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

Roth Progress

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First lady Michelle Obama’s keynote at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday will be remembered most for her heartfelt tribute to her husband. Viewers heard about President Obama’s rusted old car and the too-small shoes he owned during the couple’s earlier years.

But before the charming anecdotes, viewers got a glimpse of the first lady’s projects during her time in the White House, including the Joining Forces initiative, which she spearheads along with Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden.

The program pairs the assets of federal agencies and private sector groups with the strengths of military members, veterans and families. The White House announced in August that 125,000 veterans and military spouses have been hired or trained by 2,000 private sector businesses.

“These companies are not making these commitments just because it’s the right thing to do -- which it is -- they’re doing this because it’s the smart thing to do for their bottom lines,” Michelle Obama said last month at an event in Mayport, Fla., to herald the milestone.

The initiative forged partnerships with the Defense Department, customer service, health care and telecommunications companies, and encouraged states to adopt policies to help ease the burden of professional licensure requirements for military spouses who must frequently move around the country.

Roth Option

About 20,000 Thrift Savings Plan participants opened Roth accounts in the first four months the option was available, according to Federal Times.

About $13 million was deposited into the accounts, or $650 per participant on average, the publication reports. TSP has an overall balance of about $316 billion.

Twenty thousand is a huge leap from the end of May, when 3,860 participants had elected the Roth option, but it’s still less than 1 percent of TSP’s 4.5 million beneficiaries.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which oversees TSP, launched the Roth option May 7. Many agencies initially had difficulty enrolling employees who wanted to opt in to Roth, citing complicated payroll systems. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service previously said it was rectifying the problems this summer and fall; the Army, Navy and Air Force will be able to enroll by October.

Union Adds Number Crunchers

The National Treasury Employees Union added 146 additional financial management service staffers to its membership base last week when a group of FMS accountants, economists and auditors voted unanimously for representation in an election, conducted by the Federal Labor Relations Authority.

The union represents more than 1,200 FMS workers nationwide.

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