Tag: Benefits

Benefits

Children of Veterans Get Free School Supplies in San Antonio

Children of veterans who served the nation at some point and are fighting poverty and homelessness have a new reason to smile. The U.S Department of Veterans Affairs recently offered free school supplies to them in San Antonio and helped them start the new education year in the best possible manner. The veterans whose children got benefitted from this new initiative were very happy. They want every other veteran to benefit from it too.

veterans

How Many Children of Veterans got the Supplies?

As per the data shared by the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs, over 230 children of veterans received school supplies in San Antonio. This initiative was a part of the homeless veterans program of the department. The assistance was given to every kid no matter whether the kid was in pre-kindergarten or in high school.

The Reactions

Most of the veterans were delighted by the gift given to their children. A veteran, Nicholas Tolbert stated that this initiative was a huge help as it gave him a lot of peace of mind when he thought that his daughter, Natalie was prepared for the classroom. Natalie is going to be in the first grade this year. He also added that they just got off the street after being homeless for two months so the help they got is huge.

Ingrid Bethel-Constable stated that she went to the website for that school district and filled the backpacks with everything mentioned on the list.

Need for More Awareness

A single father who served the army for more than 12 years, Larry Hopkins said that he wants more veterans to be aware of the benefits and services made available for them. He stated that a lot of veterans have no idea that they can come to the U.S Department of Veterans Affairs to get help and getting stabilized in life.

Not Forgotten

Tolbert stated that the program to offer children of veterans with free school supplies is a kind of a reminder that says the veterans are not being forgotten. He adds that sometimes veterans may feel that they have no value and they are being easily forgotten. But then something like this happens and they feel appreciated again. He says that he feels great when he realizes that the help offered by the community is not just for him as a veteran but for his entire family. He said that he cannot explain how great he feels at that time in words.

Philadelphia Residents Contributing Least Towards Retirement Benefits

A new research has proven that Philadelphia residents contribute the least amount of money towards their retirement benefits. They are hence less prepared for the retirement and may struggle financially in their senior years. The major reason behind the fewer contributions is that most employers don’t provide a provision of retirement savings to the employees. Officials agree that this issue needs to be solved as soon as possible.

Retirement Benefits

The Need to contribute more to Retirement Benefits

The research that says that most Philadelphia residents are less prepared for retirement as compared to the Americans living in other states was done for a city council committee. The committee aims to know how to improve retirement savings. The study was conducted and released by the Schwartz Center for Economic Policy Analysis on Wednesday. It was divulged during a hearing conducted by Council’s Committee. The hearing was on Labor and Civil Service.

The Current Situation

During the hearing, several witnesses testified to the fact that there is a retirement crisis in the U.S. The witnesses also stressed that the retirement crisis in Philadelphia is particularly troublesome. The study exposed that about 20 percent of retirees in Philadelphia are poor and about 30 percent have incomes between 100 & 200 percent of the federal poverty level.

The Reason

Anthony Webb who works at the Schwartz Center for Policy Analysis stated that the reason behind the Philadelphia’s people saving less for retirement is that the employers who offer retirement plans are very few. Even those who offer a plan don’t always participate in the plans. He also added that a high proportion of seniors are nearing closer to poverty and the people who are working right now are also at a high risk of retiring in poverty.

Need For Action

Webb also stressed on the need to offering a retirement plan to people who don’t have any yet. He stated that offering a retirement plan may not help them to have a retirement of their dreams but it will definitely help them to get away from the poverty and near poverty situation they are facing right now. He insisted that the sooner an action is taken in this regard, the higher would be the number of households that get help. When a swift action is taken, they will be able to save a bit more money towards retirement benefits.

OPM Reduces Retirement Benefits Backlog Again

OPM has made considerable progress in clearing up the backlog of pending retirement benefits cases in the month of April. Although the main reason behind the reduced amount of backlog could be the fact that the agency received fewer applications, still the efforts put in by the agency are certainly showing up. It is being predicted that if the agency keeps working at the last month’s pace, it will reduce the backlog considerable by the end of the year.

Retirement Benefits Claims Processing Data

The recent data received on claims processing has revealed that the agency processed several more claims than the number of claims received in the month of April. OPM has processed nearly 12,000 pending claims in April while it received just more than 7,000 new claims. The efforts made by all the people working in the agency have brought down the total outstanding backlog by 24%.

