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

TSP Glitch, New Leadership Courses, VA Benefit Changes and More

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The Office of Personnel Management is offering two new Web-based leadership courses for agencies to use in their executive development programs: Emotionally Intelligent Leadership and Leading Change.   

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership is designed to help federal leaders “apply the principles of emotional intelligence, defined as the capacity for recognizing our own feelings and those of others, and for managing emotions effectively in others and ourselves.” Research shows a strong link between emotional intelligence and performance, productivity, and employee engagement, OPM said, noting “The course is highly-interactive, offering self-checks and realistic scenarios to increase and enhance learning.”

Leading Change will allow executives “to practice their leadership skills in a realistic work environment.” According to OPM, “The executive will need to effectively manage a newly-formed team and make strategic decisions about the future that will impact their colleagues, the relationship with their supervisor, and ultimately the outcome of the initiative.” 

The courses are part of OPM’s strategic commitment to help agencies create inclusive work environments where the workforce is fully engaged, and in support of the President’s Management Agenda “People and Culture” pillar, according to the agency.

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Do you actively manage the funds in your Thrift Savings Plan account? If you’re planning to move money between funds you should know there’s a problem with the automated system.  

Here’s the full message from the TSP here:

Due to a technical issue, interfund transfers are currently unavailable on the ThriftLine’s automated system. We are working to resolve the issue and apologize for the inconvenience. In the meantime, you may complete interfund transfers by choosing option 3 from the ThriftLine’s main menu to speak to a Participant Service Representative. You may also log into My Account and visit “Online Transactions.”

While we're thinking of retirement, OPM barely made a dent in the backlog of federal retirement claims in May, according to data released earlier this week. The backlog fell to 14,035 in May from 14,517 in April, a decrease of just 3.3 percent. That follows a 24 percent decrease from March to April.

OPM processed 75 percent of cases in 60 days or less in May, down from 76 percent in April. The average number of days it took for those applications that were resolved in less than 60 days was 37 days in May. It was 50 days in April.

The retirement claims backlog typically spikes in January and February and then gradually falls throughout the year. Clearing up the retirement claims backlog has been an ongoing struggle for OPM and a constant source of frustration for federal retirees.

Some potentially good news for disabled veterans: The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs on Wednesday introduced a bill to increase veterans’ disability benefits.  The Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2016 (S.3032) would increase the rates of VA disability compensation, dependency compensation for surviving children and spouses, and the clothing allowance for veterans based on rising costs of living. A similar bill (H.R. 4782) was introduced in the House in March.

The cost-of-living adjustment, which is equal to the amount of the adjustment given to Social Security recipients, is determined by the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index on a yearly basis. The cost-of-living adjustment for veterans would go into effect on December 1, 2016.

In other news for disabled vets, those new to the federal workforce will soon be eligible for a new type of leave. The 2015 Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act gives 104 hours of sick leave up front to first-year feds who are vets with a service-connected disability rating of at least 30 percent to attend medical appointments related to their disability. It applies to those hired on, or after Nov. 5, 2016, and lasts for 12 months from the date of hire.

As Kellie Lunney reported earlier, OPM has determined “the law also could apply to eligible disabled vets who once worked in the federal government, left, and were rehired to a civil service job on or after Nov. 5, when the law takes effect. Federal employees who take a break from their civilian jobs to serve in the military and are injured during that service also would be eligible for disabled veteran leave, according to a proposed rule OPM published in the Federal Register on Monday.” 

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