Cleaning up after the August 2016 flood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

Cleaning up after the August 2016 flood in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Ken Durden/Shutterstock.com

Military Pay Raise Battle, TSP News, Help for Flood Victims and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

Lawmakers haven’t given up the fight to give troops a full 2.1 percent pay raise, despite President Obama’s plan to give both civilian and military personnel a 1.6 percent pay raise. On Tuesday, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nevada, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, said he would continue to push for the larger raise, noting that this marks the fourth year in a row the president has proposed a smaller military pay raise than that mandated by the 1990 Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act. Under FEPCA, unless the president issues an alternative plan, the raise is determined by the change in the Employment Cost Index minus 0.5 percent, which would come out to a 2.1 percent raise in 2017.  

“The global security environment is not getting any safer and deployments aren't getting any easier, yet our military families are constantly asked to do more with less. This is unacceptable. I remain committed to ensuring our troops and their families receive the full pay raise they have earned,” Heck said in a statement.

While Congress has the final word on any pay raise, it is unlikely lawmakers will come up with anything different from Obama’s plan at this point. The fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and Congress has yet to agree on any fiscal 2017 spending bills. If Congress doesn't intervene, Obama's 1.6 percent recommendation will take effect on Jan. 1, 2017. 

President Obama may not want to give federal employees and military personnel big raises, but he is making it easier for feds to help other feds affected by devastating floods in Louisiana. In a memo to department heads and agencies, Obama noted that while federal response efforts are underway to support victims, “many of those same Federal employees are personally impacted by the storms in Louisiana and are dealing with overwhelming personal losses.” To help them, Obama directed the Office of Personnel Management to create an emergency leave program, whereby federal employees could donate unused annual leave to feds in Louisiana who need time off to recover from the storms.

The Thrift Savings Plan board is also reaching out to affected feds in Louisiana, making it easier for them to take hardship withdrawals from retirement savings. As Amelia Gruber reported:

Federal employees and military members who live or are employed in the disaster area and have experienced a loss as a result of the storms will qualify for in-service financial hardship withdrawals, and will not be subject to a rule that normally prohibits employee contributions to TSP accounts for six months following such withdrawals. TSP participants can also withdraw money to helpeligible family members recovering from the storms.

In related news, you can now follow TSP on Facebook, where plan managers will share announcements and offer tips for making the most of your retirement savings.

Speaking of retirement, you may have to wait a bit longer for OPM to process your paperwork if you’ve just filed with the agency. The retirement claims backlog rose in August to 16,334, up from 15,562 in July. Still, 72 percent of claims are processed in 60 days or less.

And finally, the Veterans Affairs Department is partnering with Women Veterans Interactive to raise awareness among female vets about the benefits they’ve earned. “This campaign is a collaborative effort to establish partnerships with nonprofit organizations that advocate and provide assistance on behalf of women Veterans,” said Kayla Williams, Director of VA’s Center for Women Veterans. The campaign will conclude over the Veterans Day weekend. For more information or to join in the conversation, follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter, like the Department of Veterans Affairs Facebook page and use the hashtag State of #WomenVets.

Image via Ken Durden/Shutterstock.com.

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