Comparison with March’s Performance

The backlog was just over 19,000 in the month of March but now, at the end of April, it’s just over 14,500. The agency received over 7,000 new claims in the month of April, which is far higher than the 5,741 claims received in March.

The Average number of Days to Process Case in 60 days or less was 44 in March which increased to 50 in April. The Average number of Days to Process Case in more than 60 days was 118 in March and it stood at 92 in April. The agency processed 88% of claims in 60 days or less in the month of March and this percentage was just 76% in the month of April.

The Serious Problem

The biggest challenge for OPM that seems to be of importance is that it needs to bring the backlog down and make it below 10,000. Unfortunately, the agency hasn’t been able to achieve this goal in the last two years. It was just over 11,600 in December 2014 and about, 11,400 in December 2015.

The Positive Approach

One positive thing that needs to be analyzed with regard to retirement benefits claims processing is that the backlog was more than 22,000 in February. The agency has controlled it a lot in just two months. It can also be hoped that if the agency shows the same speed in chipping away the backlog that it has shown in the month of April, the backlog would be less than 10,000 by the end of 2016.

Retirement Benefits to Become History in Kennesaw

The elected officials of Kennesaw will no longer get any retirement benefits. This was decided unanimously by the city council on Monday. The officials who are already getting the benefits would be allowed to get them in the future, however, all the people who are elected from now on won’t be allowed these benefits. This is not the first move made by the council as many members have already let go of their insurance benefits recently. These moves will save thousands of dollars for the city.

The Previous Retirement Benefits Plan

Before the passing of this mandate, the members of the city council, as well as the mayor were vested after taking up their jobs.  Their benefits accumulated with each year they served the post. From now on, the mayor and all the council members won’t get any benefits as they have let it go willingly.

The Decision

This decision was taken by a 4-0 majority and the only council member, not present was Councilman Nimesh Patel. Mayor Derek Easterling was highly pleased with the decision. He said that it’s the right thing to do and everyone that ran in November was in favor of this decision. He also added that approving this decision is a proof that the council is taking actions on the basis of the promises it made.

Jim Sebastian, a council member who is the only one to be a member of the previous and current council also pledged to not collect his pension. Though he had previously said he was automatically enrolled for the same.

The Savings

If the statements given by Miranda Jones, Assistant City Manager are to be believed, this decision would save about $16,000 a year for the council. The city had already got savings of worth $78,000 when the council members let go of their dental, vision, medical and life insurance benefits. These figures were given by Mr. Easterling a few weeks back. Hence, the city will end up saving $94,000 from both these council decisions.

The Ordinance

Apart from letting go of the retirement benefits, the council is also taking some other crucial decisions. It passed an ordinance that assists in limiting the consumption of malt beverages or craft beers on the premises. An additional fee of $850 has been levied for acquiring package/pouring license. The $200 growler fee is unchanged and it needs to be paid too.

FEGLI and the Living Benefit by Paul Kalra

Paul Kalra, FEGLI and the Living Benefit

Paul KalraPaul Kalra is a financial planner and federal retirement expert in Lake Forest, California.

Although most people purchase life insurance for the death benefit protection that it provides, many may not realize that there are other ways in which this financial tool can be used in taking care of additional needs while the insured is still alive.

Commonly referred to as “living benefits,” some life insurance policies today will allow an insured to access the death benefit funds if he or she meets certain criteria, such as being diagnosed with a terminal illness. Today’s FEGLI (Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance) plans may allow a participant to access this type of feature.

Should the enrollee have a documented medical prognosis whereby he or she has a life expectancy of nine months or less, then they may elect to access a lump sum of cash from their FEGLI plan.

The amount of the lump sum that can be accessed is equal to the participant’s Basic life insurance amount, plus any amount of extra benefit for those who are under the age of 45, that is in effect nine months following the date that the Office of Federal Employee’s Group Life Insurance receives the completed living benefits claim form.1

It is important to note that when living benefits are accessed from a FEGLI policy – or from any life insurance policy – the amount that is taken from the policy will reduce the amount of funds that will be payable to the policy’s beneficiary at the time of the insured’s death.

