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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Senate Support for Tripling the Pay Raise, a Scholarship Deadline and More

It’s official: There is now Senate-side support for giving federal employees a 5.3 percent pay raise in 2017. Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, introduced legislation last week that would give civilians a 3.9 percent boost next year, plus a 1.4 percent bump in locality pay. The figure is more than three times President Obama’s proposed 1.6 percent pay raise for federal workers in 2017.

Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., made good on his pledge to support that level of raise, by co-sponsoring the bill. Sens. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland and Sherrod Brown of Ohio are also co-sponsors; Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., introduced a companion bill in the House.

It’s unclear what will become of the efforts, since Democratic attempts to provide a more generous raise were unsuccessful last year. Connolly, Schatz and Cardin in 2015 sponsored similar legislation, which would have given federal workers a 3.8 percent raise in 2016. Instead, they received the 1.3 percent increase that Obama supported.

In another possible positive sign for federal employees, the House Ways and Means Committee’s panel on Social Security earlier this week discussed the merits of a measure that would reduce the retirement...

Autism Coverage, Diplomat Pay, Retirement Relief and More

Would you rather have job security or an opportunity to make more money? Apparently most senior executives at the Veterans Affairs Department would take security over pay, when considering a department proposal to move some executives from Title 5 to Title 38 as a way to streamline the hiring and firing of senior personnel. That was the takeaway from a survey by the Senior Executives Association, which found deep skepticism that higher compensation would offset greater personal and professional risk.

Respondents also expressed “a deep fear of politicization of their jobs, the SES, the federal civil service, and the distribution of services and benefits to veterans,” SEA found.

Not surprisingly, given the tenor of recent Congressional hearings about VA management, “the survey revealed many career executives feel that neither VA nor Congressional leaders are approaching the challenges within the agency with the nuance and thoughtfulness necessary to find solutions that would help not only the agency and its employees, but the veterans the agency serves.”

In a move aimed at helping at least some veterans, the House Republican budget proposal for 2017 would allow disabled veterans to deposit their disability checks into the Thrift Savings Plan. Currently, when service members...

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

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...

Insurance for Domestic Partners, Pay Cuts for Federal Agents and More

The Obama administration has been busy updating the federal government’s regulations relating to shared benefits ever since the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s requirement that spouses must be of the opposite sex.

This week, the Office of Personnel Management updated the applicability of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program to include the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees and retirees. The new guidance corrected a final rule issued in late 2015 to define exactly who is now eligible for the benefit, which was created in 2002 and assists with health care costs for participants who need help with daily personal functions or who have a severe cognitive illness. It also covers home care or care in a nursing home or assisted living facility -- benefits not often included under health insurance plans.

OPM defined a domestic partnership as two adults in a “committed relationship,” who are “of the opposite sex or same sex.” To be eligible, the individual and the current or former fed must be each other’s sole domestic partner “and intend to remain so indefinitely,” live together, share responsibility for each other’s financial obligations, not be related and...

Help With Student Loans, Paid Sick Leave for Contractors

The Office of Personnel Management is giving agencies a March 31 deadline for reporting student loan repayment benefits data for 2015. OPM wants to know how many employees received benefits, the job classification of those employees, and the amount of money they received.

Agencies are authorized to repay certain “federally made, insured, or guaranteed” student loans in order to recruit or retain highly qualified personnel.  

As Kellie Lunney reported in October, agencies have been increasing their investment in the perk, although it remains rarely used.  

Thirty-three agencies awarded more than $58.7 million in student loan repayment benefits to 8,469 federal employees in 2014. That’s more than a 15 percent increase from 2013 in the number of employees receiving the benefit, and an 11 percent boost in agencies’ overall investment in the incentive. Employees at five agencies (Defense, Justice, State, Veterans Affairs, and the Securities and Exchange Commission) accounted for nearly 75 percent of the benefit’s recipients in 2014.

Nine other agencies, including the U.S. Agency for International Development and Commodities Futures Trading Commission, created student loan repayment programs in 2014, though they did not provide any awards to employees that year.

The average amount of...