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

An Agency Curtails Telework, Annual Charitable Giving Campaign Ends and More

The Agriculture Department issued a new rule last week that will significantly reduce employees’ ability to work remotely.

According to a departmental regulation released Jan. 4 by the agency’s Office of Human Resources Management, feds approved for telework now will only be able to work remotely for two days per pay period, or roughly four times per month.

The new rule scales back a policy implemented during the Obama administration allowing unlimited telework for Agriculture employees.

“Telework has the ability to produce tangible savings and other benefits, but its use must be balanced to ensure there are no negative impacts on the ability of the department to achieve its mission and provide high quality customer service,” officials said in the regulation.

The rule takes effect immediately, with a 30-day phase-in process. The policies and procedures surrounding the eligibility and approval process for telework were not altered in the new regulation.

There are just two days left before the annual charity giving drive at federal agencies reaches a close, and organizers are encouraging a round of last-minute donations.

The 2017 Combined Federal Campaign, which began Oct. 2, allows federal employees to donate to a variety of charities directly through their...

TSP Shows Modest Gains, Blended Retirement Goes Live and More

Monday marked the launch of the federal government’s new blended retirement system for military personnel, and officials at the government's 401(k)-style retirement savings plan have developed a wealth of new material to acquaint service members with the program.

Beginning Jan. 1, all new members of the military are automatically enrolled in the blended retirement system, which provides an employer match to Thrift Savings Plan investments in addition to a less generous defined-benefit pension plan. Current service members have until the end of 2018 to decide whether to opt into the program.

TSP has posted a video on YouTube to provide an overview to members of the military, and it has published two physical booklets to help service members to understand and best utilize the retirement savings program. For current personnel weighing whether to make the switch to blended, officials recommended a video from last summer, as well as an FAQ comparing blended to the standard retirement plan.

The TSP's various investment portfolios all ended 2017 with modest gains. Leading the way, as it did for much of the year, was the I Fund with its international stocks, which grew 1.60 percent in December. The...

Flipping the Switch on Blended Retirement, Your Benefits During a Shutdown and More

After years of planning, officials at the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings plan are finally ready to provide an employer contribution to members of the military.

The blended retirement system is scheduled to go live Jan. 1. The program, which automatically enrolls all new service members and offers a one-year opt-in period for current military personnel, provides an employer match of between 1 percent and 5 percent to the Thrift Savings Plan in exchange for a less generous annuity calculation if they stay the full 20 years required to earn pension benefits.

At a meeting of the TSP’s governing board Monday, project manager Tanner Nohe said all is in place for the new system to go live on New Year’s Day.

“All of our IT coding is in place and it will be activated on the last weekend of this year,” Nohe said. “We have eight applications deployed as well, and all of the regulations [were published Tuesday] and will take effect on Jan. 1. All of our communications and deliverables will go live at midnight on New Year’s Day, and that includes 29 different web pages.”

Nohe said officials have successfully run tests...

A Potential Pay Cut for Some Feds, Expanded Telework and More

A recently introduced bill in Congress could substantially cut the pay of more than 1,000 federal employees in an already beleaguered agency.

The 2017 CFPB Pay Fairness Act (H.R. 4499), introduced last month by Rep. Sean Duffy, R-Wis., would restrict the pay of Consumer Financial Protection Bureau employees to be in line with the General Schedule. Many employees of the controversial financial watchdog agency make far more than their counterparts elsewhere in government, to stay competitive with the private sector in the market for specialized skill sets.

Duffy said in a statement that the higher pay for CFPB employees is unfair to other feds and to taxpayers.

“The CFPB is dangerously unaccountable to the American people because Democrats intentionally designed it that way,” he said. “As a result, they can act as a bully to small banks and credit unions, push a far-left agenda, and spend lavishly on bureaucrat salaries that are obscenely higher than the vast majority of public servants.”

The measure is the latest in a series of efforts by Republicans to rein in the agency created by the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act enacted during the Obama administration. House appropriations bills would...

Relief for Feds Hitting Overtime Pay Caps, Benefits During a Shutdown and More

The House voted 407-4 Tuesday to approve a bill that would increase the annual overtime pay cap for employees at the Secret Service.

The 2017 Secret Service Recruitment and Retention Act (H.R. 3731), introduced by Reps. John Katko, R-N.Y., and Elijah Cummings, D-Md., would raise the overtime pay cap for Secret Service employees from $160,000 per year to $187,000 for 2017 and 2018. It would also direct the agency to submit a report on its recruitment and retention efforts, including data on attrition, morale issues and strategies to address these challenges.

As early as last August, more than 1,000 Secret Service agents had already reached the cap on the amount of overtime pay they could receive in a year. The agency has struggled to recruit and retain agents in recent years, a problem exacerbated by news of misconduct and President Trump’s frequent travel and large family.

The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee advanced the bill to the House floor in September. At the time, Katko and Cummings said the lower cap on overtime pay hurt the Secret Service’s efforts to address its staffing issues.

“The men and women of the Secret Service...