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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Thrift Savings Plan Board Approves Five-Year Lifecycle Fund Increments

The panel that oversees the retirement savings plan for federal employees on Wednesday unanimously approved offering lifecycle funds targeted to within five years of participants’ expected retirement date rather than the current 10-year increments.

A report on the TSP’s investment options by consultants at Aon Hewitt recommended following a trend in private 401(k) providers to offer lifecycle funds – which move investors to a more conservative portfolio as they near their anticipated retirement date -- on a five-year basis.

“Most have been moving to five-year increments,” Bill Ryan, a partner at the firm, told the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board. “It helps bridge the gap for participants, and it’s easier to figure out where to place someone based on their age.”

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The TSP will implement the new L Fund increments in 2020.

Aon Hewitt also recommended that the TSP’s I Fund, which is made up of international stocks and bonds, be diversified to include stocks in Canada, emerging markets, and international small-cap markets.

“These are large markets to which we have no exposure,” Ryan said. “By adding these, we would improve the risk...

Proposed Compensation Cuts, Guaranteed Uber Reimbursement and More

With the roll-out of President Trump’s fiscal 2018 budget proposal this week, there is no shortage of news outlining its potential effect on federal workers.

As expected, the proposal offers a 1.9 percent pay hike for civilian employees and a 2.1 percent raise for military service members. But those increases would be coupled with efforts to reduce civilian workers’ retirement benefits, a move panned by most unions and employee groups.

Among the measures to rein in retirement spending are a phased-in increase in the employee contribution to the Federal Employees Retirement System, an elimination of cost of living adjustments for FERS retirees and a 0.5 percent COLA reduction for Civil Service Retirement System employees.

In all, the budget proposes $1.4 trillion in cuts to non-Defense agencies over the next decade, including $54 billion in discretionary spending at domestic agencies next year. That means cutting jobs at most agencies. In case you missed it, we made a chart outlining the proposed staffing changes at each agency in Trump’s first budget.

The spending blueprint also would make it easier to fire poor performers. As Eric Katz reported:

“[Outdated rules and processes governing the federal personnel system...

No Sequestration This Year, A New Hiring Authority for U.S. Marshals and More

The Congressional Budget Office said last week that sequestration measures likely will not be required after Congress passed its omnibus spending bill to run through the end of the 2017 fiscal year.

Automatic discretionary spending cuts, which run through 2021, were set in motion with the 2011 Budget Control Act and implemented after the so-called “supercommittee” on deficit reduction failed to act in 2012. In 2013 and 2015, Congress increased the caps on both defense and non-defense spending.

Since then, CBO has issued guidance each year on whether agencies will need to undergo sequestration measures, based on whether federal appropriations bills exceed the automatic caps on spending, typically after a session of Congress ends in January. But since spending levels for fiscal 2017 were not finalized until Congress passed an omnibus earlier this month, CBO could not issue its report until May 12.

Even though sequestration is unlikely to kick in, feds worried about furloughs aren’t out of the woods yet. CBO’s report noted that the last word on whether to implement sequestration rests with the Office of Management and Budget, which has already ordered agencies to come up with ways to reduce the government’s footprint by...

Retirement Requests Drop, Union Lobbies Ivanka Trump for Paid Parental Leave and More

The Office of Personnel Management saw a decrease in the number of new retirement claims it received in April, but the agency slowed down its processing of retirement requests too.

According to data released Monday by OPM, there were 6,581 new retirement claims last month, down from the 7,216 submitted in March. The rate of new claims has dropped consistently since the spike of 15,317 new claims filed in January.

But while the number of claims the agency processed surged to 10,602 claims in March, the pace slowed back down last month to 8,179 claims processed. And while the total number of outstanding claims dropped from 20,530 in March to 18,932 last month, the percentage of claims processed within 60 days dropped from 77 percent to 27 percent.

Meanwhile, even though the federal government has been spared from a shutdown – at least until this fall --  the Congressional Research Service released a report on the causes and effects of government closures, as well as what agencies can do better to prepare for them.

The report concluded, unsurprisingly, that shutdowns generally occur when Congress and the president cannot reach a deal on an annual budget...

Shutdown Threat Deferred, Uber Rides Reimbursed and More

The uncertainty surrounding whether the government will remain open may soon be over, as congressional leaders have reached a funding agreement that would run through the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.

As Eric Katz reports, the omnibus spending deal that the House passed Wednesday and the Senate is expected to pass Thursday includes some of President Trump’s request in terms of a boost in Defense and Homeland Security spending. But some of his other priorities were largely ignored, particularly funding for the border wall and cuts to domestic agencies.

Don’t breathe too easily, though. Trump -- apparently dissatisfied with the deal brokered by lawmakers -- tweeted Tuesday that it was only reached because of the 60-vote threshold in the Senate and that “Our country needs a good ‘shutdown’ in September to fix mess!”

In other news on Capitol Hill, the Senate passed bipartisan legislation (H.R. 274) Tuesday requiring the federal government to reimburse employees for work-related travel via ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

The bill requires the General Services Administration to come up with rules allowing federal workers to expense such travel, which also includes bicycle rental services like D.C.’s Capital Bikeshare. GSA...