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May 28, 2018

Public Sector Retirement News

Federal Employee Retirement and Benefits News

Category: Featured

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TSP Contribution Limits Remain Unaltered

About TSP Contribution Limits

Like every year, the internal revenue service commission of the country has made the announcement for the Thrift savings plan’s contribution limits for 2016. These limits are effective for the whole year and unexpectedly this year, there haven’t been any stark changes made. The annual contribution limits along with other retirement plan investment limits/contributions are almost the same as they were in 2015. This is surprising because every year new calculations are made to determine the feasible amounts to be set and because 2015 wasn’t the most successful year for the retired officers (All things considered) we were expecting something better.

The catch up contribution limits for all the federal officers that have at-least 50 (or more) age which also gets added to the TSP funds will remain the same at 6 thousand dollars per annum.

TSP (Thrift Savings plan)’s contribution limits will also continue to be 18 thousand per year. Not only this, but the 401(k), 403(b) and the majority of the 457 plans are also going to stay unaltered.

Along the same lines, all the contribution limits for all of the funds of the IRA will remain untouched at 5 and a half thousand dollars. Alongside this, the extra catch-up contribution limits for all the employees that are aged at-least 50 or more will not be subject to any annual cost of living habituation and will continue to stay at a 1000 quid.

Last but not the least, the adjusted gross income phase-out range for the upcoming years for all the tax paying officers that add to the Roth IRA falls in the range of 184 thousand to 194 thousand dollars for all the married couples that put combined fillings. This was previously 183 thousand to 193 thousand. The range for singles has also changed and is now 117 thousand to 132 thousand.

Employee Express Couldn’t Bear The Load; Customer Services of OPM Fail

office of personnel management opm
Image Credits

OPM and its cyber security has always been critiqued heavily by the federal employees and other experts of the game but there are not going to be many feds out there that will hold it against OPM because they have been taking as many steps to improve the infrastructure as they can. Although there have been made some serious alterations to the Employee Express platform and this has caused a wave a frustration to develop in the federal employees. This incident is another instance for other institutions that customer service is something that needs to be really uptight at all times.

IF you aren’t aware of EE, then it’s an online web portal that’s operated by the office of personnel management and it allows the feds to monitor and assess their personal data and salary information as well. They can even make changes in their personal details like address and saving plans directly into the OPM database through the website.

Why Employee Express caused OPM Customer Service to fail.

OPM had to face some serious threats from hackers and their system was made very vulnerable to cyber-attacks. This led them to make some changes to their networks and because they had to add some security measures, this cause the whole system to get slow. More and more people had to call the customer service desk and nobody got the response that they were looking for and the whole system metaphorically collapsed.

The management of OPM thinks that it’s only a matter of time till they can fix all the issues and the EE website will once again be made available for use like nothing was wrong. They believe that these steps are of substantial importance and they expect the employees to cooperate. The feds though are enraged and are demanding immediate repair of the web portal. Here’s hoping that things get worked out soon.

The Student Loan Forgiveness Program Might End Up Being a Bad Decision

student loanThe federal government has always been liable for making some striking changes to the student loan propaganda and recently they have prepared to up the ante a bit too much (probably) by forgiving up to billions of dollars that were taken in as student loans. These will include all the doctors and the white collar citizens too that have been paying a lot for their educations. This law is destined to help the employees that come from a middle class demographic and can’t afford to pay the hefty fee that they end up having to.

Student Loan Forgiveness Program

This has been caused by a program that was launched countrywide in 2007 and it forgives all the student debt that the student has gone ahead and made payments for over a decade and has not the highest of salaries. This of course is only applicable to those that are working for companies that come under the umbrella of the government or are non-profit organizations. This is destined to give encouragements to the young enthusiastic citizens of the country to go ahead and take part in jobs that are considered difficult to fill otherwise; for example public defenders, teachers and doctors that don’t get paid enough. This program however has ended up engulfing a lot many more people than expected; even the ones that have well paid jobs. Some of the students that had student loans to pay and had excellent jobs currently have gone ahead and made themselves free of the debts.

The greatest benefiters from this new program will be the medical students that owe a large amount of money (all the time) to the government. It’s expected that up to 85 percent of the students will get their huge debts forgiven under this scheme.

