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

Per Diem Plus

The General Services Administration is proposing to expand certain per diem categories, giving a modest boost to the extensive regulations that govern reimbursement for expenses federal employees incur while on business travel.

Under a new interim rule, government workers could expense fees associated with filing travel vouchers and charge card bill payments, tips paid to valet parking attendants and costs incurred due to natural and manmade disasters. Agencies also will be allowed to issue a blanket expense authorization to reimburse funds spent during a presidentially declared disaster.

GSA last month issued revised rates for fiscal 2012. While the standard per diem will hold steady at $77 for lodging and $46 for meals, hotel reimbursement for several major metropolitan areas, including Washington, Chicago and Boston, will rise during the year. Several localities also will receive nonstandard designations.

Evacuated Vets

Veterans who are evacuated from their state residential facilities in an emergency will see no interruption in coverage for their care, thanks to new regulations from the Veterans Affairs Department.

In a final rule published in Thursday's Federal Register, VA pledged to make per diem payments to homes not already recognized by the department if a veteran's current facility is deemed unsafe or unable to provide continuing care. Beneficiaries may be placed temporarily in homes approved by a VA medical center director. Such facilities will receive the per diem paid to states to cover care for 30 days.

Veterans evacuated from nursing homes may be placed in VA community living centers or contract nursing homes, Medicare- or Medicaid-certified facilities or licensed nursing homes. Those removed from residential locations are eligible for care at emergency evacuation sites, assisted living facilities or hotels. The regulations also extend to adult day health care facilities.

Military Retirement Pay

Military retirees will receive their paychecks earlier than planned in September and December, according to the Defense Finance and Accounting Service.

Under the 2011 Defense authorization, military retiree pay must be processed on the first day of the month unless that day falls on a weekend or national holiday. To comply with the legislation, the Oct. 3 payment will be issued on Sept. 30, 2011, while the Jan. 3, 2012, checks will go out on Dec. 30. Retirees will receive 13 payments this calendar year but in 2012 and beyond will receive the scheduled 12.

The change affects regular retired pay, concurrent retirement and disability pay and combat-related special compensation. The new rule also applies to retiree allotments, garnishments and court-ordered former spouse and child support payments. It does not impact annuity payments, however.

According to DFAS, the change could affect the tax liability of some beneficiaries. Retirees can adjust their withholding preferences through myPay or by submitting forms found on the agency's website via mail or fax to:

Defense Finance and Accounting Service
U.S. Military Retired Pay
P.O. Box 7130
London, KY 40742-7130
Fax: 800-469-6559

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