Insurance for Domestic Partners, Pay Cuts for Federal Agents and More
A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.
The Obama administration has been busy updating the federal government’s regulations relating to shared benefits ever since the Supreme Court in 2013 struck down the Defense of Marriage Act’s requirement that spouses must be of the opposite sex.
This week, the Office of Personnel Management updated the applicability of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program to include the same-sex domestic partners of federal employees and retirees. The new guidance corrected a final rule issued in late 2015 to define exactly who is now eligible for the benefit, which was created in 2002 and assists with health care costs for participants who need help with daily personal functions or who have a severe cognitive illness. It also covers home care or care in a nursing home or assisted living facility -- benefits not often included under health insurance plans.
OPM defined a domestic partnership as two adults in a “committed relationship,” who are “of the opposite sex or same sex.” To be eligible, the individual and the current or former fed must be each other’s sole domestic partner “and intend to remain so indefinitely,” live together, share responsibility for each other’s financial obligations, not be related and provide documentation to prove all those factors.
Congress has also sought to affect the benefits of some federal employees, with the House voting last week to strip some Transportation Security Administration agents of bonus compensation.
The TSA Reform and Improvement Act would reclassify employees in the agency’s inspection office who do not spend a majority of their time performing “criminal investigative duties” as non-law enforcement personnel, thereby disqualifying them from receiving premium pay and other benefits. The bill, which would also freeze hiring at the inspection office until TSA certified it was properly measuring how much time each of its employees spent on law enforcement, mirrors a measure the House approved in 2015 but was later derailed.
Currently, inspection office employees qualify for Law Enforcement Availability Pay -- or LEAP -- and enhanced retirement benefits. LEAP compensates law enforcement officers at 25 percent above their base pay for two extra hours per day. LEOs are also eligible to retire sooner and receive more generous annuities from their pensions.
The sponsor of a similar bill in the 113th Congress, Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., said TSA paying LEAP to employees who do not work mostly in law enforcement is like paying “a famous chef to microwave your dinner.”
This week, a congressional committee voted to restrict one type of paid time off: administrative leave. With bipartisan support, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved a bill that would limit an agency’s ability to place an employee on administrative leave for “reasons relating to misconduct or performance” more than 14 days in one year. After 14 days, agencies would be required to place employees back on paid duty status, or report to Congress every 30 days on why the employees represent a threat to public safety, government property or the agency mission.
“It’s not fair for the employee,” Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, the bill’s author, said of the current process. “It’s not fair to the government for this to go on in perpetuity.”
In some cases, employees under investigation for more than 14 days should be forced to telework so they are not given unlimited vacation but still do not disrupt their offices. At one Defense Department agency, officials are cutting back on the number of telework days employees can take each week.
As reported by Federal News Radio, the Defense Information Systems Agency is mandating that non-union, non-management employees rework their telework agreements so they work from home no more than two days each week. Supervisors will be permitted to telework or take a compressed work schedule day just once per week. The policy will affect about 1,000 employees; there are no plans to expand the restrictions.