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

Momentum for a 5.3 Percent Raise, the Stubborn Retirement Backlog and More

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With the presidential primaries dominating the news, you might be wondering what’s at stake in the election when it comes to your pay and benefits. Republican frontrunner Donald Trump hasn’t offered many specifics about his views on the subject, though he did tell Newsweek last year: “I have great relationships with unions. New York is mostly unionized.” That could be important because he’d likely run up against federal employee unions if he attempted to make big cuts to federal employee compensation. It’s also worth noting, however, that Trump’s company has fought every step of the way as his Las Vegas casino employees attempted to unionize.

On the other side of the aisle, Democratic frontrunner Hillary Clinton also hasn’t been too specific about pay, but she has endorsed added benefits for federal employees, including an expansion of paid parental leave. She co-sponsored a bill as a senator to make all same-sex domestic partners of feds eligible for government benefits.

Where do the other presidential candidates stand on pay and benefits? We have compiled a graphic looking at their views on that, as well as the size of government and reform of the Veterans Affairs Department. Click here to view the graphic.

One pay-related issue that will likely be decided before the next president sets foot in office is the size of the 2017 civilian raise. President Obama proposed a 1.6 percent boost in his budget request, but lawmakers have started pushing for a much bigger increase. Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., is sponsoring a bill that would provide a total 5.3 percent raise, with 3.9 percent going toward an across-the-board increase and 1.4 percent devoted to locality pay. That movement is gaining momentum. Federal News Radio reports that Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., has expressed support for the 5.3 percent figure.

The 2017 raise won’t matter for recent retirees, but retirees face another set of concerns. First, they may need to exercise some patience while waiting for their retirement paperwork to go through. The backlog of retirement claims crept back up again in February, according to new statistics from the Office of Personnel Management. The inventory of applications stood at 22,692 at the end of last month, representing an increase of 2,931 applications or 14.8 percent since January and the biggest backlog in one year.

What does this mean about wait times? If your application is among those that can be processed in 60 days or less, you should plan to wait a little over one month. As of February, the average processing time for those completed in 60 days or less was 36 days. If you have a more complicated case that takes more than 60 days, you should plan to wait more than three months. The average processing time for those cases as of February was 96 days.

Finally, federal employees who travel for work and are concerned about the Zika virus might be able to breathe a bit easier. Office of Personnel Management acting Director Beth Cobert on Monday issued a memo to agency chief human capital officers asking them to “monitor this situation closely.” The memo noted that pregnant women and infants are at increased risk if they contract the virus, which is thought to cause birth defects.

Cobert said agencies should consider using teleconferencing and other alternate arrangements to accomplish work in areas prone to Zika without putting employees at risk. “Supervisors should carefully consider requests from employees who wish to opt out of this travel [to areas with Zika], and/or solicit qualified volunteers if travel is necessary,” the memo added. “Employees and families in affected areas should make every effort to minimize risk by preventing exposure to mosquito bites.”

(Image via  / Shutterstock.com)

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