New Health Care Benefits, Another Hack Involving Feds and More
Some federal workers may be feeling extra generous come CFC season.
The U.S. Postal Service knows keeping track of all your medical records can be cumbersome, so it has an idea for how to organize them better: through the U.S. Postal Service.
USPS plans to roll out a benefit called “Health Connect” next month as a pilot program for its own employees. The agency sees the program as a means for postal workers to “collect, store and manage their personal health and wellness information in an account completely under the end user’s control.”
Employees can opt into Health Connect on a voluntary basis, the Postal Service said in a recent Federal Register notice. The program has been in the works for months, and is one element in which the agency thinks it can grow its digital capabilities. Participating workers can manage their benefits and keep a “personal health record repository” on their accounts.
The Postal Service workforce may be skeptical to provide their personal medical information to an agency that exposed personnel information through a data breach just last year, but USPS has already detailed the exact measures it will take to protect the information. It also said neither the Postal Service nor any contractors will “view or access any health or medical information that is collected, stored or shared” on Health Connect.
Data protection measures will include encryption, multi-layer authentication and other Federal Information Processing Standards.
Current and former postal employees, as well as their dependents, will have access to Health Connect. Barring any changes during the comment period, the program will launch Sept. 14.
Meanwhile, federal employees are still waiting to find out if they were affected by the second hack of information of data maintained by the Office of Personnel Management. Naval Sea Systems Command is currently reviewing submissions from contractors to select who will send those notifications and offer the recipients protection services.
The General Services Administration has said those benefits could extend beyond the three years for which they are currently scheduled, and could include newer, evolving technologies. While they await those decisions, it appears some feds are more nervous about the disclosure of information from another hack: the Ashley Madison affair enabling website.
Hackers posted the login information for 32 million users, and several outlets have tallied the data dump, saying it includes more than 15,000 .gov or .mil email addresses. Some of those appear to be fake, as the website did not require users to verify their emails.
Needless to say, the feds that provided real contact information are now kicking themselves for not thinking to submit fake email addresses.
Those feeling particularly guilty for their involvement with Ashley Madison will soon have an outlet to make amends: Sept. 1 is typically the opening day of the solicitation for the Combined Federal Campaign, the annual giving drive led by OPM. During that period, feds can choose which charity or charities they would like to contribute to -- often for the next year through an automatic paycheck deduction.
A vast overhaul of CFC’s organizational structure was set to kick in Jan. 1, but OPM has opted to delay the changes to “ensure the tools needed to put the reforms in place” are “thoroughly tested and fully operational” before going public. Major changes will include requiring participating charities to pay an upfront fee to join the drive and eliminating paper-based pledges.
An overwhelming 84 percent of comments to OPM’s original proposal were in opposition, but OPM has vowed to move forward with the changes anyway.
Speaking of unpopular changes, Republican presidential candidate and former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush this week renewed his call to fire more federal workers, this time focusing specifically on employees of the Veterans Affairs Department. While he pushed to weaken the bureaucracy, he also included some proposals to strengthen veterans’ benefits.
One such idea would be to allow vets with no intention of going back to school to still take advantage of the GI Bill. His proposal would allow veterans to use the funds that would otherwise go to tuition as a loan to start a small business. Participants would have 10 years to pay the money back at no interest.
(Image via piotr_pabijan / Shutterstock.com)
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