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

Military Kids and Vaccines; Untangling Parental Leave Policies and More

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Children of service members are less likely to be vaccinated against preventable childhood diseases than other children, according to a new study published in the journal Pediatrics.

The authors found that despite universal medical coverage of vaccines through the Military Health System, 28 percent of military dependents up to age 19 were not up to date on immunizations for things like diphtheria, tetanus, poliovirus, measles, mumps, chickenpox and other childhood diseases covered by the 4:3:1:3:3:1 vaccination series (excluding Haemophilus influenzae type b vaccine). That compares with 21 percent of all other children.

According to Federal Times, the Pentagon disputes those findings:

Defense health officials disputed the findings and said they believe military vaccination rates are actually higher than children in the general public, while also acknowledging that they lack concrete documentation to prove that's true. 

The authors of the Pediatrics study acknowledge that the Defense Department’s incomplete data is a problem:

Lower vaccination coverage rates among US military dependent children might be due to this population being highly mobile. However, the lack of a military-wide childhood immunization registry and incomplete documentation of vaccinations could contribute to the lower vaccination coverage rates seen in this study.

The authors recommend further study to get to the bottom of the issue.

Confused about parental leave? The Office of Personnel Management wants to help. OPM’s new “Handbook on Leave and Workplace Flexibilities for Childbirth, Adoption and Foster Care” aims to help federal personnel (and their managers) navigate the complex and confusing rules and regulations that govern time off for family matters.

After convening a series of meeting with representatives from 40 agencies, OPM found that “many agencies believe that their employees are simply unaware of the wide array of leave and workplace flexibilities available for childbirth, adoption, and foster care purposes.”

Now, you have a 73-page guide to all your questions.

Another year, another pay freeze. While this probably won’t generate a lot of sympathy among federal employees, their overseers on Capitol Hill are at least walking the talk on fiscal austerity. Once again, House appropriators aim to prevent any hike in lawmakers’ pay in 2016, extending a freeze that’s been in place since 2010.

Even under a pay freeze, it’s unlikely many lawmakers feel the pinch the way low-wage contractors do. Earlier this month, Kellie Lunney reported that Good Jobs Nation filed a complaint with the Labor Department on behalf of 65 federal contract workers, including janitors, bus drivers and National Zoo groundskeepers. The group says those contract employees have been systematically deprived of proper wages and benefits required under the 1965 U.S. Service Contract Act:

The organization is seeking more than $1.6 million in “stolen wages” in addition to “immediate implementation of the wage and benefits standards mandated by law,” according to a press release.

Some contract janitorial staff at the Education Department, for example, earn between $9 and $10 per hour without benefits, which violates the SCA janitorial rate of $11.83 an hour plus $4.02 per hour in benefits, according to the complaint. Contract tour bus drivers working for the National Park Service are paid roughly $16 an hour, even though they are supposed to earn $20.85 an hour under the law, the complaint said. 

Senate Budget Committee ranking member Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., attended a rally for those workers on Wednesday to advocate for an increase in pay to $15 an hour, as part of a "Fight for $15" labor effort. 

(Image via gorillaimages/Shutterstock.com)

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