In the case of living benefits on a FEGLI policy, an annuitant is not eligible to elect only a partial amount of benefit from the plan. Therefore, while an employee may opt to take just a portion of their insurance funds, if an annuitant elects living benefits, his or her survivors will not be eligible for any Basic insurance benefits at the time of the individual’s death.

More about Paul Kalra, CFP, ChFC, CLU:

Paul Kalra has been providing financial services for over 25 years to doctors, business owners and others nearing or in retirement. After a successful career with John Hancock Financial Services,in 2002, Mr. Kalra founded his own firm, Signature America Financial Planning Services, Inc. in Lake Forest, CA.

In his practice as a financial planner, Paul Kalra has found that when people are nearing their retirement years, they are faced with confounding decisions about their retirement plans, 401(k)’s, IRA’s, Social Security, Medicare, life insurance, wealth-preservation and estate planning. What motivated him to focus his practice on helping people in their 50’s and 60’s was when Mr. Kalra began facing such decisions himself and realized that the answers would have been very tough if he were not a financial planner.

5 Things That Surviving Spouses Must Know About Social Security

social securityCarrying on with your life after you have lost a spouse is a painful ordeal. Yet, you have to do it and live your life in peace. One of the things that can help you fight off the grief is the financial stability you get due to the social security offered in the USA. If you don’t have any idea about how can you claim the money and what factors influence it then here are a few useful things that may help you in taking the right financial decisions.

Unlocking the mystery behind Social Security Benefits for the Surviving Spouse

  1. One at a time: When you have lost a spouse, you have to choose among survivor benefits or the benefits you get based on your work history as you cannot get both at the same time. You need to pick one at the time and let the other one grow with time.
  2. The amount of your survivor benefit depends on your age and your spouses’ decisions: If you opt for the survivor benefit, the amount would depend on your age and the amount your late spouse would have received (or was receiving) before losing his or her life.
  3. Not taking social security can be for the best: In case your spouse has not taken the social security yet, the amount you will receive would be higher as compared to if he or she was taking the benefit. So you should always try to delay taking social security for your spouses’ benefit if you can afford it.
  4. You can get survivor benefit at 60 years of age: You can choose to make use of your survivor benefits at the age of 60 rather than 66 which is the current retirement age. In this case, the amount of money will reduce.
  5. Survivor benefits grow only until your age is 66: If you have opted for using the benefits given to you on the basis of your work history, the survivor benefit will grow only until you reach the age of 66. After that, it will just be sitting there.

So, if you are eligible for both the benefits as the part of your social security, it is advised that you opt for the work related benefits early on as it has no impact on your survivor benefit. Let the survivor benefit grow until you reach the age of 66 and then use it.

Police retirement benefits need to be restored

police retirement benefitsThe Utah Legislature is now in session and the legislators will do themselves and the general public a lot of good if they urge the Utah Retirement board to go back on their previously formed decision concerning the retirement benefits of law enforcement and correctional officers and reverse it.

Restore the police retirement benefits:

The concerned officers are servants of the society and they need to be compensated accordingly for their valour and service. Previously, they were liable to achieve retirement upon 20 years of service and then receive 50 percent of their last pay. The new plan, that is regarding the police and other law enforcement officials requires agencies to hire qualified men and women and make them work at-least 25 years before they can get retirement. Also, they would now only be liable to receive around 37.5 percent.

This decision is not the ideal way of thanking the men and women who took upon the responsibility of wearing a badge with pride and honour. The final decision lies in the hands of the board but it’s the legislators’ responsibility to make their voices heard to the board and possibly restore the retirement benefits that the officers deserve.

 

Social Security Navigation and Optimizing Benefits

social securitySocial security is one of the most important fund and it plays a really vital role in how Americans decide on funding their retirement accounts today. Many researches indicate that more than half of the American population rely on Social security as a huge retirement income source.

How to navigate social security and earn benefits:

In the past few months, there were some alterations made to the process of married people earning retirement benefits. The “Restricted application” and “File and suspend” strategies that were used by some of the federal employees who also happened to have spouses working in the government are soon to become a matter of the past.

The “File and suspend strategy” allows a married couple to maximize the Social security benefits. This will be applicable when both of the spouses have reached their full retirement age and one has been the main bread runner. Let’s say that the primary earner is eligible to earn a specific Social security amount then their spouse would ideally be liable to get half of that amount too. The real magic happens when the primary earner goes on and suspends their benefits till they reach 70 and thus gets advantage in the form of added suspended retirement benefits. This strategy will die on May 1st.