Critics have gone ahead and said that this program isn’t serving its purpose and where it shouldn’t have benefited the ones that are enjoying excellent pays, it should have benefited those that are currently suffering. Here’s hoping that whatever happens makes the life of the majority better.

Ex Cons Can Now Get Hired Without Any Bias

ex consPresident Obama has always been one for making outright decisions whenever it comes to hard situations and he is going to do exactly that when he goes ahead and places a ban on the hiring bias that the ex cons of the country have to face. A renewed order is in place to be pushed forward by the President which is destined to diminish the effect of (if not completely eradicate) the political bias that the previously convicted people have to face during the recruitment process of the federal officers.

This is a step that many critics have applauded but as you would expect, the reviews are indeed completely polar. People are considering it a step in the right direction because this would mean that even if you have been convicted in the past, you wouldn’t have to check in on the box while signing your application paper. The checking of the option allowed employers to completely discredit the applications made by people who have paid their debt to the society and repented for their sins. This new ban would prohibit them for not even giving these people a second chance. This however can also lease to gravely severe circumstances because what if the person wasn’t the man who he claims to have become after serving his punishment? What if you find out that you hired an ex-convict only when it gets too late?

The plan is set to be revealed in front of the country within a few days and there have been some seriously good endorsements already made supporting the passing of this bill. Hilary Clinton has been the most recent supporter of the bill and there have been many others.

Here’s hoping that the committee considers all the aspects and effects of the bill before actually going ahead and passing it.

Open Season Brings Changes to Federal Health Benefits

Federal employees have until December 14 to add, delete or otherwise change their federal health benefits through the FEHB program.

federal health benefitsOpen enrollment is also available for qualifying federal employees and eligible family members (children—up to age 26– and spouses). Open enrollment season is the time for employees to make changes to their policies, reduce or add coverage. Individuals who qualify for federal employee health benefits have the option to do one or more of the following:

-Enroll, if not already participating
-Cancel Enrollment
-Change plans
-Change from self only to self and family coverage.
-Change from self and family to self only coverage.

This open season adds a new coverage option for federal employees. In addition to Self Only and Self and Family, employees may also add Self plus One. Self-coverage covers the employee only. Self and Family offers coverage to the employee and qualified family members, which include:

-Spouses (including common law)
-Children under the age of 26 including natural children, legally adopted children and stepchildren
-Most foster children in your care
-Children over the age of 26 who cannot care for themselves due to a mental or physical disability that was present before age 26.

Self Plus One

The new plan, “Self plus One”, provides health coverage for the employee and one family member. The new plan is cheaper than the self plus family and offers a more affordable option for families who do not have children or additional dependents to cover. The self plus one plan was approved in 2013, but does not take effect until January 2016, though interested parties should register before December 14, to qualify for this next year.

Eligibility requirements for the additional family member are the same as the traditional policies. Spouses, children under the age of 26 and individuals with mental disabilities that occurred before the age of 26 may be the additional individual covered under the policy.

Not a Benefit to all Families

A Human Resources Specialist with the Air Force, Erica Cathro, told reporters that some families might see a savings by choosing the self plus one, but not all employees. Employees should look closely at the plans to determine whether this new option will actually save them money. Cathro explained, “The formula used to calculate the government contribution is based on the average of al plan premiums and requires that the Office of Personnel Management calculate a maximum contribution for each enrollment type. If a plan’s premium costs exceed the government allotted contribution for a self only, self plus one or self and family enrollment, the employee must pay the remaining amount.”

Federal employees are encouraged to compare the self plus one plan with self plus family to see if the change will help them.

Any employees who choose to cover their family are responsible for contacting the HR department during the year to update coverage for family members including new children and children aging out of coverage.
Federal employees may also notice chances to the flexible spending accounts. New to this year’s policies include the elimination of a grace period and the addition of an allowable $500 carryover of unused funds. In addition, employees must reenroll for the next year to receive any of their carryover funds.

Federal Agencies To Not Testify About OPM Hack

Federal Agencies To Not Testify About OPM Hack

opm hackThe government’s personnel agency’s officers have out of the blue rejected that they possess any information about the recent OPM hack and have refused to become a part of the meeting to be held by members of the Congress behind closed doors. To make unaware people aware, this briefing was called because of a huge security breach that took place in the recent past and ended up causing data damage to over 20 million federal employees.

