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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Some Lawmakers Are Feeling More Generous Toward Feds

Congress has not exactly been kind to federal employees’ pay and benefits over the last couple years.

Are lawmakers finally turning a corner to help out the civilian workforce? Several members of Congress have introduced legislation in recent days to boost or improve an array of federal benefits. Of course, introducing a bill is a long way from passing it.

Here’s a look at what is being considered:

Retirement COLAs

Remember chained CPI? It would have created a new way to calculate the Consumer Price Index that would lead to less generous cost-of-living adjustments for federal retirees and Social Security beneficiaries. President Obama supported it as a way to reduce the federal deficit before removing from his fiscal 2015 budget proposal.

Well, Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., has a different idea, and it’s kind of the opposite of that. He introduced a bill that would base annuity increases to enrollees of the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System on CPI-E, or CPI for the elderly.

That formula, which the Labor Department already calculates, would lead to slightly higher annuities for federal retirees. Wonkblog has called CPI-E the “progressive alternative” to chained CPI. The measure weighs ...

Feds Petition for More Pay; Some Could Get It

Federal employees were, for the most part, not happy with President Obama’s proposal to once again raise their pay 1 percent in 2015.

Some are petitioning the White House to provide a larger increase.

One fed has taken to We the People, an online petition system created by the Obama administration, to ask for a 5 percent pay raise next year. Every raise after that should track inflation, the petition says.

“Federal civilian employees have paid their debt to the government,” the petition’s creator wrote. “We all deserve more pay for the devotion and hard work put forth every day.”

The petition had just 58 signatures as of Wednesday, well short of the 100,000 it needs to require an official White House response. If advocates of a larger pay raise for federal employees want to crack threshold, they may have to make it more Justin Bieber-focused.

Raise for Senior Level Managers

Most federal employees fall on the General Schedule and have received an across-the-board 1 percent raise in 2014. They are primed to receive the same bump in 2015.

Blue-collar workers on the Wage Grade schedule will require separate legislation to receive any raise, as Congress provided ...

Locality Pay Still in a Deep Freeze

Federal employees could be heading for their second consecutive year of a 1 percent pay raise.

President Obama announced the proposal earlier this week. Many are unhappy with the modest size of the recommendation, though clearly a small raise is better than no raise -- which was what feds received in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

However, while federal workers’ base pay likely will see a boost in 2015, that’s only one part of their overall compensation. The other aspect, locality pay rates, has been frozen since 2010. Obama has not yet recommended any adjustments for 2015.

Obama recommended a 2 percent raise to feds’ base pay in 2010, but suggested a freeze to locality pay rates. Congress instead granted a 1.5 percent base raise and a 0.5 percent boost to the location adjustments.

This two-pronged raise, which historically had been the standard approach to providing federal pay raises, created a location-based differential in the total pay hikes that employees received annually.  Employees in the Washington, D.C. region received an overall salary bump of 2.42 percent in 2010, for example, while the “rest of United States” category received just a 1.77 percent increase.

The Office of ...

Military Families Are Using Food Stamps More Than Ever

Much has been made of military compensation in recent months.

Congress reduced, then quickly restored, cuts to the pensions of working-age retirees. Pentagon officials have talked repeatedly about the need to curb rapidly expanding pay and benefits costs, while military advocacy groups have lobbied for maintaining current levels.

By at least one measure, many members of the military are still struggling to get by.

Military families used food stamps to purchase supplies at Defense Department grocery stores in fiscal 2013 more than in any other year, according to the Defense Commissary Agency.   

Members of the military redeemed almost $104 million worth of food stamps at commissaries from October 2012 through September 2013 fiscal year, as first reported by CNN. The figure has risen consistently since the economic recession hit in fiscal 2009.

Military families used about $5 million more worth of food stamps last year than in 2012. Their use of this government assistance, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, has increased by more than 300 percent since 2007.

An increased use of food stamps in recent years is not unique to the military; Americans across the country have turned to the federal government’s assistance program during ...

Federal Union Worries Congress Will Target It Next

After fighting to end a three-year pay freeze, reverse sequestration spending caps and avoid pension contribution hikes for current federal employees in 2013, unions representing the federal workforce are turning their attention to new obstacles in 2014.

For the American Federation of Government Employees, the primary focus could be protecting its own existence.

At its 2014 Legislative and Mobilization conference, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. identified attempts to cut official time for federal employee union representatives and efforts to ban automatic dues deduction as major existential threats to the organization and its ability to fight for its members.

Official time allows certain employees to perform union activities while on the clock at their federal jobs. Cox and other unions have defended the practice as a fair tradeoff for the mandate that requires federal employee unions to represent all bargaining units in negotiations, whether or not they pay dues to a union. Republicans in the House and Senate have introduced several proposals in the last few years to ban or restrict the use of official time. Cox emphasized the need to fight any attempts to pass these bills into law, including by quietly attaching them to larger pieces of ...