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

Changes to TSP Withdrawal Rules on Track for September, OPM Highlights Reskilling Tools and More

Officials with the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program have announced that a law signed in 2017 to make it easier for participants to manage their investments will be implemented officially on Sept. 15.

In a bulletin posted on May 17, the Thrift Savings Plan stated that it will have completed the work to implement the 2017 TSP Modernization Act. That means beginning this fall, federal employees and retirees will be able to make multiple age-based withdrawals from their TSP accounts and remain eligible for partial withdrawals after they leave government.

Additionally, those who have left government will be able to make multiple partial post-separation withdrawals. And annuitants will be able to change the amount and frequency of TSP payments at any time, instead of only once per year.

Officials said additional information will be made available later this year to help HR and payroll offices implement the changes at the agency level.

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Meanwhile, the Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday announced a new series of tools to help agencies and federal employees engage in reskilling as part of the effort to...

Expanded Vets' Benefits, Paid Parental Leave for Intelligence Personnel and More

The House voted 410-0 Tuesday to approve a bill that would extend disability benefits to more Vietnam War veterans.

Currently, disability benefits for veterans suffering from conditions associated with exposure to the herbicide Agent Orange are limited to those who physically served in Vietnam. The Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act (H.R. 299) would extend those benefits to Navy veterans with similar conditions who previously were excluded because they served offshore of the country.

Rep. Mark Takano, D-Calif., who introduced the bill along with Rep. Phil Roe, R-Tenn., said in a statement that the legislation is long overdue. The House approved a similar measure last year, but the bill stalled in the Senate.

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“For more than 40 years, tens of thousands of veterans, their families and survivors have been denied the benefits they earned after exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War,” Takano said. “But by passing this bill tonight, we came together to right a terrible injustice.”

Roe applauded Takano’s willingness to renew the effort to extend the disability benefits to Navy veterans.

“This bill will ensure that our Blue Water...

Progress on the Retirement Backlog, and a Panel Appears Set to Consider Shutdown Bills

The Office of Personnel Management brought its backlog of pending retirement claims below 18,000 last month for the first time since September 2018.

According to statistics released by OPM this week, the agency received 6,993 new claims in April, a decrease from the more than 10,000 new requests in March as well as from April 2018, when OPM received 8,390 new claims.

OPM processed 9,392 claims last month, nearly 3,000 more than it received, bringing the backlog to 17,802 outstanding requests, down from 20,201 in March and more than 23,000 at its peak in February.

The annual deluge of new retirement requests, which typically occurs in January and February, bled into March this year, likely resulting from the 35-day partial government shutdown, which shuttered many agency HR offices, temporarily preventing some federal employees from filing for retirement.

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Overall, retirement claims have decreased so far this year from the same period in 2018. According to OPM, it has received 41,097 new claims in 2019, compared to 44,037 from January through April last year.

Meanwhile, the...

All TSP Funds Grow in April, and More

All of the portfolios in the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program made gains last month, continuing a positive trend.

Leading the way were the common stocks of the Thrift Savings Plan’s C Fund, which grew 4.05 percent in April. So far this year, the C Fund has increased 18.25 percent. The S Fund, which is made up of small- and mid-size businesses, increased 3.69 percent last month, bringing its 2019 gains to 20.27 percent.

The international stocks of the I Fund also continued their upward trajectory, growing by 2.92 percent in April and 13.31 percent so far this year.

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The worst performance among TSP portfolios in April belonged to the fixed income bonds in the F Fund, which only increased 0.02 percent last month. The fund's gains for 2019 now sit at 2.97 percent. The G Fund, which is made up of government securities, grew 0.21 percent last month, bringing its 2019 total up to 0.88 percent.

All of the program’s lifecycle (L) funds, which shift investments to...

Lawmakers, DHS Look to Improve Border Patrol Compensation

A House lawmaker has introduced legislation to ensure that U.S. Border Patrol agents are better compensated for their first 10 hours of overtime each week.

The Border Pay Security Act (H.R. 2335), introduced by Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, would amend the Fair Labor Standards Act to include language guaranteeing that Border Patrol agents receive time and a half for the first 20 hours of overtime they accrue in a two-week pay period. The bill complements another piece of legislation intended to simplify the overtime payment process for members of the U.S. Border Patrol.

A 2014 law governing how the Homeland Security Department compensates Border Patrol employees offered agents increased base pay and a more stable work schedule in exchange for a limit on overtime. The Border Patrol Agent Pay Reform Amendments Act (H.R. 1392), introduced in February by Reps. Cuellar and Will Hurd, R-Texas, would simplify how agents choose their work schedule for the coming year and give greater flexibility in working overtime.

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Similar legislation passed unanimously out of the House in the last session of Congress, although the Senate did...