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

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Border Patrol agents responsible for canine care may soon get overtime credit for those duties under a bill introduced in the House on Monday. Border Patrol agents responsible for canine care may soon get overtime credit for those duties under a bill introduced in the House on Monday. CBP photo

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 Border Patrol have highly demanding jobs and are our most important assets on the front line,” he said. “We must take care of them and ensure that they are being compensated for the grueling hours they put in to secure our borders. These brave agents deserve certainty each time they receive their paychecks.”

The committee also approved another bill that would expand the 2015 Wounded Warrior Federal Leave Act to health care providers in the Veterans Affairs Department. The law gave 104 hours of medical leave immediately to first-year federal employees who are veterans with a service-connected disability rating of at least 30 percent. But due to an oversight in the 2015 law, it didn’t apply to physicians and other health care providers at the Veterans Health Administration, whose jobs are classified under Title 38 and therefore weren’t covered by it. Reps. Steve Stivers, R-Ohio, and Mark Takano, D-Calif., introduced the Veteran Transition Improvement Act (H.R. 2648) nearly a year ago to rectify that.

“Veterans should not have to choose between receiving a full paycheck and receiving care for their service-connected disabilities,” Stivers said. “Unfortunately, current law puts many veterans in this exact position. This legislation will correct this shortcoming in the law to ensure these veterans who have made, and continue to make, incredible sacrifices for our country have the ability to receive care without sacrificing pay.”

Also this week, the Thrift Savings Plan announced Monday that it had awarded a new contract for management of the TSP's F Fund, a portfolio designed for people on a fixed income. The fund again will be managed by Blackrock Institutional Trust Company, N.A., the firm that already handles both it and every other TSP portfolio.

In a statement, TSP officials said the contract is initially for one year, and the agency has the option to renew for four subsequent years. As of last month, the F Fund held $27.4 billion in assets, including a variety of public and private sectors of the U.S. bond market.

This column was updated to indicate that the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the Border Patrol and VA measures on Wednesday afternoon. 

Erich Wagner is a staff correspondent covering pay, benefits and other federal workforce issues. He joined Government Executive in the spring of 2017 after extensive experience writing about state and local issues in Maryland and Virginia, most recently as editor-in-chief of the Alexandria Times. He holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from the University of Maryland.

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