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Key developments in the world of federal employee benefits: health, pay, and much more.
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Dental Premiums Drop, Retirement Claims Spike, Anxiety Over Benefits 'Reform' Grows

Kudos to the dedicated feds at the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center. The center, which processes payroll for more than 650,000 federal employees, was badly damaged in a tornado that hit eastern New Orleans on Tuesday. USDA quickly initiated its Continuity of Operations plan, relocating staff to an alternative work site in Shreveport. Thanks to their quick action, feds will be paid on time.

For TRICARE beneficiaries affected by the tornadoes in Louisiana, emergency refill procedures are in place through March 9. See the notice from TRICARE for details.

A tornado of another sort may be about to hit federal employees. The Trump administration and lawmakers have been discussing major changes to pay and benefits for federal employees, as well as  how to reduce the role of unions and make it easier to fire poor workers. Yesterday, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, met with President Trump to discuss some of those issues. It’s worth noting that the meeting took place at Trump’s request.

As Eric Katz reported:

Chaffetz told reporters after his meeting he brought up the support in his committee for moving federal employees off a defined benefit...

Solid TSP Growth, An Opening Bid for the 2018 Pay Raise and More

It’s no secret that many Republicans on Capitol Hill are eager to slash federal employee pay and retirement benefits, and now it’s becoming clear the Trump administration is of a similar mindset.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer said while announcing the hiring freeze last week that federal employees’ compensation package is no longer realistic.

“Federal employee health and retirement benefits continue to be based on antiquated assumptions and require a level of generosity long since abandoned by most of the private sector,” Spicer said. “Those costs are unsustainable for the federal government, just as they are proving to be unsustainable for state and local governments with similar health and retirement packages.”

President Trump won’t have to look too far to find congressional allies on this issue. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah, has told Government Executive he will push to move new federal hires to a retirement system where they only receive a defined-contribution benefit, like the Thrift Savings Plan (those already vested in their pensions would be protected).

In perhaps one silver lining, Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., has already started working to secure a pay raise for federal employees next...

Hiring Freeze Fallout, Tax Relief, Education Benefits and More

There’s a great deal of uncertainty surrounding the federal hiring freeze President Trump imposed through an executive order he signed on Tuesday. The order exempts military personnel and leaves open exceptions for “limited circumstances” and positions agencies deem “necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.” But because most agencies still await new leadership, it’s unclear how these exceptions may apply.

The questions are myriad: Will employees hired prior to Jan. 23 but not yet on board be able to assume their positions? Will agencies be able to fill jobs essential to their mission, but not typically considered “public safety” positions, such as those for some health care providers? The answers are unclear and highly circumstantial.  

The order requires the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management (neither of which has political leadership at this point) within 90 days to come up with a plan to reduce the size of the federal government through attrition, after which time the hiring moratorium will expire. For those in limbo, three months of uncertainty will likely feel like a very long time. GovExec staff writers are covering developments, so stay tuned for more information.

In the...

Federal Jobs, Hiring, Firing and More

Hiring managers and human resources staff should review interim rules issued Wednesday that implement a new law allowing agencies to share information about job applicants to streamline federal hiring.

The interim rules from the Office of Personnel Management on the 2015 Competitive Service Act outline the process through which agencies can to collaborate on competitive service certificates when looking to fill a position in the same occupational series and within a similar grade level. Agencies can share job certificates as long as the vacancy announcement mentions that, and applicants agree to it. An agency that opts to use another agency’s job certificate to consider hires has to give its own employees advance notice of the job, give them 10 days to apply, and review their applications before hiring from the original agency’s certificate.

If, after considering its own employees, an agency wants to make a pick from a shared certification, it must first provide selection authority to external applicants who applied to the original job announcement and are eligible for the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Program. After that, hiring is done in accordance with veterans’ preference.

“When an agency announces a position, examines and rates applicants, and issues...

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...

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