Expanded Education Benefits, Executive Bonus Boost and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

Effective immediately, federal employees are eligible for tuition reductions for graduate and professional studies programs at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota. The agreement between Saint Mary’s and the Office of Personnel Management applies to both online and on-campus programs.

According to an announcement from OPM, the benefit is part of the agency’s broader effort to close the skills gaps in the federal workforce and increase employees’ access to high-quality, affordable educational resources.

The agreement, which applies to spouses and dependents as well, provides a grant in an amount equal to 10 percent of what the school charges for tuition plus a waiver of the standard application fee “for all online and/or on-campus School of Graduate and Professional degree programs, certificate programs, and any individual courses.”

Saint Mary’s is an international, private university, recognized by U.S. News & World Report, the Princeton Review and Forbes as one of the top universities in the United States.  For more information about Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota programs and admissions, visit www.fedgovatsaintmarys.com or contact OPM’s Learning and Development Team via email at learninganddevelopment@opm.gov or Saint Mary’s Manager of Corporate Education, Angela Opie, at aopie@smumn.edu or 844-559-4810.

OPM continued to chip away (slowly) at the backlog of federal retirement claims in June, according to data released earlier this week. The backlog fell to 13,529 in June from 14,035 in April, a decrease of 3.6 percent. That’s slightly better than the 3.3 percent decrease from April to May, but nowhere near the 24 percent decrease from March to April. OPM processed 75 percent of cases in 60 days or less in June, the same rate as in May. For applications that were resolved in 60 days or less, the average was 37 days, the same as in May.

The retirement claims backlog typically spikes in January and February and then gradually falls throughout the year. Clearing up the retirement claims backlog has been an ongoing struggle for OPM and a constant source of frustration for federal retirees.

Some senior executives should expect to see bigger bonuses next year. OPM recently reminded agencies that, beginning in October, the aggregate spending cap on agency performance awards for those in the SES and other senior career positions will increase from 4.8 percent to 7.5 percent in fiscal 2017 to reflect job performance during this fiscal year. As Kellie Lunney reported earlier:

The increase is part of President Obama’s December 2015 executive order aimed at streamlining SES hiring, improving the corps’ development and making adjustments to pay to help recruit and retain talented leaders.

OPM plans to issue additional guidance soon on how to reward top performing executives.