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

Cost of Living Adjustments for Military Retirees, the Blended Retirement Deadline Looms and More

The Defense Department announced Tuesday that military retirees and survivors will receive an increase in their pay and annuities in 2019.

Beginning Jan. 1, most military retirees, enrollees in the Survivor Benefit Plan and survivors of service members who died on active or inactive duty, will receive a 2.8 percent increase to their retired pay, the Pentagon said in a statement.

Additionally, survivors who are eligible for the Special Survivor Indemnity Allowance program will receive a 2.8 percent increase, with the maximum amount available reaching $318. The Defense Department calculated the cost of living adjustment based on the increase in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers between September 2017 and September 2018.

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Officials at the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program are reminding service members that they have less than two months to decide whether to opt into the Thrift Savings Plan for matching contributions.

Dec. 31 is the deadline for members of the military to decide whether to enroll in the Blended Retirement System. The program offers for the first time an employer match...

Pay Satisfaction Improves, VA Tweaks Pension Benefits for Veterans

Although the recently released results of the Office of Personnel Management’s annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey suggested that federal workers still are not satisfied with how raises and promotions are doled out across government, they appear to be growing more satisfied with their own salaries.

The percentage of respondents who reported that they are satisfied with their pay increased by 2 points this year, reaching 63 percent in 2018. The increase in satisfaction continues a trend dating back to 2012, when satisfaction with pay was only 54 percent. That nadir came in the midst of a three-year pay freeze between 2011 and 2013.

In 2018, federal workers received a 1.9 percent pay raise, although President Trump has proposed that the government freeze employees’ pay next year. Some agencies have begun to prepare to implement that proposal, but it is becoming increasingly likely that Congress will overrule the plan and provide civilian employees with a 1.9 percent raise next year. Republicans negotiating a fiscal 2019 spending package said they will agree to a raise.

After next week’s midterm elections, lawmakers will have until Dec. 7 to approve a bill to fund a variety of agencies for the...

Federal Officers Association Asks OPM to Roll Back 2016 Annuity Change

A group representing the federal law enforcement community last week sent a letter to acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert asking her to roll back an Obama administration decision to change how payments to divorced retirees are distributed to them and their former spouses.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents more than 27,000 federal law enforcement professionals across 65 agencies, blasted a 2016 OPM decision to grant a “marital share” of the Federal Employees Retirement System Retiree Annuity Supplement to a retiree’s ex-spouse if the retiree is subject to a state divorce decree. Before that decision, the agency would only grant that share based on the basic annuity.

The retiree annuity supplement is the money that is paid to retirees who are not yet eligible for Social Security, which kicks in at age 62. Many law enforcement positions force officers to retire at 57. For decades, the supplement was not subject to a court-ordered marital share because OPM considered it to be a Social Security-type benefit, and thus not part of a divorce agreement.

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“This policy change constituted an unwarranted reinterpretation of...

Another Pay Freeze Notice, Emergency Leave for Disaster Victims and More

Although Congress may be well on its way to including a 1.9 percent pay increase for civilian federal employees in its appropriations legislation slated for passage after the midterm elections, the Trump administration is proceeding as if the president’s plan for a pay freeze in 2019 will become reality, for now.

In a memo last week, acting Office of Personnel Management Director Margaret Weichert asked agency chief human capital officers to conduct an annual review of their authorities to offer special pay rates above the General Schedule for certain occupations and regions to ensure they are still being used and are still needed. She noted that next year, any changes to compensation for employees hired at special rates will mirror those for General Schedule employees by default.

“I have determined that the default January 2019 adjustment for special rates will be equal to the January 2019 across-the-board adjustment for GS base rates,” Weichert wrote. “[However], the president has set the January 2019 adjustment for GS base rates at zero by exercising his authority . . . to provide for alternative adjustments in GS base rates.”

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The Most Fed-Friendly Lawmakers, the Status of the Retirement Claims Backlog and More

The midterm elections are coming up in about a month, and while many factors likely will influence public servants’ voting decisions, they may be interested to know more about candidates’ stances on federal pay and benefits. A federal employee advocacy group has put together a scorecard analyzing the voting records of current House members and senators who may be up for re-election.

The National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association looked at eight House and six Senate votes between January 2017 and August 2018, in which federal employee or retiree interests were at stake, and created a chart that shows whether lawmakers voted with or against feds.

“In order for members of the federal community to make educated decisions during the upcoming midterm elections, it’s imperative that they know how their respective members of Congress voted on legislation affecting them and their families,” NARFE President Richard G. Thissen said. “The NARFE 115th Congress Scorecard does precisely that and is all the more important this year due to the extremely divisive political environment, which has included an abundance of misinformation campaigns targeting both incumbents and new candidates.”  

NARFE’s chart is broken down by state so that federal employees can...