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Civilians Working in Overseas Hot Spots Eligible for Higher Premium Pay in 2016

Eligible employees can earn up to $237,700 in basic and premium pay through this year.

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 2016, according to new guidance from the Office of Personnel Management.

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 $237,700 in basic and premium pay in calendar year 2016 under the waiver authority extended in the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act.

That $237,700 cap is the annual salary rate for the vice president in 2016. The actual salary that the vice president receives has been frozen at $230,700 since 2013, but “that freeze does not affect the officially established 2016 pay rates for the vice president or the Executive Schedule,” the Feb. 18 OPM memo stated.

Although the provision extending the premium pay cap waiver applies only to payments payable in 2016, “the 42-day period may overlap a calendar year—i.e., begins in 2015 and ends in 2016, or begins in 2016 and ends in 2017,” the guidance stated.

Because the United States has a contingency operation in Iraq, eligible employees supporting that operation also can receive higher premium pay up to the current cap through Dec. 31, 2016.

Premium pay typically includes additional compensation for overtime, night, Sunday or holiday work. The 2009 Defense authorization act first authorized the waiver of the cap and Congress has continued to extend it since then. Any additional pay employees receive as a result of the higher cap cannot be used to calculate retirement benefits or for lump-sum payments for accumulated and accrued annual leave.

OPM’s Feb. 18 memo also provides guidance on a few other extensions in the fiscal 2016 Defense law related to the income replacement program for certain reservists, as well as allowances, benefits and gratuities for employees assigned to a combat zone.