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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Military Families Worry About Possible Commissary Closures

Salary, health insurance and retirement benefits most often spring to mind when federal employees think of compensation. But for military personnel and their families, another perk is just as important: the heavily-subsidized commissaries on base where they buy food and other goods. The Pentagon is proposing a 71 percent reduction in subsidies to the stores in its fiscal 2015 budget, and according to a new survey, most middle-class career military families are worried such a drastic cut would really hurt.

Two-thirds of military families in pay grades E-6 and above with household incomes of at least $50,000 per year “identify commissaries as an important part of their current compensation as well as future retirement benefits,” said the latest survey from the First Command Financial Behaviors Index released this week. Three out of four survey respondents said eliminating the taxpayer-subsidized benefit “would negatively impact their families,” the report said.

“Commissaries are an important benefit for not only lower-income, junior members of the military, but also our higher-ranking men and women in uniform who earn solidly middle-class incomes,” said Scott Spiker, CEO of First Command Financial Services Inc. “Our survey respondents estimate that they spend almost half of their monthly grocery ...

Have a Clearance? You Can Earn a Lot More Outside Government

If you have a security clearance, it pays to be in the private sector.

That is the takeaway from a new report from ClearanceJobs.com, a company that matches cleared individuals to companies searching for new employees.

Government employees with security clearances earn $86,218 on average, according to the survey of more than 20,000 individuals, while typical “independent consultants” make more than $114,000. Cleared contractors fall in between, averaging just shy of $100,000 annually.

Civilian federal employees with clearances do better than their military counterparts, who earn about $70,000 on average, according to the survey. Overall, average pay for individuals with security clearances dipped just 1 percent in 2013, which ClearanceJobs.com said was an impressive feat in a year that saw a government shutdown, furloughs, sequestration and budget cuts.

The “big five” intelligence agencies -- the National Reconnaissance Office, CIA, National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, National Security Agency and Defense Intelligence Agency -- all fell in the top six federal agencies in compensation for cleared employees. NRO topped the list, with security-cleared workers earning an average of $117,258. The State Department -- which paid cleared employees an average of $109,000 -- was fourth on the list.

This ...

Earning New Benefits, Protecting Old Ones

In June 2011, the American Federation of Government employees won the right to represent employees at the Transportation Security Administration. More than a year later, TSA workers ratified their first-ever collective bargaining agreement.

That contract created new awards for employees, reformed the leave process, placed a greater emphasis on giving benefits to workers with seniority and increased the allowance for uniforms.

The agency and union could not come to an agreement on several elements of the negotiations, however, and the outstanding provisions were argued before an arbitration panel.

AFGE scored “important wins” for 45,000 Transportation Security Officers in the arbitration decision released this week. Among the victories was a small increase in parking subsidies. AFGE had supported 100 percent coverage, but TSA said it couldn’t afford it and the arbitrators settled on a maximum of $35 in out-of-pocket parking costs for employees.

The panel also ruled that TSA management must, when feasible, allow employees to bid on shifts for their home terminals in seniority order. The arbitrators declined to mandate the bidding, as AFGE requested, but increased the pressure to implement the process. AFGE also won the right to send representatives into some meetings with management.

“This is ...

Some Lawmakers Are Feeling More Generous Toward Feds

Congress has not exactly been kind to federal employees’ pay and benefits over the last couple years.

Are lawmakers finally turning a corner to help out the civilian workforce? Several members of Congress have introduced legislation in recent days to boost or improve an array of federal benefits. Of course, introducing a bill is a long way from passing it.

Here’s a look at what is being considered:

Retirement COLAs

Remember chained CPI? It would have created a new way to calculate the Consumer Price Index that would lead to less generous cost-of-living adjustments for federal retirees and Social Security beneficiaries. President Obama supported it as a way to reduce the federal deficit before removing from his fiscal 2015 budget proposal.

Well, Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., has a different idea, and it’s kind of the opposite of that. He introduced a bill that would base annuity increases to enrollees of the Federal Employees Retirement System and the Civil Service Retirement System on CPI-E, or CPI for the elderly.

That formula, which the Labor Department already calculates, would lead to slightly higher annuities for federal retirees. Wonkblog has called CPI-E the “progressive alternative” to chained CPI. The measure weighs ...

Feds Petition for More Pay; Some Could Get It

Federal employees were, for the most part, not happy with President Obama’s proposal to once again raise their pay 1 percent in 2015.

Some are petitioning the White House to provide a larger increase.

One fed has taken to We the People, an online petition system created by the Obama administration, to ask for a 5 percent pay raise next year. Every raise after that should track inflation, the petition says.

“Federal civilian employees have paid their debt to the government,” the petition’s creator wrote. “We all deserve more pay for the devotion and hard work put forth every day.”

The petition had just 58 signatures as of Wednesday, well short of the 100,000 it needs to require an official White House response. If advocates of a larger pay raise for federal employees want to crack threshold, they may have to make it more Justin Bieber-focused.

Raise for Senior Level Managers

Most federal employees fall on the General Schedule and have received an across-the-board 1 percent raise in 2014. They are primed to receive the same bump in 2015.

Blue-collar workers on the Wage Grade schedule will require separate legislation to receive any raise, as Congress provided ...