The restricted application strategy is still going to be available for another 4 years. It’s when you are at your full retirement age and have not applied to receive any benefits previously and you file solely for the spousal benefit that is pertaining to the record of your spouse.

These two strategies have been in practice for quite a long time now and while they are exploitable (till they expire) if you manage your contributions throughout your career properly, you can end up having substantial social security when you need it.

Social security changed throughout 2015. Here’s how

social security

Social security isn’t something that has just hit centre stage. It has been with us for over 80 years now but during this whole tenure, there have been considerable changes made. The year 2015 was no different; there were some small changes and there were some alterations that have caused serious implications for all the current retirees and the ones that are all set to retire in the future. Here are some of the ways it changed:

Small benefit increases:

As the last year begun, there were some good news given to all the social security recipients as they got a good 1.7 percent increase in their cost of living plans. This boost was good but it made 2015 the third consecutive year where the annual COLA was lesser than 2 percent; this was a cause for concern for all the older Americans because it wasn’t a good indicative of the funds that they would ideally want to live their life up to the set standards. This increase though meant that the monthly Social security benefits that the employees were set to receive got higher.

Social security claiming methodologies edging the end:

The file and suspend strategy that some of the federal employees make use of will no longer be available after May 2016. This was announced during the month of November.

The maximum SS benefits:

During 2015, we saw the maximum social security benefit also reach to an alarming height of 2663 dollars per month. It’s worth mentioning that this is the highest the highest level has ever gone. This entails that you will earn the highest possible income level for around 35 years (if not more) during your tenure of service.

Like every year, we see that 2015 did bring about stark changes in the way social security is awarded.

For Once the Federal Pays and Benefits Spared By the Budget Deal

Budget Agreement

budgetThe budget agreement that is set to last for the next 2 years was presented a few days back and there is some serious good news for the federal employees in that for once, the fed employees’ benefits and incomes have been spared and the debt limit has been raised. A certain amount of relief has also been provided from financial sequestration.

The leadership of the congress in agreement with the White House’s budget details for the coming two years doesn’t currently involve any statements regarding the federal employee force’s financial propaganda. In 2013, the deal forced the feds to pay a lot more towards their pension funds than they did at that time and before 2015, there have been many such instances where the government hires have not been favored.

Apart from this, the budget agreement also allows the approval of laws that would forsake the ability for many retired feds (That fall beneath the civil service retirement system) to absorb increases in medicare. This law dictates that those retired feds that were found guilty of this sequestration would have to pay 54 dollars more in their part B medicare premium accounts every month. This can also be extended to be applicable if there is no COLA for 2017 and the employees that were not “held harmless” will be protected from a substantial monthly insurance amount jump.

In contrast to this, the retired feds that are held harmless will go on and pay the normal 105 dollars (or a little less) every month during the fiscal year 2016. This can be considered a very strong stepping stone in the right direction as it ensures that federal employees don’t always get the last piece of the pie. Here’s hoping that there are no amendments made in these clauses of the proposed budget act.

Details about the new military retirement system

military retirement system
(the-military-guide.com)

Soon we will be hearing from the Defense Department regarding the new military retirement system that’s set to be put in to effect from January the 1st of 2018. There are some intricate details regarding the system that are to be shared and everybody is looking forward to hearing something that they would like to hear.

Details about the new military retirement system:

During 2016, the armed personnel can expect the implementation of the financial education programs that are going to be spread across the whole force and will allow the service members that are eligible to get help regarding making decisions of selecting retirement packages. They can either get enrolled in a new retirement plan or just go with the rudimentary benefit that is given under the grandfather clause. Even though, as mentioned the plan will not be put in to practice before 2018, all the already in service troopers will be offered the traditional grandfather clause that is part of the basic 20 year retirement system.

If you entered the troops after January 1st 2006, then you will have the liberty to choose between the 401 (k) system and the offered one. This would definitely create an ambience of uncertainty as 2018 approaches near for the people that are in the middle of their services.

The troopers who came before 2006 and have served for over 12 years, will be given the chance to opt for a waiver but because this ensures few financial fruits, not many would like to make the switch.

