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

Will Feds Be Asked to Sacrifice More in 2014?

By most accounts, 2013 was not a good year to be a federal employee.

Feds were hampered by a third consecutive year of frozen pay, forced to absorb furloughs and slashed budgets from sequestration, sent home without pay or forced to work with only the promise of delayed paychecks during the government shutdown, encumbered with disparaging rhetoric after various scandals and threatened by a wide array of legislative proposals to cut various benefits.

For the federal workforce, however, 2013 has ended on a bit of positive news.

First, a 1 percent, across-the-board pay raise seems all but guaranteed, with the House adjourned for the year and no longer capable of blocking President Obama’s 2014 proposal. Second, while the recently struck budget deal requires future federal employees to contribute more toward their retirement, current workers were spared.

So, with a two-year budget deal awaiting Obama’s signature and a pay hike on the way, are federal employees off the hook in the year to come? Or is the recent reprieve a temporary calm before the storm, with lawmakers ready to once again target the “low-hanging fruit” that is the federal workforce?

For his part, President Obama has said enough is ...

Mixed Reviews for Proposed Pension Contribution Hikes

The budget deal has been struck.

To review, the compromise package to roll back sequestration cuts required by the 2011 Budget Control Act for two years targets federal employees’ pensions as expected. While current workers were spared, civil servants hired after 2013 would pay 4.4 percent of their annual salaries toward their defined retirement benefit. This marks a 1.3 percent increase from the current contribution requirement for new hires, though any employee hired in or before 2012 pays only 0.8 percent of their salary toward their pension.

Military retirees’ pensions would also take a hit, as the deal requires a less generous annual cost of living adjustment. Overall, the plan takes $12 billion in savings from federal workers.

So, what do federal employee advocates think of the deal? Well, the reviews are mixed.

The American Federation of Government Employees rejected the deal, saying the negotiators established a false choice between effective pay cuts and the ongoing fallout of sequestration.

“AFGE rejects the notion that there should be a trade-off between funding the programs to which federal employees have devoted their lives, and their own livelihoods,” said J. David Cox, the union’s national president.

Initial reports suggested ...

Obamacare Could Make FEHBP More Popular

The number of federal employees who are eligible for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, but not enrolled, is somewhere between 100,000 and 200,000 people, FEHBP experts agree. “I’m sure it’s a considerable number of people,” says David Ermer, a managing partner at Washington-based Ermer Law Group who represents the Association of Federal Health Organizations, a trade association of FEHBP plans. So what are uninsured feds’ options now that everyone is required to have health insurance under the 2010 Affordable Care Act?

The answer is: It depends.

Federal employees who have opted out of FEHBP coverage do so for different reasons. For some, FEHBP might be too expensive so they choose not to be insured at all, while other feds are on their spouse’s health care plan. Then there are part-time employees and seasonal workers, most of whom are not currently eligible to enroll in FEHBP. Federal workers who don’t participate in FEHBP because of cost concerns eventually will have to choose between enrolling in the federal plan and in the insurance exchange network created by Obamacare. If they don’t want FEHBP, then “they are going to have to look at signing up ...

Don’t Worry About Obamacare – Feds’ Health Benefits Are Safe

People tend to define financial security by the numbers in their paychecks: Namely, salary, bonuses, and deductions for health care and retirement benefits.

Federal employees, many of whom probably scoffed at the mention of bonuses, face uncertainty over pay and pensions right now. It’s looking like they might get their first across-the-board pay increase in three years in 2014, if Congress doesn’t reject President Obama’s proposed 1 percent pay bump between now and the end of the year. The boost is probably more symbolic than actually useful to many people, but still, it’s something. The debate over federal employee pensions -- whether to require feds to contribute more to them or to eliminate them altogether -- continues to crop up in deficit reduction talks in Washington. Then there’s the certainty of more furloughs in 2014 if sequestration continues, or heaven help us, there is another government shutdown.

There’s a bright spot though: the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. Yes, premiums have increased; some government workers have complained that increases in their premiums, co-payments and prescription drug expenses during the past few years are much more than the average and add insult to injury on top of ...

Paying the Price: Feds Increasingly Unhappy With Salaries

Despite an unprecedented three-year pay freeze, a majority of federal employees are still at least somewhat satisfied with their pay. That percentage of employees who feel that way, however, is plummeting.

In 2010 -- the last year feds received an across-the-board raise -- 66 percent of federal workers provided a positive response when asked, “Considering everything, how satisfied are you with your pay?” according to the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. In the 2013 report, which the Office of Personnel Management released last week, just 54 percent of respondents said the same.

While the overall results remain positive, just 14 percent of respondents said they were “very satisfied” with their pay. Not surprisingly, the results also varied by how much the employees were getting paid. Among GS 1-6 employees -- who earn annual base salaries of around $18,000 to $40,000 -- just 35 percent expressed satisfaction with pay. Compare that to GS 13-15 workers -- who earn between $72,000 and $130,000 before locality adjustments -- 65 percent of whom were happy with their pay. While the high-end earners are still more satisfied, they have dropped off 14 percentage points since 2010, while lower-end earners’ satisfaction has declined by just 8 percentage points ...