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

Exceptions to the 1.3 Percent Pay Raise, a Free Benefit for New Military Moms and More

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Most civilian federal employees are likely headed for a 1.3 percent pay raise next year. While that’s better than a pay freeze, and slightly more than this year’s 1 percent boost, it didn’t impress some Government Executive readers. “Yeah, 1.3%! Woohoo, my paycheck will be flying high! Oh, wait...,” wrote one reader in a comment on our latest story about the raise.

Still, consider this: Vice President Joe Biden and other senior government leaders might not get any increase. The House’s fiscal 2016 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill contains a “prohibition on funds for an increase in pay for the vice president and other senior political appointees,” a summary of the bill released Wednesday stated.

Also bear in mind that many feds will probably receive more than 1.3 percent in total. The Obama administration has proposed 13 new locality pay areas that will result in a significant pay bump for 102,000 employees.

Military members also have the potential for a more generous pay hike. Obama has proposed a 1.3 percent pay boost for service members next year, but the House fiscal 2016 Defense spending bill, approved by the Appropriations Committee earlier this month, calls for a 2.3 percent increase for troops. The House version of the Defense authorization bill, which authorizes funds for Defense spending, was silent on a pay raise for service members.

By not suggesting an alternative, committee members are embracing an automatic cost-of-living adjustment of 2.3 percent for service members in 2016, but also tacitly allowing Obama to intervene. The Senate’s fiscal 2016 Defense authorization bill, which the chamber is debating on the floor this week, specifically calls for a 1.3 percent pay raise for service members.

Meanwhile, troops and their family members have a new health benefit available under Tricare. Participants in the military health plan are now eligible to receive a free breast pump and other breastfeeding services such as meetings with a Tricare-approved lactation consultant, as required by a provision in the Defense Authorization Act. The benefit is retroactive to Dec. 19, 2014.

To claim it, Tricare members must receive a prescription from their doctor for the pump. They then have the option of ordering one from a pharmacy or medical equipment provider at no out-of-pocket cost, or buying one at a retail store and submitting a receipt. Those who already purchased one between Dec. 19 and now can submit the receipt, along with a copy of their prescription, to Tricare for reimbursement. With retail pumps often costing $250 or more, this could be a valuable benefit.

Another potentially valuable benefit for women veterans is advancing through the House, and the Congressional Budget Office earlier this week put a price tag on it. H.R. 1575, introduced by Rep. Corrine Brown, D-Fla., would establish a permanent program to counsel recently separated women veterans in group retreat settings. The Veterans Affairs Department currently has offered the retreats on a trial basis.

CBO estimates that it would cost $3 million over 2016-2020 to hold six retreats annually. That cost estimate is based on the version of the bill reported out by the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee in mid-May. The full House has not yet taken up the bill.

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