The office of personnel management saw this breach happen last year and it completely beat the security threats that Washington used to have. Threats were received from various terrorist groups and other outside parties about potential future breaches as well.

Why Won’t these agencies meet about the OPM Hack?

The main homeland security department along with OPM and all its constituents have declined the request to sit in the meeting and this has caused many fires to gain strength. The reason behind this immediate refusal to sit down is that it’s expected that all the conversations that are to be made will be written down and can possibly be held against the people in debate.

Apart from this, the members from the defense department and all the officers from the intelligence community of the US made their testimonies as expected and the director of the meeting Mr. Thornberry further said that this sudden decline of the request was something that he didn’t expect one bit.

OPM has been compromised via cyber-attacks twice already in the recent past and it has led many critics and do-gooders to criticize and analyze every action that it takes. These attacks were said to have been made by Chinese hackers.

Where it’s still unclear whether the members of the OPM and the other two committees will end u giving testimonies soon or not, it’s definitely clear that OPM does need a bit of strengthening in its online affairs.

More Federal Government, Demand the Republicans

demand the republicansThe republicans have always been the ones that make the most demands when it comes to the federal government and in the recent presidential primary held by all the Republican candidates, most of them have stressed that the federal government should take more vigilant steps in ensuring that they actually assess the agencies they would end up cutting. There has been one voice heard from Ohio this past week in support of this request.

Recently Mr. John Kasich, the governor from Ohio announced that he has decided to launch a new agency under which he would be making the “Judeo-Christian western norms and values” promotions in foreign countries. This particular committee is going to raise voices in the Middle East as well as in China and Russia among other countries.

The Republicans Demand More Federal Government

The governor’s main stand point was this: He believes that the foreign broadcasting has lost the vigor that it used to have in the previous generations and now the focus is laid more on matters that shouldn’t be considered important. He said that his efforts will help ensuring the consolidation of a new committee based agency that is going to have a very clear mandate. The rudimentary values of democracy, freedom of religion and human rights etc. are going to be the main talking points.

Kasich believes that he has got the required capabilities and experience to pull this off and there has been some serious support and endorsements of his steps that are being made all over the country in the recent past. While this aims at making the foreign broadcasting something to look forward to in the upcoming years, it could also give some critics food for thought too. Here’s hoping that whatever transpires ends up being fruitful for not only Republicans, but for all of United States of America.

Government Getting Sued By Youth Over Climate Change

climate changeThe youth from all over the country have begun to throw law suits at the feet of many states and the federal government has been urged to show some enthusiasm over the climate change. The stand point of the youth is this: they don’t care about global warming causing harm to nature because they believe that it’s nature and its way of bringing about climatic off-seasons. So they would want to let natural resources be preserved and not changed according to the will of the government.

As expected, there are mixed reviews from analysts and thinkers about this matter. Some actually believe that the children have raised quite a point and that it’s pragmatic to consider the preserving of natural resources. While there are others who completely consider this juvenile efforts to make money and chaos.

Can The Youth Really Sue the Government Over Climate Change?

The non-profit company from Oregon known as the Our Children’s trust has gone ahead and made many efforts and actually signed many causes on social networks (leading to successfully signed petitions) against many states of the country and they have not spared the federal government in their suits.

 

The Supreme Court issued a legal principle known as the doctrine of public trust in 1892 and the young ones of the country are referencing to it and saying that the generations hold the cards and should be entrusted whenever making decisions about the solidarity of a nation.

 

While this is a very gruesome and cumbersome issue and requires professional expertise to actually be able to study and analyze well, the youth hasn’t made a completely farce argument either. It’s to be analyze with care and with precision and the government should most certainly not just go ahead and disregard this uproar made by the ever so enthusiastic liberal youth of your country. Here’s hoping things end up alright after all.

VA Employees Receive Millions in Bonuses despite Scandals

veterans

Federal employees at the Veterans Affairs Office a total of more than $140 million in bonuses for good performance during 2015, despite a number of widely-publicized scandals that have brought the spotlight on the office and resulted in several resignations.

During a speech at the Veteran’s Day Observance at Arlington National Cemetery, President Obama urged the VA to do more for veterans.

Obama told listeners that, “The unacceptable problems that we’ve seen, like long wait times and some veterans not getting the timely care they need, is a challenge for all of us, if we are to match our words with our deeds. I am still not satisfied.”

