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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.

Pay and Leave Changes for Some, TSP Fund Management and More

Border Patrol agents assigned to look after their canine colleagues while off duty could soon receive overtime credit for those responsibilities under a bill approved by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Wednesday. 

The Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Amendments Act (H.R. 5896), introduced Monday by Reps. Will Hurd, R-Texas, Martha McSally, R-Ariz., and Filemón Vela, D-Texas, would provide greater flexibility to Customs and Border Protection to compensate agents for canine care, training and other aspects of their jobs. 

For instance, those agents responsible for caring for the agency's dogs would receive an hour of overtime credit for each calendar day they perform those services (see the legislation for details). The bill also increases the amount of advanced training an agent may participate in, and allows accrual of overtime debt when agents exceed the new cap. Additionally, Border Patrol agents would be able to apply compensatory time off for travel toward previous overtime debt, and some agents would be allowed to use alternative work schedules.

Hurd said in a statement that the bill will “streamline” the overtime process and provide border patrol agents with more reliable paychecks each pay period.

“The men and women of...

A Fix for the Relocation Tax Snafu, an Unsuccessful Push for TRICARE Expansion, and More

The General Services Administration on Monday took steps to correct a situation where federal employees found themselves on the hook for sizeable tax bills related to government-paid relocation expenses after agencies made them move for work.

Officials at the Senior Executives Association had lodged complaints that federal employees who recently were relocated saw one-time paycheck cuts of up to $7,000 as a result of the tax reform law enacted last year. That law removed a deduction for government reimbursements for moving costs related to household goods.  

Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, D-Va., crafted a letter last month to GSA asking officials to move swiftly to tweak rules on the relocation income tax allowance and withholding tax allowance to protect feds from future tax-related sticker shock.

In a bulletin to agency heads this week, Jessica Salmoiraghi, GSA associate administrator in the Office of Government-wide Policy, announced a temporary fix to the problem, until a formal amendment to federal travel regulations can be issued.

“Agencies are authorized to pay WTA and RITA to cover ‘substantially all’ of the increased tax liability resulting from receipt of the relocation expense reimbursements either paid directly or indirectly,” she wrote.

GSA’s memo clarifies...

Retirement Claims Wane, a Tweak to Rules for Resigning From Your Job and More

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday issued a memo tweaking the rules governing how agencies handle employees who resign while under investigation.

In a memo to chief human capital officers, OPM Director Jeff Pon implemented a new provision of the 2017 National Defense Authorization Act requiring agencies to make a “permanent notation” on the personnel file of someone who leaves his or her job while an investigation into the employee is ongoing. Such investigations include those done by an inspector general and adverse personnel actions for performance or misconduct.

Pon wrote that the notation should be applied to one’s record only after the person has been given an opportunity to respond to the findings of an investigation. The new procedure does not impact an employee’s ability to appeal the findings of an investigation or adverse action to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and if the employee wins, the agency would remove the notation from his or her record.

The NDAA provision neither provides guidance for implementation nor grants OPM the authority to draft regulations on the subject. Pon suggested that agencies implement the new rules in consultation with legal counsel.

“We have attached a sample document that...

Changes to the Federal Health Insurance Program, Agency Leader Cuts His Own Pay, and More

Enrollees in the health insurance program for federal employees could see some additional options available to them during the next open enrollment period next fall.

The Office of Personnel Management published a rule last week in the Federal Register standardizing how many and what kinds of plans any given insurance carrier can offer through the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program.

Under previous regulations, the minimum standards for plans offered through FEHBP required that some insurance companies provide two options as well as a high deductible plan, whereas other companies were able to choose between offering that configuration or providing three plans of any kind.

The new rule, which went into effect April 27, allows all FEHBP insurance companies to choose between offering three plans of any kind and providing two standard options and a high deductible plan.

“To correct an asymmetry in the insurance market for federal employees and annuitants, this final regulation provides all [FEHBP] carriers the ability to offer the same number and types of plan options,” OPM wrote. “[This] final rule will give FEHB enrollees more choices in selecting a health plan that best meets their family’s health care needs.”

Meanwhile on Monday, OPM announced the...

Federal Workforce Training and Education, Digital Personnel Records and More

Federal officials on Tuesday discussed opportunities both now and in the long term for improving the recruitment and retention of highly skilled federal workers, providing professional development and helping them achieve career goals.

At an Office of Personnel Management event hosted by Government Executive Media Group’s custom publishing arm, Studio 2G, personnel officials from OPM and the Office of Management and Budget discussed a variety of issues broached in President Trump’s management agenda, from the hiring process and workforce planning to employee engagement and reskilling.

“Obviously there’s a tremendous amount of interest in how to address hiring, and part of it is to make sure agencies know what is available to them today,” said Mark Reinhold, OPM’s associate director for employee services. “There are dozens of hiring authorities out there, and some are used more and others are used less, and some not at all. Beyond that, there’s great interest at OPM and under Director Dr. Jeff Pon and within the administration and on Capitol Hill to look at civil service modernization.”

Dustin Brown, the deputy assistant director for performance and personnel management at OMB, also stressed that improving the hiring process to attract top...