC report explains the evolution of cloud computing in federal government, and provides an outlook for the future of the cloud in government IT.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    A DevOps Roadmap for the Federal Government

    This GBC Report discusses how DevOps is steadily gaining traction among some of government's leading IT developers and agencies.

    Download
  • Sponsored by LTC Partners, administrators of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

    Approaching the Brink of Federal Retirement

    Approximately 10,000 baby boomers are reaching retirement age per day, and a growing number of federal employees are preparing themselves for the next chapter of their lives. Learn how to tackle the challenges that today's workforce faces in laying the groundwork for a smooth and secure retirement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Hewlett Packard Enterprise

    Cyber Defense 101: Arming the Next Generation of Government Employees

    Read this issue brief to learn about the sector's most potent challenges in the new cyber landscape and how government organizations are building a robust, threat-aware infrastructure

    Download
  • Sponsored by Aquilent

    GBC Issue Brief: Cultivating Digital Services in the Federal Landscape

    Read this GBC issue brief to learn more about the current state of digital services in the government, and how key players are pushing enhancements towards a user-centric approach.

    Download
  • Sponsored by CDW-G

    Joint Enterprise Licensing Agreements

    Read this eBook to learn how defense agencies can achieve savings and efficiencies with an Enterprise Software Agreement.

    Download
  • Sponsored by Cloudera

    Government Forum Content Library

    Get all the essential resources needed for effective technology strategies in the federal landscape.

    Download

When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.