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

Pay Raise Advances (Sort Of), Employee Relocation Costs Questioned and More

A House panel approved a major spending bill on Wednesday that is the traditional vehicle for the annual federal civilian employee pay raise.

The full Appropriations Committee marked up and reported out the fiscal 2016 Financial Services and General Government bill, which is silent on a pay raise for federal workers in 2016. It doesn’t include money for one, but it also leaves out language that would prohibit it. The bill does, however, prohibit pay raises for the vice president and other senior political appointees.  

President Obama has recommended a 1.3 percent pay raise for feds in 2016, and since lawmakers so far have done nothing to block that, it seems likely a 1.3 percent boost ultimately will take effect. If there is no specific legislative language that provides funds or prohibits an across-the-board raise in any bills -- either stand-alone or omnibus legislation -- then the president has the authority to determine a pay raise based on the Employment Cost Index.

The president has until Aug. 31 to formally announce his 2016 pay raise proposal for federal employees. If the president doesn’t inform Congress of his alternative pay plan for feds by that date, then the increase...

Exceptions to the 1.3 Percent Pay Raise, a Free Benefit for New Military Moms and More

Most civilian federal employees are likely headed for a 1.3 percent pay raise next year. While that’s better than a pay freeze, and slightly more than this year’s 1 percent boost, it didn’t impress some Government Executive readers. “Yeah, 1.3%! Woohoo, my paycheck will be flying high! Oh, wait...,” wrote one reader in a comment on our latest story about the raise.

Still, consider this: Vice President Joe Biden and other senior government leaders might not get any increase. The House’s fiscal 2016 Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill contains a “prohibition on funds for an increase in pay for the vice president and other senior political appointees,” a summary of the bill released Wednesday stated.

Also bear in mind that many feds will probably receive more than 1.3 percent in total. The Obama administration has proposed 13 new locality pay areas that will result in a significant pay bump for 102,000 employees.

Military members also have the potential for a more generous pay hike. Obama has proposed a 1.3 percent pay boost for service members next year, but the House fiscal 2016 Defense spending bill, approved by the Appropriations...

New Army Camo, LGBT Guidance, Troop Pay Raise and More

The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday approved a $578.6 billion 2016 defense appropriations bill, which would give troops a 2.3 percent pay raise instead of the 1.3 percent requested by President Obama.

The pay hike would apply to all 1.3 million active duty personnel as well as 819,200 Guard and reserve troops. The bill also provides funding to maintain 100 percent of troop housing costs through the Basic Allowance for Housing, according to a summary of the legislation.

The bill, which is $24.4 billion above the 2015 enacted level and $800 million above the president’s request, now heads to the full House for consideration.

As the funding bill advances through Congress, the Army is making sartorial advances on the battlefield. Stars and Stripes reports that beginning July 1, the Army will roll out a new camouflage uniform featuring nine design changes (less Velcro) and a new accessories line (think belts and boots) in “a deeper tan and coyote brown.” According to the newspaper:

The “Operational Camouflage Pattern,” or OCP, that rolls out in a few weeks is in many ways similar to the MultiCam pattern worn for the last half decade or so...

Phased Retirement’s Slow Rollout, Medical Pot for Vets and More

The good news is that finally, one agency has begun the long-anticipated implementation of phased retirement, the program that allows some feds to ease into their post-employment lives by continuing to work part time, enabling their agencies to retain vital institutional knowledge. The bad news for most feds is that that agency is the Library of Congress—which employs a sliver of the federal workforce potentially eligible for the option.

As the Washington Post reported Wednesday, “The option has been so long in development that it gives new meaning to the word ‘phased.’ ”

The Office of Personnel Management issued final rules on the program last August—two years after Congress passed the law authorizing it—and technically began allowing feds to apply for phased retirement in November. But until now, no agencies have actually offered the program to employees. As Government Executive’s Kellie Lunney noted at the time:  

Agencies have broad discretion in deciding how to implement phased retirement, including deciding which jobs are eligible for it, determining mentoring activities and deciding how long an employee can remain partially retired.

Stay tuned for more on phased retirement soon.

Senate lawmakers moved a step closer to giving veterans access to...

Who Wants a $10,000 Bonus?

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lately have been targeting federal employees' bonuses. But a new bipartisan bill actually wants to give feds more money as a reward for cutting costs.

The 2015 Bonuses for Cost-Cutters Act, sponsored by Sens. Rand Paul, R-Ky., and Mark Warner, D-Va., would allow an agency inspector general to pay an award of up to $10,000 to a federal employee who identifies waste.

“This bipartisan proposal encourages federal agencies to return unused funds instead of rushing to spend-down their appropriations at the end of every fiscal year,” Warner said. “When we empower federal employees to identify surplus funds instead of encouraging the ‘use it or lose it’ mentality, we are better stewards of taxpayers’ dollars.”

Paul said federal workers “have a perverse incentive to spend all of their agency’s annual budget before the end of the year, and subsequently, bonuses will reverse the incentive to the benefit of the employee and the taxpayer.” Three other Republicans are co-sponsoring the bill: Cory Gardner of Colorado, Mike Enzi of Wyoming and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

From bonuses to overtime pay, President Obama on Tuesday signed into law a bill clarifying that border patrol agents...