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

Pay Banding, TSP Changes and More

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It’s still early, of course, but the biggest personnel news this year may be that the Defense Department is moving more civilian employees out of the General Schedule. GovExec’s Eric Katz has the story on how the Air Force is transitioning 13,000 civilians to what service officials believe will be a more flexible personnel system. The new system will consolidate 15 GS grades into four categories. While this so far affects relatively few federal employees, the Pentagon often serves as a test bed for wider workforce changes, so feds from other agencies might want to tune in to how this is working out.

Those near the end of their careers may be happy to know that the Office of Personnel Management continued to whittle away at the retirement claims backlog last month. OPM processed more claims than it received in December 2015 -- 5,916 v. 4,753 -- ending the year with a backlog of 11,399 claims, slightly less than the previous year’s year-end backlog. January is a peak time for employees to submit their retirement paperwork though. Last year at this time, the backlog spiked to 22,636 claims. While the majority of claims are processed in 60 days or less, this would be a good time to practice patience if you plan on getting into the queue.  

Like many investment fund managers, those at the Thrift Savings Plan have made some changes to the lifecycle fund allocations. In a message to participants, TSP said “As a result of changes in long-term capital market assumptions and a review of the Lifecycle fund asset allocations, the TSP has revised the target asset allocations of the Lifecycle funds.”

Rethinking your health benefits enrollment? There’s still time to opt into self-plus-one benefits coverage. OPM is holding a limited open enrollment period for those who may have missed their chance last fall. The period extends from Feb. 1-29 and is only for self-plus-one changes.

Finally, in case you’ve been on vacation or hiding under a rock, the 2016 federal pay tables are out. It’s all here, from the Senior Executive Service to the General Schedule to the pay information for law enforcement and Foreign Service officers. 

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