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

How to Avoid Costly Mistakes Filling Out Your TSP Forms

The board that administers the Thrift Savings Plan has some simple but important advice for successfully submitting forms to make changes to TSP accounts.

In a new YouTube video, the TSP board offers five tips to help federal employees complete TSP requests, including those for withdrawals, and to do so correctly, “the first time.” That would indicate that a lot of people haven’t been conducting transactions correctly.

So what does TSP suggest?

  • Use Online Wizards: Enrollees can log into their accounts at, click “Online Transactions” and select the appropriate form for their transaction. A “wizard” will walk users through the process of correctly filling out forms and electronically submit them. Users also can print out the forms at the end of the transaction and mail or fax them to the TSP.
  • Be Mindful of Boxes: TSP enrollees should make sure they check the right box for the desired transaction, and then fill out the corresponding section. For example, if you want to transfer a withdrawal, then check that box and then fill out the applicable section on transfers.
  • Check Your Status: If you leave government service, you can keep your money in the TSP. But if ...

Agencies Are Paying More to Avoid Costly Discrimination Adjudication

Federal agencies doled out more money to settle discrimination complaints in fiscal 2012 than in the previous year, according to an analysis of Equal Employment Opportunity Commission reports.

Agencies paid out $29 million in settlement-related monetary awards in fiscal 2012, up 18.8 percent from $24.4 million in fiscal 2011. That total includes $3.4 million in “pre-complaint” or informal complaint settlement money – at an average payout of $4,652 – and a total of $25.6 million in lump sum payments to settle cases in the formal complaint stage.

While the average payout for settling cases before they reach the formal complaint process has decreased since fiscal 2008, the total amount is up slightly from $3 million in fiscal 2011, according to the analysis from Tully Rinckey, a federal sector labor and employment law firm in Washington. The fiscal 2012 lump sum payment to settle discrimination cases in the formal complaint stage is up from $21.4 million in fiscal 2011. The EEOC defines a lump sum payment as “a single payment made in a settlement which does not identify the portion of the amount paid for back pay, compensatory damages, attorney fees, etc.”

The total amount of money ...

Two Pay and Benefits Bills for Disabled Vets to Watch

Congress has been working on some important legislation recently that will benefit the country’s service-disabled veterans.

The 2014 Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act (S. 2258) now heads to President Obama for his signature, after the House passed the bill on Tuesday. The legislation increases the COLA for vets’ disability benefits starting Dec. 1, 2014. The rate of the increase will be the same as the cost-of-living adjustment for Social Security recipients. The annual COLA legislation, which the Senate approved last week, also affects the disability payments and compensation for vets’ surviving spouses and children.

And on Wednesday afternoon, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved bipartisan legislation that would give disabled vets hired as federal employees access to their full year’s sick leave immediately upon starting their jobs.

Full-time federal workers in their first year on the job have no sick leave when they start, and accrue four hours of such leave per pay period. That amounts to a balance of 104 hours at the end of their first year. But disabled vets, who must attend regular medical appointments to take care of their health, and also to continue receiving their veterans’ benefits, quickly burn up their ...

Feds Can Donate to More Charities, But Will They?

Federal employees now can donate to thousands more charities as part of the 2014 Combined Federal Campaign. The question is, will they?

This year the Office of Personnel Management has launched the Universal Giving program, which allows feds to donate to more than 24,000 charities nationwide for the annual CFC drive. Before the change, employees could only give to national charities, or those in their specific CFC region. This greatly expands the universe of charities: for instance, federal workers in the Washington area, who could donate to 4,000 groups last year, now have the option of donating to 24,000 organizations in 2014.

“This is important as the American workforce becomes more mobile – [federal employees can donate to] the charities closest to [their] hearts regardless of the region they currently work in,” said OPM Director Katherine Archuleta in a call with reporters on Wednesday. There are 151 CFC regions.

But participation in the CFC has decreased notably over the last four years. Donations dipped 19 percent in 2013 over 2012, marking the fourth consecutive year of declining contributions for the federal government’s annual giving drive. Last year feds gave $209 million, down from $258.3 million in ...

How Obama’s Federal Pay Plan Dashed a Bigger Raise

President Obama made it official just before the start of the Labor Day holiday: He plans to give civilian federal employees and service members a 1 percent pay boost in 2015, barring congressional intervention, of course. But what would the actual raise be if the president and Congress stayed silent?

Based on the latest available data, federal employees would receive a 1.3 percent pay raise under the formula in the law, while service members would be entitled to a 1.8 percent bump. If the president had not informed Congress of his alternative pay plan for feds by the end of August, then the increase mandated by the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act would have kicked in. Under FEPCA, the raise is determined by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent for federal employees; for service members, it’s also based on the ECI but without the 0.5 percent reduction.

Presidents, however, largely have ignored the formula under FEPCA, preferring to offer their own figure, which under the law they can do. The commander-in-chief has the authority to set an alternate pay raise for military personnel and civilian employees, citing a national emergency ...