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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Limiting the Pensions of Wealthy Ex-Presidents, Help With Retirement Decisions and More

President Obama’s parting State of the Union address didn’t offer much by way of concrete proposals that would affect federal employees. The president did, however, call for broader political reforms that public servants might welcome. He appealed to Americans to work together and have “rational, constructive debates” on issues ranging from the size of government to the meaning of liberty. This is unlikely to stop Republican lawmakers from placing federal employees’ pay and benefits on the chopping block, but it might at least change the tone of the discussion.

Meanwhile, Congress is moving ahead on several reforms to both protect federal workers but also hold them more accountable for their job performance. A bill passed by the House early this week would afford federal interns the same safeguards as other employees against sexual harassment and discrimination. Currently, interns fall under a loophole where they are vulnerable to abuse in government offices. An Environmental Protection Agency employee, for instance, reportedly targeted women at the agency – including interns – frequently, and was able to retire before being dismissed. During a July hearing, lawmakers on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee said the EPA was too slow and not harsh enough...

Pay Banding, TSP Changes and More

It’s still early, of course, but the biggest personnel news this year may be that the Defense Department is moving more civilian employees out of the General Schedule. GovExec’s Eric Katz has the story on how the Air Force is transitioning 13,000 civilians to what service officials believe will be a more flexible personnel system. The new system will consolidate 15 GS grades into four categories. While this so far affects relatively few federal employees, the Pentagon often serves as a test bed for wider workforce changes, so feds from other agencies might want to tune in to how this is working out.

Those near the end of their careers may be happy to know that the Office of Personnel Management continued to whittle away at the retirement claims backlog last month. OPM processed more claims than it received in December 2015 -- 5,916 v. 4,753 -- ending the year with a backlog of 11,399 claims, slightly less than the previous year’s year-end backlog. January is a peak time for employees to submit their retirement paperwork though. Last year at this time, the backlog spiked to 22,636 claims. While the majority of claims are...

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...