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

Presidential Contenders on Federal Benefits, Military Members on Proposed Retirement Reforms, and More

This week several 2016 presidential contenders have officially launched their campaigns, and they have vastly different views of the federal workforce and the federal government’s role in solving major challenges facing the country. The bottom line: Democratic contender Hillary Clinton is the most fed-friendly.

Clinton made clear her respect for the civil servants she oversaw as secretary of State in her book, Hard Choices. In fact, she dedicated the book to diplomats and development workers. She has also advocated for insourcing more jobs to federal employees; paid parental leave; and expanding benefits to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees. 

Contrast that to Republican hopefuls Rand Paul and Marco Rubio. Paul has vowed to “take power away from unelected bureaucrats who are trampling our freedom and rights,” and has proposed eliminating entire Cabinet-level departments: Education, Commerce, Energy, and Housing and Urban Development. Agencies that escaped his ax would still be vulnerable to hefty budget decreases, which could in turn erode employee pay and benefits.

Rubio has said government will hold citizens back, rather than empowering them, and has supported efforts to shrink the federal workforce and make it easier to fire senior executives. Rubio has also suggested opening the Thrift...

Compensation for Cyber-Breach Victims, Parking Perks for 'Special' Feds and More

It’s never a good thing to have your private information stolen by miscreants potentially looking to exploit the data.

But for employees of the U.S. Postal Service, a widespread breach in fall 2014 came with a small perk: USPS management agreed to pay for one year of free credit monitoring for its workforce. Postal unions, however, said the gesture was not enough to rectify the situation.

The National Rural Letter Carriers Association -- along with other postal labor groups -- filed charges against the Postal Service, claiming the agency refused to follow collective bargaining procedures in response to the cyber attack. Then Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe sat on the information for weeks after the breach before alerting the union or its members, NRLCA said, and did not consult the group before determining the appropriate response.

The National Labor Relations Board issued a preliminary ruling on Wednesday, finding the Postal Service violated labor laws by offering the free credit reports without consulting the appropriate unions. Because the monitoring related to “the wages, hours and other terms and conditions of employment,” it became a “mandatory subject” for collective bargaining.

As a remedy, the NLRB general counsel demanded USPS post notices of its...

Higher Premium Pay, Health and Wellness, and Federal Women

The Office of Personnel Management is reminding agencies of some pay and benefits-related changes in the latest Defense authorization law that affect many federal employees.

Some civilian employees working overseas in certain countries in the Middle East and Africa are eligible to receive higher premium pay through the end of 2015, according to new OPM guidance, because of an extension granted in the fiscal 2015 National Defense Authorization Act. Government employees working abroad in support of a military operation or in response to a national emergency for at least 42 consecutive days in areas covered by U.S. Central Command, as well as those formerly of CENTCOM now under the U.S. Africa Command, can earn up to $235,300 in basic and premium pay in calendar year 2015 under the waiver authority extended in the Defense law. That $235,300 cap is the vice president’s annual salary in 2015.

Because the United States no longer has an official military operation in Iraq, the higher premium pay cap as outlined in the March 26 OPM memorandum does not apply to civilians working there. However, because President Obama extended the national emergency in Iraq through May 22, 2015, civilians working...

Budget Hawks Target TSP, Scammers Target TRICARE and More

House Republicans have a lot of ideas about how to save taxpayer dollars. Unfortunately for federal employees, a number of those ideas would come at their expense in the form of retirement and health benefits.

As Eric Katz reported earlier this week, a House Budget Committee report suggests increasing federal employees’ pension contributions, effectively resulting in a pay cut of between 2 percent and 5 percent. Under their plan (which President Obama has said he won’t support), the defined benefit program eventually would be phased out entirely in favor of just a defined contribution system for an estimated savings to the government of $127 billion over 10 years, the committee said. 

House Republicans also proposed phasing out the Federal Employees Retirement System annuity supplement, designed to boost the annuity of young retirees, as well as limiting the rate of return on the Thrift Savings Plan’s Government Securities (G) Fund for an estimated savings of $32 billion over 10 years.

The committee report takes issue with how the interest rate on the G Fund is calculated, noting that “Those who participate in the G Fund are rewarded with a long-term rate on what is essentially a short-term security.”


Retirement Savings Reassurance, Financial Fears, Vets’ Health Care Changes and More

The federal government officially reached its debt limit on Monday, and that means the Treasury Department had to suspend the daily reinvestment of the government securities (G) fund in the Thrift Savings Plan as part of “extraordinary measures” to avoid a default. That might sound scary to TSP investors, but TSP officials want you to rest assured that your retirement savings are safe. They issued the following statement on Wednesday:

G Fund investors remain fully protected, and G Fund earnings are fully guaranteed by the federal government. This statutory guarantee has effectively protected G Fund investors many times over the past 25 years. G Fund account balances will continue to accrue earnings and will be updated each business day, and loans and withdrawals will be unaffected.

For a deeper look at what happens to the G Fund when the government hits the debt limit, officials referred TSP participants here.

The TSP’s reassurance comes at a time when federal employees might be feeling jittery about their retirement benefits. Both House and Senate Republicans this week unveiled 2016 budget blueprints would ask federal employees to contribute more to their pensions, to help achieve savings. The resolutions both support a 50-50 split...