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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Military Families Are More Worried Than Ever About the Effects of Budget Cuts

Downsizing within the Defense Department and the long-term impacts of sequestration are creating anxiety about job security among military service members and their families, according to a new survey.

Forty-six percent of middle-class military families (those in pay grades E-6 and above with annual household incomes of at least $50,000) report being “concerned” about their short-term job security, the latest survey from the First Command Financial Behaviors Index found. “That’s the highest level of concern recorded since the question was added to the monthly survey in spring 2013,” stated a news release from First Command Financial Services.

“Almost seven-in-10 survey respondents indicate anxiety regarding sequestration and almost half expect to be extremely or very affected by anticipated cuts to defense spending,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services Inc. The Defense Department has planned to downsize in the coming years because of troops withdrawing from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The anxiety is wide-ranging, covering fears over smaller annual pay increases and benefits, such as housing allowances, education and retirement, to relocation concerns related to BRAC (although Congress so far has rejected the Obama administration’s calls for more Base Realignment and Closure rounds).

Military families are cutting ...

Three Charts Showing How White Males Hold the Highest-Paid Federal Jobs

Minority and female workers make up more of the federal workforce than they did 10 years ago, but on average they bring home a smaller paycheck than their white, male colleagues.

According to the latest data from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, women in fiscal 2011 made up 43.81 percent of the federal workforce, a slightly smaller portion than the previous year. Overall, the share of Latino, black and Asian workers ticked up slightly since fiscal 2002.

However, female and minority employees were generally in lower-ranking positions than white males. The average General Schedule grade level of employees governmentwide was a GS-10.2 in fiscal 2011. Men averaged a 10.7, a full grade more than the female average of 9.6. Check out the chart below for the full range of GS averages. 

Males also filled the vast majority of senior pay level positons in federal government. While more executives and managers are now female than in fiscal 2002 -- when three out of four senior pay positions were filled by men -- 70 percent are still male. And while about 18 percent of federal employees in fiscal 2011 were black, just 8.1 percent of senior pay positions were ...

How Phased Retirement Affects Your TSP

As feds gear up for Nov. 6 – the date retirement-eligible employees can begin submitting their applications for phased retirement – we will to try to periodically address your questions and inform you about how it will affect your pay and benefits.

In that spirit, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board has weighed in on how phased retirement affects feds’ Thrift Savings Plan, their 401(k)-style defined contribution accounts. Phased retirees can continue to contribute to the TSP, and the same restrictions regarding loans, financial hardship withdrawals and age-based in-service withdrawals apply. Other important TSP-related items for partial retirees to keep in mind, according to the board:

  • You aren’t eligible for post-employment withdrawals.
  • You will not be subject to required minimum distributions or the withdrawal deadline.
  • All contributions to TSP accounts will be calculated on the basic pay received each pay period and “will not consider the annuity payment from OPM.”

More NASA Employees Unionize

Professional support specialists at the space agency overwhelmingly chose union representation with the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers this week. The union, which already represents 200 engineers and scientists at NASA in Washington, gained 320 more employees in the vote. Professional support specialists ...

Can You Accept That Gift? Take Our Quiz

It is widely agreed the federal workforce enjoys a relatively generous benefits package.

It is one of the few sectors that still offers a defined-benefit retirement option, and the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program is considered a model of efficiency in employer-sponsored health care.

There is one perk, however, federal employees cannot enjoy: gifts for doing their jobs.

Federal employees have long been prohibited from taking bribes. Such “corrupt” payments, as they are known in federal statute, also include illegal gratuities and generally any quid pro quo agreement. Governmentwide laws that regulate the simple awarding of gifts to executive branch workers, however, are much more recent.

A 1965 executive order signed by President Lyndon Johnson was the first official guidance to lay out the dos and don’ts for federal employees offered gifts. Those regulations were codified, with minor changes, by the 1989 Ethics Reform Act.

The laws are fairly strict, comprehensive and at times, oddly specific. Having a hard time keeping it all straight? Luckily for you, the Congressional Research Service recently put together a report summarizing the restrictions, and we have put together a quiz to test your knowledge.

You can find a link to the answers after ...

Some New Feds Could Soon Get Bonus Sick Leave

Disabled veterans entering federal civilian service should not have to wait to receive sick leave, according to a bipartisan group of lawmakers.

The 2014 Wounded Warriors Federal Leave Act -- introduced by Reps. G.K. Butterfield, D-N.C.; Elijah Cummings, D-Md.; Stephen Lynch, D-Mass.; and Blake Farenthold, R-Texas -- would give former military members injured during combat access to their full year’s sick leave immediately upon starting their federal jobs. Currently, vets -- along with all new feds -- enter the civil service with no sick leave, and accumulate it over each pay period.

This bill would instead enable disabled veterans to take up front all 104 hours of sick leave they would eventually compile over a full year. The lawmakers said veterans starting a new federal job do not have sufficient leave to attend the medical appointments necessary to treat disabilities connected to their service.

“The lack of initial sick leave for new federal workers places a significant burden on our disabled veterans during their first year of federal employment,” Lynch said. “Our wounded warrior federal employees who are just starting out in the federal workforce are often faced with the difficult choice of having to take unpaid leave to attend their ...