Pay & Benefits Watch Pay & Benefits WatchPay & Benefits Watch
Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

A Big Appetite for Additional Hack Protections, Extra Paid Sick Leave for Some Feds and More

The hack of federal employees’ personal data maintained by the Office of Personnel Management continued to dominate benefits news last week, with lawmakers pushing for increased protections against misuse of the stolen information. The Senate Appropriations Committee last Thursday approved a measure that would give hack victims 10 years of credit monitoring services and $5 million in liability protection.

A top House Democrat went even further, calling for lifetime protection for victims of the breach. It’s not even clear if that would be enough, said Rep. Steny Hoyer, D-Md. “There may be some things we cannot compensate for,” he said.

The federal workforce certainly seems to have an appetite for protective services. CSID, the company OPM selected to provide credit and identity theft protection to the 4.2 million current and former federal employees affected by the initial breach of personnel files, has seen about 22 percent of hack victims enroll into its services. That is compared to a typical response rate of 3 percent to 5 percent of victims in large-scale private sector breaches.

The enthusiastic response could set the bar higher for whichever contractor OPM selects to provide the “suite of services” that has been promised to...

Removing Poor Performers, Avoiding Bad Financial Advice, Extending Probation for New Feds and More

When an agency has to reduce the size of its workforce, should poor performers be first in line to go? That’s a no-brainer for most private sector organizations. But the issue is less straightforward in government. Senate lawmakers are considering a provision in the 2016 Defense authorization bill that would make performance the only factor officials need consider when conducting a reduction in force. But House Democrats and some labor groups aren’t happy about it.

“Current law requires agencies to consider following four factors: tenure, veterans’ status, length of service and performance ratings. We believe all four of these factors are important and should be preserved,” a dozen Democrats wrote in a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees July 15.

The lawmakers view two other provisions in the 2016 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1735) as hostile to federal workers as well. One would extend the probationary period of new employees from one year to two and give the military departments authority to extend the probationary period indefinitely. The other would delay automatic pay increases for poor performers.

“Since employees have fewer civil service protections during the probationary...

Cuts to TSP, a Deeper Look at Low Morale and More

In a move that is getting old, lawmakers are once again looking at cuts in federal employees’ benefits as a way to offset increased spending in other areas. This time, the potential target is the Thrift Savings Plan’s government securities (G) fund.

Senators are looking for ways to finance a long-term extension of highway and transit funding, and while they had not officially endorsed particular cost-cutting proposals as of mid-day Wednesday, the National Association of Active and Retired Federal Employees was concerned about reports that a change in the rate of return on TSP’s G Fund was on the table.

“At a time when federal employees, retirees, job seekers and their families are reeling from news that their most personal information and financial data has been compromised, it is unconscionable that this very constituency would be targeted for cuts to pay for completely unrelated legislation,” NARFE National President Richard Thissen wrote in a July 14 letter to senators.

A similar change was proposed in an early version of the House Budget Resolution but later dropped, NARFE noted in the letter. “It should be discarded again,” the group stated.

Aside from hitting federal workers when they are already down...

Big Changes in Overtime Pay, Maternity Leave and More

Last week, Navy Secretary Ray Mabus tripled maternity leave for women in the Navy and Marine Corps from 6 weeks to 18 weeks.

“Meaningful maternity leave when it matters most is one of the best ways that we can support the women who serve our county. This flexibility is an investment in our people and our Services, and a safeguard against losing skilled service members,” Mabus said.

The Defense Department allows the service secretaries to designate additional “convalescent leave” in excess of 30 days, authority Mabus exercised in expanding time off for mothers. The new policy, effective immediately, applies retroactively to any woman who has been authorized maternity leave following the birth of a child since the beginning of the year. According to the Navy: “A mother does not need to take all of her leave at once; however, she is only entitled to the use of this type of leave within one year of her child’s birth.”

Also last week, President Obama announced he was taking executive action to make more lower-income, white-collar workers eligible for overtime compensation. The initiative, once finalized, could benefit hundreds of thousands of federal employees.

According to data from the Office of Personnel...

Identity Protection, Excessive Military ER Visits, Wellness Review and More

With at least 4 million current and former federal employees affected by the Office of Personnel Management data breach (and probably many more), you’d think more than a few dozen would be interested in receiving free credit monitoring for life. So it’s a little surprising that as of July 1, only 43 individuals had signed a petition urging the White House to ensure feds receive the protection.

The petition was initiated June 19 on the We The People website created by the White House to give citizens a way to communicate directly with the federal government.

The creators are requesting that the government provide lifetime identity protection for those victimized by the breach. As they note:

The breach of the OPM personnel and security clearance systems exposed the most sensitive personal information of more than 4 million current and former Federal employees. This data is far more sensitive than credit card and banking information and contains information that many people use to verify their identity such as mothers maiden name, birthplace, siblings names etc. Given the fact that many organizations that procure this type of data often don't act on it for months while waiting for the...