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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Dueling Proposals for Feds’ Retirement Benefits, More Flexibility on TSP Withdrawals and More

Federal retirement benefits are now in the crosshairs of both the Trump administration and congressional Republicans.

House Republicans’ 2018 budget blueprint released Tuesday would require civil servants to contribute more to their own retirement funds to help decrease the budget deficit, and it would eliminate annuity supplements for Federal Employees Retirement System participants who stop working before they are eligible for Social Security benefits.

These benefit reductions mirror cuts President Trump proposed as part of his fiscal 2018 budget, though the House GOP plan is less specific about how the cuts would be enacted. The House blueprint does not define the size of the employee contribution increase, nor does it stipulate which employees would no longer receive annuity supplements—all future retirees or only new hires.

This would push the responsibility to the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, the legislative body that oversees the federal workforce. House Republicans mandated that the Oversight committee reduce the deficit by a minimum of $32 billion between fiscal 2018 and 2027, making the panel responsible for implementing retirement provisions as it sees fit.

Cuts pursued by the Oversight committee are likely to be less severe than those spelled out by Trump, though federal...

Would More Generous Buyouts Trigger Long-Rumored Retirement Wave?

Federal workforce observers said that given the ongoing uncertainty about employees’ pay and benefits, a proposed increase to the amount agencies can offer workers to retire early could be a boon to the White House’s goal of shrinking the government’s footprint.

The Office of Management and Budget confirmed Tuesday that the Trump administration has asked Congress to expand governmentwide a Defense pilot program boosting the cap on civilian employee Voluntary Separation Incentive Payments from $25,000 to $40,000. 

The House's fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R.2810), which will be up for a vote later this week, does not include the provision, requested last month by the Pentagon, but it does extend the pilot program until 2021. The NDAA is often used as a vehicle for implementing governmentwide personnel changes.

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Tammy Flanagan, a consultant who advises federal employees on retirement issues, said more generous buyout offers could be a deal clincher for employees considering early retirement as a result of ongoing budget uncertainty and proposed cuts to retirement benefits and the federal workforce as a whole.

“The things that...

Clearance Job Pay Drops, Protections for Vets at FAA, and More

A survey released last month revealed that average compensation for jobs requiring security clearance has declined 1.27 percent since 2014.

According to ClearanceJobs.com, the average total compensation for all security-cleared workers worldwide is $86,902. Given the steady growth in defense and security since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, the results came as a surprise to experts.

“At ClearanceJobs.com, we’ve characterized the past several years as a ‘perfect storm’—sequestration, a government shutdown, the OPM hack, a reduction in the size of the cleared workforce, and a doubling or tripling of security clearance processing times,” the report said. “Couple that with a commercial sector experiencing the lowest unemployment rates of the past decade and it has been a challenging season for defense recruiters. All of that industry turmoil has yet to equate to higher salaries for cleared professionals.”

But the survey revealed a shift in survey respondents toward the lower level of the security clearance spectrum. Since higher levels of clearance typically correspond to higher pay, a recent effort in the security industry to attract employees with lower levels of clearance could have had an impact on the survey results.

“There is increased pressure to...

A Proposed Lawmaker Housing Stipend, a Demand for Answers on Long Term Care Premiums and More

Outgoing Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has become the latest person to conclude that D.C. is just too expensive.

In an interview with The Hill, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman, whose last day in Congress is Friday, proposed a $2,500 per month housing stipend to help lawmakers who cannot afford a mortgage or rent on their own. He said that as a result of the high cost of rent, he sleeps in his office when he is in Washington.

“Washington, D.C., is one of the most expensive places in the world, and I flat-out cannot afford a mortgage in Utah, kids in college and a second place here in Washington, D.C.,” Chaffetz told The Hill. “I think a $2,500 housing allowance would be appropriate and a real help to have at least a decent quality of life in Washington if you’re going to expect people to spend hundreds of nights a year here.”

Members of Congress make $174,000 per year, although Chaffetz said such a proposal would save taxpayers money, particularly in terms of travel costs. After leaving government, Chaffetz will sign on as a Fox News contributor.

In other developments...

An End to Fitness Perks for Some Feds, Another Scam Targeting Retirees and More

Officials at the Office of Personnel Management are warning federal workers and retirees about another scam targeting their annuities.

Last week, OPM posted on its website that companies are “aggressively” targeting federal retirees with an offer of a cash payment in exchange for some or all of someone’s future annuities. The cash payment offered is generally much less than the long-term value of the annuities, and comes with high interest rates and fees.

One such company is already under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the OPM inspector general reported.

CFPB offered advice to retirees when faced with questionable loan or cash-for-annuity offers: Avoid loans with high fees and interest. Don’t sign over control of your benefits. And don’t buy life insurance that you don’t want or need—something pension advance companies sometimes require from consumers.

If you are targeted by one of these companies, contact OPM’s Office of the Inspector General at 877-499-7295. You can also report suspected scams via mail at OPM Office of the Inspector General, 1900 E St. NW Room 6400, Washington, D.C. 20415, or submit a complaint form online.

On Capitol Hill, two Virginia lawmakers have introduced a...