There have been cases where the Pentagon has forcefully asked some of the troops to take upon retirement plans but with the new military retirement system and its launch, it’s expected that things are going to get a lot more open to choice of the military.

Veterans unhappy Because of Camp Lejeune Benefits

camp lejeune benefitsThere were about 150 veterans of the Marine Corps who attended a conference at a room at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay along with their families. The town hall meeting was intended to hear what the federal scientist and the officials of the VA had to say. They were expected to say something on the work that was done to study contamination at the North Carolina base that was going unnoticed.

Veterans frustrated over not getting Camp Lejeune Benefits:

There was some serious remarks heard by the officials by the veterans pertaining to the hardships that they had to face in getting their hands on benefits that were intended to help the ones that were contaminated by the water.

These Camp Lejeune Benefits were initially expected to be available instantly to all of the veterans and their families who were suffering from this contamination. Reports indicate that around a million veterans were infected by this horrible incident. Scientists believe that the nation has not underwent a darker water contamination episode till date. The water was polluted because some of the industrial solvents and other harmful materials like gasoline made its way into it.

Paul Maslow, who is a Camp Lejeune veteran urged with feelings that the VA was not helping the veterans in time of dire need but were in fact hurting them more. He rightly added that the larger the delay ends up being, the higher the number of dead veterans pertaining to the contamination is going to get. There were other veterans who added to Paul’s concerns and there was a sense of hatred found in the words of the veterans against the VA.

The VA most definitely needs to up the ante and talk this matter through and provide the affected people with the Camp Lejeune benefits so that prosperity and good health can be restored.

No More Social Security Loopholes

social securitySocial security benefits have always been a way for federal employees to squeeze some extra undeserved money from the government. Retirees for decades now have been able to get handsome amounts (up to tens of thousands of dollars) and there were two very special tactics employed in this regard. “Claim benefits now, claim some more later” was the phrase associated in this regard and even though it might sound really illegal, it’s perfectly legal to benefit from, even though it’s not completely justifiable.

Social security now secure!

It had to end; we all knew that and tragically we all feared it too. Congress has already made sure that the required eliminations of these techniques made by inculcating them in the federal budget bill that got released during the month of October.

Married couples (both of the participants were employees) used to benefit the most from these social security loopholes. A lot of the employees might have been relying on these techniques for the later years of their life and this is now going to give them some food for thought; they might have to make some readjustments. This might instigate a need to find other sources of money (and soon too) because this scheme is no longer going to win them some easy money.

Having said that, there is still a rudimentary tenet for the time to actually claim your claims. People that are enjoying good health and are also nearing their retirement are still liable to wait as long as they possibly can to make collections and especially if they have a spouse that earns higher than them. This waiting can mean huge pay-offs and can be considered a gimmick to make some extra money. As an example, if you wait till 70 to collect, you will be able to get around 76 percent more money than what you would normally get.

Responder Benefits for Kelley Chase’s Widow

(DailyMail)
(DailyMail)

The federal government has always been keen on providing the family of ex-officers with benefits whenever possible and they didn’t make an exception when the administration agreed to change their initial verdict and gave responder benefits to the family of the late Kelley Chase; who underwent a training accident and died.

Kelley Chase’s widow receives responder benefits:

Elke Meeus, the widow had raised an appeal against the previous rejection of the benefits pertaining to her inability to care for the kids. The joy on her face was indescribable as reported by some of the news channels and by Jim Moore. Of course now with the responder benefits, she would be able to take good care of her children.

Chase had died on October of 2012 after he suffered some head injuries and since then the fight for the benefits was on. This training incident led to the chief of police staff issuing an order that all the trainees will have to wear helmets and head gear while undergoing training.

Elke had battled the case for a long period of time now and in her recent interviews she said that she had nothing but praises for how her request finally got granted even though she had to face a lot of problems in getting it done. Situations like this always bring a tear or two in our eyes and when a loved one who is also the sole bread runner of the family leaves you to battle with the world all alone with young ones by your side, these responder benefits can mean the world to you. Here’s hoping that things always turn out this way for people in distress and we hope that Elke gets to live a far better life now and manages to raise her children to her best potential.

