A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.
This column has been updated with new information about the number of people who will need to re-enroll in hack-protection services.
Just as the massive breach of personal data maintained by the Office of Personnel Management was starting to become a more distant memory, some federal employees affected by the hack were reminded that they have to stay vigilant in protecting their credit and identities. OPM earlier this week announced that about 600,000 current and former feds who were victims of the initial hack involving personnel records will need to re-enroll in credit and identity protection services to maintain those benefits past Dec. 1. That number was later revised to 100,000-150,000, though 600,000 people will still get notices alerting them that they can either re-enroll or enroll for the first time.
Re-enrollment is necessary because the original 18-month contract for the services is expiring, and OPM has selected a new vendor (ID Experts) to take over through the end of 2018, when it will assess its options again. ID Experts is already providing services for those affected by the second OPM breach that exposed the background investigations data of 21.5 million current and former federal employees, job applicants and family members.
OPM said it would notify hack victims who need to re-enroll to keep their protection services. The types of services provided will not change with the new contractor, OPM said.
In other security-related news, the Thrift Savings Plan on Tuesday cautioned participants to be wary of third party mobile applications that ask for their account login information. “These applications are NOT sponsored by the TSP,” the reminder stated. “Providing your TSP account credentials to third-party applications may jeopardize the security of your account. The TSP cannot endorse any information or advice provided by third-party applications.”
For more information on keeping your TSP account secure click here.
TSP also announced that maximum contribution rates to retirement savings will remain the same in 2017. The limit for elective deferrals (the amount you have your agency deduct from your paycheck) is $18,000 for the year. This is the total amount you can contribute to traditional and Roth accounts combined; it does not include agency matching contributions.
Meanwhile, federal employees living in the San Antonio, Texas, and Birmingham, Ala., areas may be in for a treat in 2018. The Federal Salary Council late last week voted in favor of a proposal to give these cities their own locality pay rates, rather than lump them together in the “rest of U.S.” category. Cities with their own pay rates usually do better than the “rest of U.S.” category.
Federal workers in San Antonio and Birmingham would join tens of thousands of employees who received an extra pay boost this year when 13 new locality regions were added.
Members of the Senior Executive Service don’t receive locality pay, but they do get bonuses. According to the latest data from the OPM, those bonuses are getting bigger and more executives are getting them. Seventy-one percent of the government’s career senior executives earned bonuses based on their job performance in fiscal 2015, up 2.8 percentage points from fiscal 2014, OPM said in a report obtained by Government Executive.
The average individual performance award for those top career employees in fiscal 2015 was $10,742, up from $10,544 in fiscal 2014, according to the data. The number of all Senior Executive Service members – career, non-career, and limited-term – receiving the highest job performance rating in fiscal 2015 also was up slightly, from 48.6 percent in fiscal 2014 to 49.7 percent.
Meanwhile, one of the Defense Department’s big pay related news stories in the past week was the announcement that officials suspended a controversial effort to recoup reenlistment bonuses improperly paid to members of the California National Guard. The idea was to ensure the process was fair. About 2,000 of 10,000 recipients of the erroneous payments have been asked to return money, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. But in a new wrinkle, the California National Guard can’t locate more than 4,000 of the soldiers involved in the scandal, the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Pentagon aims to have all pending cases related to recapturing improper bonuses resolved by July 1, which seems a long time away. But perhaps that timeline is realistic, considering the complexity of the situation.