Despite vocal opposition to the current operations of the office by both the president and VA Secretary Bob McDonald, millions awarded to 156,000 federal employees with millions of taxpayer dollars. Bonuses included some $4,000 to $8,000 bonuses for federal employees who oversaw the construction of a hospital in Denver.

VA Secretary Bob McDonald defended the awarded of nearly $200 million this year despite a myriad of scandals. He told reporters that the bonuses are unremarkable and even argued that the bonuses were deserved.

He went on to say that just because there are problems in the department, the “rank and file” should not lose their bonuses. “Occasionally we make errors; those deserve more scrutiny. But severely curtailing or ending awards, only in the VA, would be a mistake, negatively impacting veterans and our ability to attract top talent,” he said.

Despite his passion for rewarding “deserving” employees, a report by USA Today shows that the distribution of the awards may need more attention. Several employees and offices involved in scandals were awarded bonuses for their work last year.

Bonuses were not restricted to offices that have performed well, as some federal employees in the Philadelphia Office received bonuses ranging from $300 to $900 each. One watchdog group identified the Philadelphia office as the worst VA office in the entire country. Additionally, McDonald approved bonuses for mangers at the Tomah, Wisconsin office that is jokingly referred to as “Candyland” because they are well known to over prescribe opiate drugs to veterans. Managers here received bonuses of $1,000+.

Public records also show that one employee received a $900 bonus despite earlier allegations (and admission) of driving a government after drinking alcohol. A co-worker fell from the truck and died. The employee, Jed Fillingim, resigned but then returned to work.

Several officials from the VA office were subpoenaed last month on accusations that they manipulated the VA system to secure new positions with less responsibility but the same pay. One of those officials, regional director Kimberly Graves, received almost $9,000 last year.

Former VA Secretary Eric Shinseki promised to suspend bonuses in 2014 after a fake wait list scandal appeared in the media. However, the suspension of bonuses affected few officials. Since then, Congress passed a bill to ban executive bonuses for five years. However, the changes to the bill allow the VA to award a maximum of $360 million in bonuses per year.

Florida Representative Jeff Miller chairs the House Committee responsible for VA oversight, told reporters that he felt this year’s bonuses are representative of “a disturbing trend of rewarding employees who preside over corruption and incompetence.”

Federal Employees Sign Petition To Get A Paid Holiday

post-thanksgiving

Paid Post-Thanksgiving Holiday Coming Soon?

The federal employees have made it a habit to demand (or request) for a day off after Christmas and most of the times (As seen in the past few years) the government haven’t waived off their request and granted them their wish. However this time round, the habit has gained a little strength and the feds are feeling greedy about this matter as they have sent a holiday request to Obama asking to grant them a leave after Thanksgiving this time round too. This was made evident by the petition that was signed on “We the people” website for a paid Nov 27 holiday.

The petition can be paraphrased to say that the federal employees and officers have had little to no real benefits from the government when it comes to the increase in cost of living and beneficiary programs and this has caused the vigor with which the officers used to work to go down. A paid day off would not go unappreciated and this will mean that federal employees are also cared for and they too deserve a day to spend with their families every once in a while.

The petition is slowly gaining momentum but it still is far off from the benchmark value signatures that are needed for the White house to even start considering it. A minimum of a 100 thousand signatures are required and there are not many days left to reach that value.

Similar requests have been granted in the past and there have been incidents where President Obama has deemed it wise to not give “Aye” to such petitions. Here’s hoping that if it’s what they deserve then the federal employees should get it. A prosperous federal government needs happy and devoted employees and this could go a long way in trying to give them the happiness they might be looking for.

The Last of the Government Research Chimpanzees are Retiring

research chimpanzees

The Government is retiring the last of the research Chimpanzees

There have been some chimpanzees used by the government for scientific research purposes but now the National institutes of health has decided to send the final few research animals into federal retirement. These research chimpanzees include some that were present in the Texas facilities. They will be moved to the nearest federal sanctuary as soon as some space is cleared out for them.

This is not something to be surprised of for most of the people as the government had already made such remarks and indicated that one of the closest ancestors to the homo sapiens will cease to be used as research specimens. During 2014, the national institutes of health had announced that soon all the chimps that were serving as lab rats will be retired and this looks like something to do with that announcement.

