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

2016 Pay Raises, Self-Plus-One, Military Retirement Changes and More

Want to know exactly how much you will be earning in 2016? The federal pay tables are out.

It’s all here, from the Senior Executive Service to the General Schedule to the pay information for law enforcement and Foreign Service officers. (President Obama on Dec. 18 released the official executive order on the 2016 pay raise for federal workers and service members.)

For members of the SES under a certified SES performance appraisal system, the maximum annual salary will increase to $185,100 in 2016, up from the current level of $183,300. Senior executives at the maximum SES pay rate who are not under a certified SES performance appraisal system will see their annual salary grow to $170,400 from the 2015 level of $168,700.

At the lowest end of the SES pay spectrum, the salary will increase from $121,956 (with or without a performance appraisal system) to $123,175 in 2016 (with or without a performance appraisal system).

Senior executives do not receive locality pay like GS employees, but are eligible for performance-based awards.

Hourly workers on the wage grade schedule also are getting pay raises, thanks to Congress. In the recently signed omnibus spending...

The Fine Print on Feds’ Half Day Dec. 24, Gifts from Congress and More

President Obama last week gave federal employees a highly-anticipated Christmas present: a half-day off on Dec. 24. Though the gift was not exactly a surprise, many Government Executive readers were happy the president made it official. “This is wonderful,” one wrote in a comment. “The federal workforce has worked hard to serve this country and has endured unfair targeting from the political antics of Congress. A half day off to spend with family on Christmas Eve is a blessing.”

For anyone curious about the details, acting Office of Personnel Management Director Beth Cobert on Friday sent agency chief human capital officers and human resources directors a memo explaining how the extra time off will work. Here are some basics:

  • The extra time off will be treated as a paid holiday;
  • Those who had planned to take “use or lose” annual leave for the second half of the day on Dec. 24 can reschedule that leave for another time before the end of the leave year. Those who are unable to reschedule the leave will lose it. They may be able to donate it to a co-worker;
  • Employees deemed “essential to the public need” for security or other purposes may still...

How a Shutdown Could Hit Your Wallet

Unfortunately, it’s time for a refresher on how a government shutdown would affect federal employees’ pay and benefits.

While lawmakers and others are hopeful that Congress will pass -- and President Obama will sign -- a short-term continuing resolution until they can reach a budget agreement, another shutdown is a real possibility starting this weekend.  

In the event that the holiday spirit fails to move lawmakers and we have a repeat of October 2013, when much of the government was shuttered for 16 days, here’s what federal workers should keep in mind regarding their pay and benefits:

Salaries: Agencies must pay excepted and exempted employees for the days they work during a shutdown, though they won’t see that pay until after the shutdown ends. If you’re furloughed during a shutdown, there is no guarantee you will be paid, since it’s up to Congress. However, Congress has always approved back pay for federal workers furloughed during shutdowns.

Bonuses: Agencies can give out performance awards during a shutdown, which will be paid to employees when funds are available.

Unemployment Compensation: Furloughed federal workers could be eligible for unemployment compensation, depending on where they live. In 2013 however, many federal...

Details on the Locality Pay Increase, Controversial Petition for Christmas Eve Off, and More

Federal employees returned from Thanksgiving to some big pay news. President Obama on Monday released the details of the first locality pay raise since 2010.

Together, the locality pay adjustments will raise the total federal payroll by 0.3 percent next year. That boost comes on top of a 1 percent increase in base pay in 2016.

Employees can click here to see the locality increase in their particular area.  A few things to note: The vast majority of existing localities will see their adjustments increase between 0.2 and 0.4 percentage points. California’s Bay Area, including San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose, will see the largest increase next year, with the locality rate increasing 0.6 percentage points. Employees in other California cities including Los Angeles and San Diego, as well as those in New York City, N.Y., and Washington, D.C., will receive increases between 0.5 and 0.6 percentage points. The adjustment in the capital area will jump 0.56 percentage points to 24.78 percent of an employee’s base salary.

Feds should also be aware that about 108,000 employees who used to be in the general “rest of U.S...

Open Season Help, Bountiful Bonuses and More

Open season for federal employees to make changes to their health insurance is under way, and this year’s promises to be extra busy because there’s a new option on the table: self-plus-one coverage. Employees who want to take advantage of that new offering, or make other changes, have been running into one problem, though, according to a Federal News Radio report. Extra cybersecurity precautions meant to protect workers’ personal information following the massive data breach revealed last spring have slowed down the online portal where many employees go to alter their Federal Employees Health Benefits Program elections and get their open season questions answered.

To address the delays, OPM decided to focus its attention on the Employee Express email help desk, rather than the phone-in line, officials told Federal News Radio. The email help desk can process about three times more queries than the phone line, OPM said. The agency has also added four extra help desk hours daily. That doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll get a quick answer to your questions: the average wait time for a response is 24 to 72 hours, according to the report.

Employee Express is managed by OPM and allows employees...