The Harsh Realities of the Employee Wellness Plans

changes made in the recently released reports

8225598402_b8b5fc9e56_oThere have been some changes made in the recently released reports about the employee wellness programs and plans by the Government and there are some striking alterations that weren’t expected. Recently the employees of the federal government have received some orders in their mailboxes telling them to provide the government with their cholesterol levels, weight, age and other details or end up paying up to 2500 dollars in penalties on their health insurance. This value can go up to 4100 dollars if you are a married person.

These packages were sent to the Honeywell employees which is a group of companies that manufactures products up in New Jersey. This was as part of the health plan enrollment program that happens annually. These penalties have been made a little less dangerous sounding for the coming year and now have an upper limit of 1500 dollars.

The problems that the employees are raising in this regard are that some of them have their own privately hired health care and other programs and they would want the selection of such programs to be made voluntary. There are some employees that have a completely polar verdict too. They believe that these keep the employees up to date about their health and also motivated to keep working to avoid penalties.

While these programs can be beneficial for some of the employees, it’s still not going to harm anyone if they were made voluntary with a choice provided to the employee to undertake or to just say “I pass”. The government is currently in dispute over this matter too but it’s expected that soon enough there is going to be a verdict but at-least for the coming year, we would have to bear with this rule. Here’s hoping that a win-win situation for both parties can somehow be found in this regard.

Get Your Hands On Retirement Benefits Sooner

Mo_Yan_14_2012

Get Your Hands on Retirement Benefits

With the passing of every year, you see your old age draw closer to you and if you haven’t got yourself covered with a fancy retirement plan, the years are going to be very hard for you to foresee. The federal officers can know play a part in lessening the time it takes to get their retirement benefits applications processed. The person that is overlooking the whole process has long been stressing on the fact that the soon to be retirees should start looking at their whole work experience and history before they actually consider retirement.

The last thing you want at the time of retirement is to realize that your documents are not complete and that your records are not substantially astute. Ken Zawodny, the director of the retirement services at the commission further said that if he were to retire within a year, he would be lagging behind the curve. He said that a prospective retiree should be paying heed to their records for more than 3 years ago even and trying to make sure that none of their service years are found missing. This includes letting the HR of your company has a hold of all the information that they would need.

Apart from the usual retirement benefits, the employees should do well by giving some thought to insurance coverage and other such matters. Thrift savings plan funding and benefit issues are to be given special attention before you decide on commencing your service.

A study that was released a few weeks ago shows that 75 percent of the time, the employees that have recently retired will get their applications processed within a period of 60 days after sending it to OPM but strikingly, agencies haven’t been able to completely be able to approve even 90 % of all the applicant’s records.

Upon retirement of federal officers, the agencies are responsible for forwarding the applications and records to OPM where all the benefits are calculated. So, it’s highly recommended that you start considering your post-retirement life by looking at your records straight away.

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.

Survivors Wait Years for Federal Death Benefits

Every year, hundreds of families wait a year or more to receive death benefits following the loss of their spouse or other family member in the line of duty. In 1976, the government introduced the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program. This program provides benefits to individuals and/or family members following death or debilitating injury that occurred in the line of duty.

According to the Bureau of Justice Assistance website, the program reviews some 900 claims each year for public servants who were “catastrophically disabled” or killed while on duty. The total benefit for death and disabilities is currently $339,210, in addition to a one-month stipend of $1,018.

What Did the Investigation Reveal?

USA Today conducted an investigation of roughly 1500 claims filed since 2008 and discovered that the program is full of delays. These delays come in spite of millions of dollars spend on outside audits and efforts by the program to hire more help to reduce delays in processing claims. The latest numbers (from last month) indicated that roughly 750 families were still waiting for the BJA to process their claims.

The investigation by USA Today included access to tracking records from the Justice Department. Findings included data from over 5 years and nearly 1,500 claims.

Tracking records showed that the PSOB spent an average of 391 days processing and reaching a decision on federal employee claims. This average falls short of the agency’s goal of a one-year maximum turnaround time. Further study of the fed benefits documents showed that 42 percent of cases take more than a year, while 100 families waited over two years and another 25 families waited three or more years for a decision.

The study also revealed that 71 percent of cases listed as pending earlier this spring had already been waiting for over a year, Some 200 families had been waiting for two years and about 50 families had been waiting four or more years for a benefit decision.

