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Identity Protection, Excessive Military ER Visits, Wellness Review and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

With at least 4 million current and former federal employees affected by the Office of Personnel Management data breach (and probably many more), you’d think more than a few dozen would be interested in receiving free credit monitoring for life. So it’s a little surprising that as of July 1, only 43 individuals had signed a petition urging the White House to ensure feds receive the protection.

The petition was initiated June 19 on the We The People website created by the White House to give citizens a way to communicate directly with the federal government.

The creators are requesting that the government provide lifetime identity protection for those victimized by the breach. As they note:

The breach of the OPM personnel and security clearance systems exposed the most sensitive personal information of more than 4 million current and former Federal employees. This data is far more sensitive than credit card and banking information and contains information that many people use to verify their identity such as mothers maiden name, birthplace, siblings names etc. Given the fact that many organizations that procure this type of data often don't act on it for months while waiting for the free monitoring period to lapse, the Federal employees who are victims of this attack will be vulnerable for many years and deserve more than 18 months of identity protection and monitoring. These Federal employees should receive free identity protection and monitoring for life.

The petition must receive 100,000 signatures by July 19 to garner a response from the administration.

Lawmakers are considering a number of changes to TRICARE coverage for service members and their families. Among the issues they hope to address is the high rate at which service members and their families visit hospital emergency rooms for non-emergency care. The problem is so acute (and expensive), the Pentagon has considered fining beneficiaries for the behavior.

According to a report in Federal Times, Senate lawmakers would authorize beneficiaries to use urgent care facilities up to four times per year without a referral, while House lawmakers would require the Defense Department to guarantee beneficiaries receive medical appointments more promptly. Both measures are designed to reduce the burden on emergency rooms. Federal Times noted:

The provisions have been hailed by military advocates. "We appear to be making headway in our efforts to improve access to acute care for military families," National Military Family Association officials said in a statement.    

Federal Times also noted another Senate proposal to TRICARE that would affect far more people—an increase in prescription drug co-payments for almost all medications. The House has thus far rejected increases to TRICARE fees. 

Senate lawmakers advanced bipartisan legislation to curb charge card abuses by federal employees. The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs unanimously approved S. 1616, the Saving Federal Dollars Through Better Use of Government Purchase and Travel Cards Act, would create an Office of Federal Charge Card Analytics and Review within GSA to continuously examine charge card purchases across the government. 

“Federal agencies have made progress in strengthening financial controls over government travel and purchase cards  – but recent reports have revealed that more needs to be done to eliminate wasteful charge card spending,” said Sen. Tom Carper, D-Del., in a statement.

In an effort to boost employee wellness programs, OPM issued guidance to agency leaders to better assess their offerings. “The education and guidance is intended to help agencies increase the availability and use of worksite health and wellness programs to the maximum extent possible,” said OPM’s Mark Reinhold, associate director for employee services.

And finally, the Bill Bransford Helping Hands Fund is providing feds facing severe hardship with grants. The program was established by the family and colleagues of longtime federal employee advocate William L. Bransford, general counsel to the Senior Executives Association and a partner in the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth, to honor his passion for public service.

According to the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund, “In its first 18 months, the Bransford fund has already provided over $17,500 in grants to feds facing difficult situations like house fires and devastating floods. The Bransford Fund has also helped a number of feds suffering financial difficulties due to medical issues like cancer treatement for themselves or the serious medical issues of a child.” According to FEEA:

To keep the momentum of the Bill Bransford Helping Hands Fund going and ensure FEEA is able to continue providing grants to needy feds, FEEA partner Federal Employee Defense Services, Inc. (FEDS) will provide an Apple iPad to one lucky donor who contributes $10 or more to the Fund between July 1 and August 31, 2015. The drawing will take place on September 1, 2015, and the winner will be notified by email and posted on the FEEA and FEDS websites.

We can’t think of a better way to spend $10. Per FEEA, you may: “Give online or mail your check to FEEA/Bill Bransford Fund, 3333 S. Wadsworth Blvd, Suite 300, Lakewood, CO 80227. Donors will receive one entry in the Apple iPad drawing per $10 donated between July 1 and August 31, 2015 (ex. a $50 donation = 5 entries in the drawing).”

(Image via Mark Winfrey/Shutterstock.com)

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