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

Congress’ Big Plans for Federal Service, Locality Pay Loophole and More

All indications suggest that 2017 is going to be an interesting year for federal employees in the pay and benefits arena. Before we get to that, here’s a reminder that Washington area feds (at least most of them) will see at least one concrete benefit from new administration—an extra day off on Jan. 20 for the Trump inauguration. But for those who weren’t regularly scheduled to work that day, there won’t be any “in lieu of” holiday, OPM said.

As for what feds can expect this year, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, promises to focus more on the “reform” part of his job description, Eric Katz reported Monday. Chaffetz said he would push legislative changes such as eliminating defined-benefit pensions for new federal employees and making it easier for agencies to dismiss employees accused of sexual misconduct. As we explained:

On the retirement issue, Chaffetz said his committee will push to move new federal hires to receive only a defined-contribution benefit, like the Thrift Savings Plan. He said he must “still work the math” as to whether those employees would receive a more generous government contribution toward the 401...

New Rules for Juggling Telework and Childcare, Mileage Rate Cuts, FEHB Access and More

First the good news: Federal pay is going up. The Office of Personnel Management just published the 2017 pay tables for the various categories of government employees, including those in the SES, the General Schedule, the Veterans Health Administration, and the Foreign Service. The rates of pay for uniformed service members and federal employees covered under special rates of pay also are available as well as pay adjustments for certain prevailing rate (wage) employees.

Now the bad news: House lawmakers just made it easier to cut federal jobs and pay. A resolution adopted Tuesday allows Congress to reduce the number of federal workers at specific agencies or cut their compensation as a provision of an appropriations bill.

As Eric Katz reported:

The House Policy Committee said the measure will bring back what was known as the “Holman Rule” before Congress eliminated it in 1983. The rule will allow lawmakers to cut the workforce or compensation for employees only at the agencies covered by the specific spending bill in which the provision or amendment is included.

The option will be in effect only through 2017, so agencies should get ready for some surprises as appropriations bills make their way through Congress...

VA Bonus Dustup, Trump’s Government ‘Accountability’ Play and More

Despite a higher than expected pay raise for civilian employees in 2017 and a locality pay boost for some, the new year is likely to be a rocky one for the federal workforce.

President-elect Donald Trump’s announcement that he would tap budget hawk Mick Mulvaney to lead the White House Office of Management and Budget suggests agencies—and possibly feds themselves—are in for some belt tightening next year. The South Carolina Republican is a founding member of the House Freedom Caucus and a longtime proponent of cutting government, including government employees’ benefits.

“With Mick at the head of OMB, my administration is going to make smart choices about America’s budget, bring new accountability to our federal government, and renew the American taxpayer’s trust in how their money is spent,” Trump said in a statement.   

If Mulvaney’s past priorities are any guide, expect more hiring freezes and maybe some benefits cuts: In 2011, Mulvaney introduced legislation to cut the federal workforce through attrition. He estimated the legislation, which called for hiring one federal employee to replace every three workers who retire or leave their job, would save $139 billion over a decade. He also sought (unsuccessfully...

Pay Raise Surprise, New Tuition Discounts, Snow Day Refresher and More

Last week ended on a high note for federal employees. First, President Obama surprised everyone by increasing next year’s civilian pay raise to 2.1 percent. The civilian pay hike now matches the figure lawmakers approved for the military as part of the Defense authorization bill.

Then, at the last minute Friday Congress passed a continuing resolution that averted a government shutdown over the weekend. The measure funds federal agencies until April 28.

The one less promising item amid this news is that federal employees are unlikely to get extra time off around the Christmas holiday this year. Christmas falls on a Sunday this time around, and federal workers will have Monday, Dec. 26 off as a holiday. The last time Christmas was on a Sunday, in 2011, Obama did not give feds any extra vacation.

Speaking of holidays and winter, the Office of Personnel Management on Wednesday hosted a Facebook live chat to remind federal employees in the Washington area of the procedures for inclement weather.

OPM emphasized that in making decisions about the government’s operating status during winter storms, capital area officials are considering input from a range of state and local partners and that their...

Shutdown Suspense, Stubborn Retirement Backlog, Details on the Inauguration Day Holiday and More

Uncertainty continues to be a theme for feds as Congress races against a Friday deadline to avoid a government shutdown. Negotiators unveiled a continuing resolution Tuesday evening that would keep government open through April 28. Unfortunately for feds, however, the measure contains some controversial provisions, including a waiver allowing Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense Department secretary despite retiring from the military relatively recently (in 2013).

The House is expected to vote on the CR Thursday, and the Senate is expected to follow suit on Friday, which is the deadline for avoiding a shutdown. If a senator moves to filibuster the measure, the clock will expire and the government will close.

The good news is that if Congress does approve the CR over objections from Democrats, who weren’t happy with the process for arriving at the stopgap spending measure, then lawmakers have cleared one of the final hurdles for civilian federal employees’ pay raise, set by President Obama at 1.6 percent. Congress can interfere with Obama’s plan at any point before the new year, but the annual spending bill typically provides the best opportunity to do so and Congress did not include any language to that...

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