Family Member Frustration

Rightfully frustrated, loved ones of the deceased (or disabled) federal employees did not receive much insight as to why the wait has been so long. The agency claimed that the cases are “complex” and suffer from family members or agencies failing to provide enough documentation.

Family members are not the only parties expressing frustration at the delays. Senator Charles Grassley, a Republican from Iowa, has routinely pushed the government to proceed with investigations to determine why the program is taking so long to help families. Grassley told reporters, “Excuses at this point don’t meet the smell test. The families of these fallen officers deserve timely answers. And… the office doesn’t have a legitimate answer for why it allows so many of these cases to languish.”

Research shows that the Justice Department has known about the delay in these federal benefits for more than a decade. Despite a directive from U.S. Attorney General, John Ashcroft in 2004, to make decisions within 90 days, the PSOB has never even come anywhere near that goal.

While the agency claims that improvements are coming and that they have changed claim instructions to ensure completion of appropriate documents, waiting families say they do not expect a resolution to happen quickly.

 

EO to Force Federal Contractors to Provide Paid Sick Leave

EO Would Force Federal Contractors to Provide Paid Sick Leave to Employees

Federal ContractorsPresident Obama is planning to issue an executive order that will make it mandatory for federal contractors and sub-contractors to provide up to seven days of paid leave annually to their employees working on federal contracts initiated on or after Jan 1, 2017.

The paid sick leave will be available not just for employees who are suffering from a physical or mental illness, injury or condition, but also for other aspects that are typically available only as federal employment benefits to federal employees and sometimes provided as perks by large private companies to high-value employees.

For example, the paid sick leave may be applied toward preventive care or for diagnostic care. It can also be applied in situations where the federal contractor’s employee is required to provide care for a member of the household such as a child, spouse, domestic partner, parent, etc.

Furthermore, employees would be allowed to carry over unused paid sick time to subsequent years, and would be available for employees rehired within 12 months of separation from employment. Employers would need to be provided a week’s notice of an employee seeking such paid sick leave.

Mandate May Reduce Available Sick Leave to Employees of Federal Contractors

The thing about mandates is that it sets a lower limit. In this case, that may provide detrimental to many employees of federal contractors who already provide paid sick leave. Those providing more than seven days of paid sick leave for reasons above and beyond those stated above will now have the legal justification to cut back on paid sick leave benefits and bring down to the federally mandated level.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) issued a statement in which it cites this concern. “We have strong concerns with mandating paid sick leave through an executive order on federal contractors. Many contractors already provide paid sick leave. Leave mandates often result in employers scaling back leave coverage to conform to mandated minimum standards.”

Will Insurance Premiums Rise For Federal Employees?

Health Insurance Premiums and Federal Employees

Premiums RiseThere has been plenty of talk about health insurance premiums being on the rise with more of the financial responsibility being placed on the employee.  The premiums on health insurance for Federal and Postal employees will slightly increase but with no real impact on the average employee because of the size of the Federal workforce.  Some other employees outside of the Federal government might not fair as well.  Much depends on the size of the organization and the strength of the company’s revenue stream.

Many Federal employees have spouses who work in jobs outside of the Federal service and have chosen to use the non-Federal benefits to cover health care costs for their families.  As Open Season approaches, it is good time to evaluate the Federal health care benefits (FEHB) available to you and your family.  If you are in the position of deciding between Federal benefits and non-Federal benefits just line up the offerings side-by-side and carefully assess what is offered for each and what  your family is more likely to need.

Except for what is termed -Golden Handcuff- benefits, it will be hard to find benefits that out rival those offered by the Federal government because of shear numbers.  Federal benefits cover over 10 million active and retired employees and their families.  Therefore, before waiving your rights to Federal health benefits coverage make sure you are sitting down with your family and your benefits specialist to make certain you are not making a decision that will cause anxiety in the future.

Another thing to remember, don’t be embarrassed by asking a benefits specialist or some other professional with an in-depth knowledge of benefits to help you sort out your situation.  I think it would be too presumptuous to say that no other benefits package can compare to what is offered to Federal employees.  However, it  is relatively safe to say that it will be hard to find a benefits package more comprehensive than what is offered to Federal employees at a highly affordable cost.

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

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