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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Pension Restoration

ARCHIVES
No need to break out the calculator to figure out how much Uncle Sam owes you in interest on the government securities fund.

The Treasury Department soon will send its report on the 2011 debt issuance suspension period to the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. According to Tom Trabucco, director of external affairs for the board, Treasury paid roughly $378 million in interest on the G Fund from May 16 through Aug. 2, when President Obama signed the 2011 Budget Control Act into law, raising the debt ceiling.

The law allows the government to take extraordinary measures to avoid a default, including tapping into and suspending investments into the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and halting the daily reinvestment of the G fund, the most stable offering in the Thrift Savings Plan's portfolio. Federal law (Sections 8348 and 8438 of U.S. Code Title 5) requires the Treasury secretary to refill the coffers of the G Fund and the Civil Service Retirement Fund once the issue of the debt ceiling is resolved, and in addition, to make up for any interest lost on those investments during the suspension.

In 2006, the government hit its debt ceiling on Feb. 16, triggering a debt issuance suspension period that lasted until President Bush signed into law a measure that raised the debt limit on March 20. In that instance, the government ended up paying about $140 million in interest into the G Fund coffers. The fund was fully restored by March 21, 2006.

Pay Gap

The government is looking for ways to close the pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce.

After controlling for certain factors such as education and experience, about 7 cents of the wage gap between the genders remains "unexplained," according to a governmentwide Aug. 16 memo from Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry and Equal Employment Opportunity Commission Chairwoman Jacqueline Berrien.

The federal government has actually done a better job than the private sector at correcting the disparity. Women working in the private sector are paid an average of 77 cents for every dollar paid to men, and the numbers are lower for African-American women and Latinas.

"We cannot achieve our national commitment to equal employment opportunity until women are included as equal partners in every workplace, including the federal government," said Berrien.

President Obama in 2010 created the National Equal Pay Enforcement Task Force, which includes OPM, EEOC, and the departments of Justice and Labor. The group provided a guide for agencies to help them close the federal compensation gap. Berry and Berrien said their agencies are working with the Government Accountability Office to solve the problem.

Military Retirement

Service members apparently can relax for the time being over possible changes to their retirement system. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen told troops in Afghanistan recently that the system "isn't going to change anytime soon," according to a news report from the American Forces Press Service. A group of Defense Business Board members are looking at alternatives to the current military retirement system as part of a broader effort to find efficiencies within the department. The board will released its final report at the end of August.

Apt App

Traveling for work and need to know the per diem rates for a particular city? There's now an app for that.

The General Services Administration has created a new mobile phone application that allows users to search via location or ZIP Code the lodging, meal and reimbursement rates for a certain area. It's free and currently available on the iPhone and BlackBerry devices. An Android app is on its way. To download the app, click here.

 

Kellie Lunney covers federal pay and benefits issues, the budget process and financial management. After starting her career in journalism at Government Executive in 2000, she returned in 2008 after four years at sister publication National Journal writing profiles of influential Washingtonians. In 2006, she received a fellowship at the Ohio State University through the Kiplinger Public Affairs in Journalism program, where she worked on a project that looked at rebuilding affordable housing in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina. She has appeared on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal, NPR and Feature Story News, where she participated in a weekly radio roundtable on the 2008 presidential campaign. In the late 1990s, she worked at the Housing and Urban Development Department as a career employee. She is a graduate of Colgate University.

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