In the past week, the labs had cleared the chimps and it was said that they are no longer going to be subject to experiments in the lab anymore. The main director of NIH stressed during his last speech that the research on chimps in the world of today is no longer something pragmatic and it’s finally time for us to move on.

The first thing on the mind of the NIH board apparently will be to send the 20 chimpanzees that they currently own to the Chimp haven which is a government owned and funded chimp sanctuary up in Los Angeles. After that more animals are destined to follow and be placed in other sanctuaries that are spread out across the country.

Here’s hoping that steps like these mean an end to the exploitation of these animals and they can finally spend some years without having to abide by the rules formed by the human scientific civilization. Steps like these can only be lauded.

October Saw TSP Stock Funds Get Gains

Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

TSP Stock Funds Get See Gains

Majority of the Thrift Savings plan funds saw huge rises in the preceding month of October. The fund that got the largest boost was the C fund. This was hugely unexpected but the commission that approved the change justified its decision and when you really look at it, it does have excellent effects for the federal employees in the longer term.

The C fund is based on the S&P 500 index. Specifically this index saw a whopping raise of 8.4 percent in the month of October. The index has not seen a higher raise in the past 4 years which is something really striking. One more surprising fact is that the C fund was actually able to even exceed its index rate and gained 8.46 percent for the month of October. This also means that the C fund is now going to be at 2.8 (round about) for the year and for the last 12 months it stands at 5.28 percent.

This gain in the C fund is something that’s going to be written in the history books. October 2011 saw the C fund gain around 11 percent and since then, no year saw the C fund get a raise this high.

Apart from the C fund, other smaller TSP stock funds also saw gains in the preceding month. The S fund, for instance increased by 5.612 percent but it’s still down for the whole year. These tinier funds play a more vital part to the domestic economy of the country and because of the fact that the economy is not getting rapid growth, there is expectedly less chances for these funds to gain growth in their revenue. That is the reason why they are behind the C fund by a substantial amount.

Other funds like the G fund also saw changes and this just goes to show the importance of the month of October in the domestic economic life of the country.

Private Sector Leads Federal Salaries By 35 Percent

federal salaries

Federal Salaries 35% Less Than Private Sector

Unexpectedly and some may say tragically the salaries of the private sector employees are a lot more than those of their federal employee counterparts that do similar jobs. The federal salaries continue to be 35 percent lesser than the private sector ones; this was confirmed by an advisory committee who put forward the final data when a heated debate finally reached an end.

The gap is not something that one can easily ignore; it’s almost 35 percent (34.945 to be exact) and this is not substantially lesser than the 35.36 and the 35.23 percentages that were decided upon by the board of the Federal Salary council. This figure is considered to be very consistent and there hardly has been a stark change seen in the past few years.

The council that decides upon such matters comprises of the representatives of the federal employee union and other foreign compensation gurus. These people are also responsible for overlooking the general schedule pay system that is applicable to the 1 and a half million white collar officers that work below the senior level designations. This general schedule system announces rates that always vary by the location and has separate benchmarks for both Hawaii and Alaska. There are designated metropolitan areas and the rest of the US is encompassed in the catchall.

The greatest discrepancies are seen in the localities of Washington and Baltimore. Here the disparities among pay amount to 51 percent. After this the San Diego and the San Francisco areas come at 49 percent, give or take. The least amount is unexpectedly in the catcall area; 14 percent. Here it’s worth taking note that these rates are determined not according to where the officers live but where they work.

The laws dictate these numbers to be closed down and the private sector pay be made as close to the federal pay as possible but no steps have substantially been taken by the Congress. Here’s hoping that would change.

Government Leaders Want Bill to Discipline VA Employees

va employee

Possible New Bill to Discipline VA Employees

Following a series of scandals within the Veterans Affairs offices, government officials are seeking legislation that would permit Bob McDonald, Veterans Affairs Secretary, to fire or discipline employees faster and more efficiently. If the bill passes, this could create an opening for other federal employees to face termination with less red tape.

Republican Representative from Florida and Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Jeff Miller, sponsored the legislation and said he hoped lawmakers could compromise on a bill that would still protect employee’s rights to appeal a firing but also reduce how long the appeals process could drag out.

Overcomplicated Firing Policies

Miller told reporters that the firing policies at the VA office seem over complicated. “Where I come from, when you’re fired, you’re fired. You walk out the door that day … What you hear from the VA is, “We’ve given notice.” To me, that’s not firing somebody.”

