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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Retirement Requests Drop, Union Lobbies Ivanka Trump for Paid Parental Leave and More

The Office of Personnel Management saw a decrease in the number of new retirement claims it received in April, but the agency slowed down its processing of retirement requests too.

According to data released Monday by OPM, there were 6,581 new retirement claims last month, down from the 7,216 submitted in March. The rate of new claims has dropped consistently since the spike of 15,317 new claims filed in January.

But while the number of claims the agency processed surged to 10,602 claims in March, the pace slowed back down last month to 8,179 claims processed. And while the total number of outstanding claims dropped from 20,530 in March to 18,932 last month, the percentage of claims processed within 60 days dropped from 77 percent to 27 percent.

Meanwhile, even though the federal government has been spared from a shutdown – at least until this fall --  the Congressional Research Service released a report on the causes and effects of government closures, as well as what agencies can do better to prepare for them.

The report concluded, unsurprisingly, that shutdowns generally occur when Congress and the president cannot reach a deal on an annual budget...

Shutdown Threat Deferred, Uber Rides Reimbursed and More

The uncertainty surrounding whether the government will remain open may soon be over, as congressional leaders have reached a funding agreement that would run through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

As Eric Katz reports, the omnibus spending deal that the House passed Wednesday and the Senate is expected to pass Thursday includes some of President Trump’s request in terms of a boost in Defense and Homeland Security spending. But some of his other priorities were largely ignored, particularly funding for the border wall and cuts to domestic agencies.

Don’t breathe too easily, though. Trump -- apparently dissatisfied with the deal brokered by lawmakers -- tweeted Tuesday that it was only reached because of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and that “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”

In other news on Capitol Hill, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation (H.R. 274) Tuesday requiring the federal government to reimburse employees for work-related travel via ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The bill requires the General Services Administration to come up with rules allowing federal workers to expense such travel, which also includes bicycle rental services like D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare. GSA...

Officials Debate Implications of CBO Pay Report

Tuesday’s report from the Congressional Budget Office comparing the compensation of federal employees with their counterparts in the private sector is provoking mixed reactions from lawmakers and union officials.

The study concluded that while federal employees with bachelor’s degrees and less earned significantly more in total compensation than their counterparts in the private sector, those with advanced degrees have lagged behind their peers outside of government. What’s driving the gap between public and private sector workers with high school and undergraduate degrees is primarily attributable to the value of federal employees’ defined benefit pension plan and a decrease in federal hiring—older federal workers tend to earn more because they’ve been on the job longer, the report said.

Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and commissioned the study, said the gap between public sector and private sector pay demonstrates the need to change how the government compensates employees.

“CBO’s report underscores the urgent need for comprehensive civil service reform,” he said in a statement. “We need a system that values and rewards performance over longevity. The committee is embarking on various reforms to bring accountability and modernization to...

A Guide to Your Pay and Benefits During a Government Shutdown, and More

When lawmakers return to Washington next week, they will have only a few days to approve a spending measure in order to avert a government shutdown beginning April 29.

It remains unclear whether Congress and the White House can come to an agreement on a continuing resolution to fund the government in time, or if they will allow appropriations to lapse. Here’s what federal workers can expect in the realm of pay and benefits if the government closes, based on guidance from the Office of Personnel Management from the last shutdown in October 2013.

Salaries: Agencies are required to pay employees deemed essential or exempt from the shutdown, although that money won’t arrive until after the government reopens. Furloughed employees have no guarantee that they will be compensated at the end of the shutdown, although Congress traditionally has issued back pay. Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., already has introduced legislation to ensure all federal workers are paid swiftly if Congress misses its deadline and agencies close.

Bonuses: Agencies can award performance bonuses during a shutdown, but they won’t be paid until after the government reopens.

Unemployment: Federal workers who are furloughed are eligible for unemployment compensation in some...

Predicted Federal Retirement Spike Hasn’t Materialized, But a Pay Raise Has

The big news this week is Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney’s budget guidance to federal agencies, which ends the hiring freeze that began Jan. 23 but requires departments to come up with plans to reduce spending and shrink the federal workforce.

Mulvaney confirmed that President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget request will include an across-the-board 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees, though the budget director didn’t specify what portion of the increase would be included in base pay, and what would go toward locality adjustments.

As Eric Katz reported, “the increase would be slightly less than the 2.1 percent raise feds received in 2017, though it would eclipse the 1.6 percent pay bump President Obama initially proposed for this year.” Obama increased the rate only to match a Congressionally-mandated raise for military service members. The raise isn’t official though—Trump still must take additional steps before it can be implemented.

National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association president Dick Thissen applauded the raise, but said it’s insufficient under the circumstances: “Following years of below-market raises and frozen pay, both Congress and the President should pursue a more robust increase...