Retirement and Marriage

By Amanda Palleschi

March 29, 2012

Secret Service TSP Plans

Sen. Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., has penned a bill that would allow a small group of Secret Service agents and uniformed police officers to be covered under the District of Columbia and Firefighter Retirement and Disability System.

The select group of officers -- those appointed between 1984 and 1986 during the shift from the Civil Service Retirement System to the Federal Employees Retirement System benefit structure -- could transfer money from their Thrift Savings Plans to buy into the city’s system.

But TSP’s governing body isn’t into playing favorites with its beneficiaries and says the measure would give the law enforcement officers an unfair advantage, according to Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Director of External Affairs Kim Weaver.

“We have concerns because it goes against Internal Revenue code provisions that currently govern us and would create a different set of benefits for a very small group of participants,” she said.

Weaver told FRTIB members at a meeting this week that she met with members of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee at their request and was told the legislation would be revised.

FRTIB, which oversees the TSP, will discuss the proposal further at its April 30 meeting with its governing board, the Employee Thrift Advisory Council.

TSP’s Roth Offering

The Thrift Savings Plan’s new Roth 401(k) option could be available to enrollees as early as April, Federal Times reports.

Testing is due to wrap up in April and the option is scheduled to launch in May, absent any technical computer glitches. If testing proceeds faster than anticipated, the option could become available in late April, according to Federal Times.

The option allows employees to invest after-tax income into a Roth account in addition to contributing savings to their traditional TSP account. TSP options allow enrollees to invest before-tax dollars, which are then taxed upon withdrawal.

Unlike a traditional Roth IRA, there will be no income limits on earnings from TSP’s Roth option, which could make the feature more attractive to federal workers and service members.

Employees who choose the option will still receive matching contributions from their agencies, but those funds will go toward their TSP account balance.

DOMA

One small step for a California attorney and her same-sex spouse (married during the brief period it was legal) will require a giant leap for other same sex-spouses seeking federal health benefits. In February, we wrote about Karen Golinski, an attorney for the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, who wanted to enroll her wife in family coverage under the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program insurance.

District judge Jeffrey White ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act should not stand in her way of doing so, and ordered Justice Department lawyers to tell him how they could deny benefits to same-sex partners after the Obama administration decided to stop switched course on defending the constitutionality of DOMA.

In a reversal of course, the Office of Personnel Management now has decided to allow Golinski’s wife, Amy C. Cunninghis, to be covered under Golinski’s health benefits plan, according to a March 9 letter from OPM to Blue Cross Blue Shield first reported in The Washington Post.

If it survives an appeal from congressional Republicans, White’s ruling would allow OPM to extend insurance coverage for other same-sex couples. OPM’s letter said its decision on Golinski’s case “has no effect on enrollments requested by other same-sex spouses.”


By Amanda Palleschi

March 29, 2012

http://www.govexec.com/pay-benefits/pay-benefits-watch/2012/03/retirement-and-marriage/41606/