Representative Miller’s comments come only days after a Congressional hearing in which several leading Veterans Benefits Administration officials were to testify regarding allegations that they had misused funds to the sum of over $400,000 to better their job titles as well as forcing other employees to take different jobs.

During the hearing, a top official with the VAB told leaders that rules designed to protect federal employees from unlawful termination actually made it more difficult to fire those involved in the scandal.

“We still have to try to root out some of the culture that is in the VA that is more about taking care of the bureaucrat than taking care of the veteran. Until that is done, I don’t think the VA will be operating on all eight cylinders,” Miller told reporters.

Lack of Accountability

 

He went on to say the biggest problem with the VA is that there is a lack of accountability. Despite several resignations, early-retirements and several firings of employees, Miller believes the VA needs to address the source of the problem.

While the House passed the bill in early July, efforts to get the bill passed the Senate floor have failed so far. Senator Richard Blumenthal, a democrat from Connecticut said that the bill did not pass not because they disagreed with the cause but because they want to work to ensure that this type of change would not negatively affect whistle blowers.

Miller said that he intends to work closely with Blumenthal to ensure that would seek compromises that would offer maximum satisfaction of both the House and the Senate.

Despite positive reception to the bill, some leaders feels that some changes may be necessary. Representative Tim Walz, a democrat from Minnesota said that he was interested in ensuring more accountability within the VA, but he worried that the legislation could cause issues down the line. He argued that administration can get rid of bad employees they just don’t do it.

“People need to be fired, but I would make the case that [leaders] could have done [their] job better and not given bonuses to an under performing employee and move them somewhere else,” Walz said.

If the bill passes, it could serve as a lead in for cases against other federal employee terminations.

 

Social Security Teams Up With CFPB For Retirement Planning

Social Security Teams Up With CFPB For Retirement Planning

 

Social Security
Social Security (photo – DonkeyHotey/flickr)

Social Security takes a cut out of every pay check to pay for providing disability and retirement benefits to the previous generation, but a whole lot of people don’t really think much about it, or about retirement planning in general. The Bookings Institution recently hosted an event regarding this issue for the Social Security Administration and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

At this event, Acting Commissioner of Social Security Carolyn W. Colvin, gave the keynote remarks on helping people plan for retirement.

The Social Security Administration also presented retirement planning tools available at the my Social Security online hub where people interact with the agency.

Approximately 168 million workers pay toward Social Security coverage through taxes on their earnings, and almost 60 million people receive monthly Social Security benefits. Around two-thirds, or 40 million of these beneficiaries, are retired workers or their dependents.

Still, many workers paying into Social Security don’t know much about how the system works, or what they need to do on their own in terms of retirement savings and plans.

 

How is Social Security Going to Help With Retirement Planning?

 

SSA intends to step in along with CFPB to provide retirement planning assistance to those who need help.

“We are so pleased to partner with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Brookings Institution to help Americans plan for retirement,” said Acting Commissioner Colvin. “Creating a sound retirement plan is vitally important. Social Security provides secure online services for our customers—including the my Social Security suite of services, the Retirement Estimator, and the online retirement application.”

The event hosted by the Brookings Institution also included a panel discussion on efforts to improve retirement planning. Panel guests included Olivia S. Mitchell, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, and Jean Setzfand, Senior Vice President of Programs at AARP.

 

Federal Workers Underpaid, According to Federal Salary Council

 

federal salaryFederal Salary Council Releases Report

Whether federal employees make too much or too little is a common topic of debate. One recent report by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, federal employees make about 78 percent more money than private-sector workers and over 40 percent more than state and city government workers.

 

This report referred to the federal government as “an elite island of secure and high-paid employment, separated from the ocean of average Americans competing in the economy.”

 

The Federal Salary Council does not agree. They did find a similar pay gap, though they say the federal workers only make about 35 percent less than market value over the last two years. Despite the pay gap, the Federal Salary Council recommended that more federal employees should move into new locality pay areas so they can receive pay increases next year.

 

Is the Federal Salary Council Correct?

 

Howard Risher, a financial expert believes the FSC may be stretching the facts. He said, “The recommendations submitted by the pay agent to the president have been rejected annually for two decades. It is clear that the reported conclusions are not credible. I doubt if even the union members of the Federal Salary Council believe employees on average are paid 34 percent below market rates.”

