TSP Flexibilities Are Weeks Away, and More

A weekly roundup of pay and benefits news.

In less than four weeks, the agency that administers the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program will flip the switch and implement several changes aimed at making it easier for participants to manage their accounts.

In November 2017, President Trump signed the TSP Modernization Act into law, authorizing a number of long-requested changes to loosen restrictions on how federal employees, former employees and retirees can access and withdraw from their Thrift Savings Plan accounts.

Officials with the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which administers the TSP, have said that the various provisions of the law will be implemented next month.

Beginning Sept. 15, participants will be able to make multiple post-separation partial withdrawals, while federal employees ages 59 and a half and older will be able to make up to four in-service withdrawals per year.

Additionally, participants will be able to choose whether withdrawals come from their Roth accounts, their traditional accounts, or a combination of the two.

For those who have already begun receiving monthly payments, they can change the amount of their payment any time, rather than only once per year. And participants can adjust the frequency of annuity payments at any time.

In order to prepare for the changeover, TSP officials will cease accepting withdrawal requests at 11:59 p.m. eastern time on Sept. 6.

“We will not be able to accept withdrawal requests during a brief period between September 7 and September 14,” officials wrote in a FAQ about the implementation effort. “This transition period allows us to finish processing withdrawal requests we receive before the rules change and prepare to accept requests with the new withdrawal options.”

On Tuesday, the Agriculture Department’s decision to offer a significantly smaller buyout to employees at the Economic Research Service and National Institute of Food and Agriculture who declined orders to relocate to Kansas City by the end of September has drawn outcry from Democrats in Congress.

Earlier this week, the department informed employees who had applied for Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments that instead of receiving upwards of $25,000, VSIP payments would be capped at $10,000. The Department told Government Executive that the move was aimed at making sure all who applied for the buyout received some money, rather than giving fewer employees the larger amount on a first-come first-served basis.

Rep. Jennifer Wexton, D-Va., blasted the department for cutting the maximum buyout payment, which she said is the latest in a pattern of anti-worker decisions.

“The degree of disrespect and outright hostility this administration has demonstrated towards federal workers is alarming—first in a deliberately rushed decision to move these USDA research departments halfway across the country . . . and now by slashing their buyout by more than half,” Wexton said. “All the while, [White House Chief of Staff] Mick Mulvaney and Donald Trump celebrate the demise of critical scientific and economic research for our country’s agricultural future.”