 

The FSC works to help unions increase salaries for federal employees without going through Congress for approval.

 

Whether the difference between pay is large or small, federal employees do have other advantages including layoffs and discharges are significantly lower than the public sector with occurrence rates at 25 percent of public jobs. Additionally, the Bureau of Economic Analysis determined that the number of federal employees fired for any reason happened at 1/6 the rate of private sector jobs.

 

The Congressional Budget office disagreed with both sides of the argument stating that when you add wages and together, the federal government only pays about 16 percent more than comparable jobs in the private sector.

 

New Locality Pay

The federal government approved a proposal to add 13 new locality pay areas that will include just over 100,000 federal employees. These new areas will give employees a pay raise. In addition, the Federal Salary Council added an addition two new localities earlier this week. These two new localities will not take effect until 2017.

 

The new localities include Albany, New York; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Colorado Spring, Colorado; Davenport, Iowa; Harrisburg Pennsylvania; Kansas City, Missouri; Laredo, Texas; Las Vegas, Nevada; Pal Bay, Florida; St. Louis, Missouri and Tucson, Arizona. Other areas have asked to be included as a locality pay area.

 

A study by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed that employees in the areas approved for new localities made significantly less money than those in similar civil positions. The new localities provide a way to help reduce the pay disparity by offering a pay increase.

 

In 2015, locality adjustments ranged up to 30 percent. New locality rates are likely to be around 10 percent in most of these areas. Other federal employees are set to receive a one percent raise during the 2016 fiscal year.

 

myRA Retirement Savings Plan Offers Great Rates

myRA Retirement Savings Plan Offers Same Rate as Federal Employee Retirement Plans

 

myRA retirement savings plan
Photo – ssa.gov

Following the conclusion of a pilot project, the U.S. Department of the Treasury has announced the nationwide launch of myRA, a new savings option for those who don’t have access to a retirement savings plan at work.

U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew noted that “myRA has no fees, no risk of losing money and no minimum balance or contribution requirements.”

myRA accounts will earn interest at the same variable rate available to federal employee retirement accounts, and will follow the same rules as a Roth IRA.

 

Funding and Withdrawal Flexible in myRA Retirement Savings Plan

 

You can set it up to be funded through automatic direct deposit contributions through an employer. Note that employers do not have to manage employee myRA accounts, contribute to them, or match employee contributions. They simply facilitate an ongoing payroll deduction from the employee’s paycheck to the designated myRA account as long as the employee is working for them.

If myRA account owners change jobs, the account stays with them and they can simply switch the deductions to their new employer. You may also fund the account from a checking or savings account, or by directing all or part of your federal tax refund to the myRA account.

Account owners choose how much to save, subject to the maximum annual Roth IRA contribution limits. Unlike federal employee retirement systems, account owners can withdraw the money they put in at any time without tax and penalty. Roth IRA requirements do still apply to the tax free withdrawal of any earnings.

As myRA account holders grow their savings, they have the option to transfer to a private-sector Roth IRA with diverse investment options at any time, or transfer to a private-sector Roth IRA once they reach the maximum myRA balance of $15,000.

Thrift Savings Plans see Changes in October, November

tsp board thrift savings plan

What are the Changes To Thrift Savings Plans?

Federal Retirees and employees can breathe a small sigh of relief as each of the Thrift Savings Plan funds were in the black last a month, a first since August and September’s less than stellar numbers. The C Fund showed the biggest gains with an increase of 8.45 percent and the I Fund jumped just over 7 percent. Smaller companies also did well last month with S Funds rising 5.61 percent.

The G fund had small increases with a 0.17 rise and the F fund only budged about 0.2 percent. While these increases are small compared to the others, both of these funds were already in the black at the end of September, the only two funds in the TSP to do so.

L Funds Posted Positive Returns

New federal employees are likely a little relieved after the lifecycle offers (L Funds) finally posted positive returns. In September, L funds were down causing some retirees concern. L Income rose 1.64 percent, the L 2020 was up 3.72 percent, L 2030 rose 4.88 percent, L 20540 increased 5.58 percent and the L 2050 went up 6.31 percent. Despite scary rates in September, year-to-date rates were all in the black at the end of October.

Thrift Savings Plans were faced with a potential issue when Congress could not find a way to extend the nation’s debt limit. Congress faced a deadline of October 30. If they failed to find a way to extend the debt limit, the Treasury would have had to stop investing in the Thrift Savings Plan’s G fund to help save money until November 3, when the Treasury would have reached their debt limit.

Congress eventually voted to raise the debt ceiling, much to the dismay of several members of the government. Despite dismay at the nation’s increasing debt, the National President spoke out about the debt ceiling saying, “A vote to raise the debt ceiling isn’t a vote to increase our debt. It is about paying the bills that Congress has already approved … Every American is expected to pay his or her bills on time. Congress needs to do the same thing.”

G Fund Slowed Down in March

In anticipation of meeting the debt ceiling, the Treasury slowed down their investments into the Fund back in March. This move was to help preserve additional funds. Federal employees and retirees who invest in the G fund would not notice any difference if the suspension had taken place and none noticed changes during the slower investment period as G fund earnings are guaranteed by the make-whole provision that protected investors in the event of a debt crisis.

The debt ceiling raise only gives Congress until December 11 to come up with 2016 fiscal spending bills. Congress can pass spending bills on their own or create an omnibus package, which would combine all of the spending bills into one larger bill. If government officials cannot find a way to create a budget, the country could face another government shutdown.

DEPARTMENT OF LABOR ANNOUNCES 251,000 NEW JOBS IN OCTOBER

department of laborGreat news for the economy.

  The Department of Labor (DOL) announced 251,000 new jobs were added to the employment rolls of the country in October.

The Department of Labor announced over 250,000 jobs were added in October. The giant retailer Walmart might just deserve a gold star for boosting those numbers.  In October Walmart hired its 100,000th Vet probably leaving the country as whole only responsible for 151,000 new jobs.  We hope those numbers on both ends are not false positives due to the season we are entering – Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Employers tend to bring on additional workers during the holiday season to help out with the rush of customers anticipated to spend their money on gifts and other entertainment.  If these numbers are indeed seasonal statistics, what happens to these great numbers when we put the turkeys back in the freezer and take down the Christmas stockings?   These seasonal workers will still need jobs and maybe just somewhere at Walmart or some other employment site there will be work to be done.

I think we can depend on Walmart to employ Veterans for more than just a season.  From every indication, it appears that Walmart is championing the cause of men and women who have served their country as members of the armed forces.

Hiring managers from Walmart were interviewed on local stations around the Washington Metropolitan area on Veterans Day and the entire conversation was about hiring Veterans and honoring them for what they have done for their country.  Walmart is investing in the future by opening doors of opportunity for the brave men and women who sacrifice to keep our borders safe.

P. S.  Always Remember to Share What You Know.

Dianna Tafazoli

Federal Employees Would Pay More For Pension Benefits

pension benefits
Pension Protection Act of 2006. EEOB 450

Federal Employees Would Pay More For Pension Benefits

A newly raised House bill will make the federal employees of the state pay a considerably larger amount for their future pension benefits. This has received polar critiques from different members but its aim is to relieve the employees of getting their assets confiscated and in turn adding strength to their Medicare and social security.

Scott Rigell is the person who has raised voice and legislated the bill that would help in the restoration of around 3/4th of the spending cuts that get added to the non-defense as well as the defense budgets. This will also ensure that a substantial amount of money is added to the pays that get contributed to the pension funds of the feds that attained office before 2014. Put in simpler and clearer words, once this bill gets passed (which is more than likely) the percentages of contribution that the federal officers (hired in 2014 or later) have to currently give to the federal workers that come under the Federal Employee retirement system will get applied to everyone.

Many federal employees are in support of this bill even when they would now have to pay more towards their pension benefits. The majority pays around 0.8 percent but now it’s expected to go to as much as a staggering 4.4 percent.

The Bipartisan budget act was drafted by Paul Ryan and Senator Patty Murray in 2013 and according to it, the federal employees of 2014 or later would have to part with 4.4 % of their incomes to accumulate as later pensions and the ones that got employed after 2012 would have to pay a little less i.e. 3.1 percent. The rest would just have to pay 0.8 percent.

Now, after Scott’s bill gets passed, all of the employees would have to pay around 4.4 percent to get included in their pension funds. Whether this move is going to end up being positive or not, we shall wait and see.