Tag: Federal Government

Federal government

The Federal Government of the United States is the operating backbone of the country which comprises of  President Obama at the top and encompasses all the constituent organizations and people down the line.

Retirement Assets Reach Over $19 Trillion in 2016

Per recent data shared by the Federal Reserve, retirement assets reach over $19 trillion. This data demonstrates the seriousness that people are approaching their retirement financial planning. Have a look at the numbers and see how the assets are doing when they are classified into various categories.

Retirement Benefits

Retirement Benefits Fund Assets for DB and DC Plan Also Grew

The data shared by Federal Reserve also states that retirement fund assets for Defined Benefit Plan and Defined Contribution Plans (like 401(k)s and the Federal Government’s Thrift Savings Plan) have also grown a lot in the last year. The total assets across the public and private defined contribution (DC) and defined benefit (DB) plans grew by 8 percent. It was $17.6 trillion in 2014, and retirement assets reach over $19 trillion in 2016.

Total financial assets available in private and public DB pension plans were $12.4 billion in 2016. It has increased by 8 percent as it was just 11.5 trillion in 2014. Similarly, the total financial assets in DC plans were $6.7 trillion in 2016. It is up by 10 percent from $6.1 trillion in 2014.

Private DB pension plan assets in 2014 were $3.2 trillion. They were at $3.3 trillion in 2016 which shows an increase of 3 percent. Private DC plan assets in 2014 were $5.2 trillion, and they grew by 9.6 percent in 2016 to stand at $5.7 trillion.

Pension Funds’ Biggest Asset Class Holding

When discussing the performance of retirement benefits fund assets, it is vital to consider pension funds’ largest asset class holding. The largest asset class held by pension funds was corporate equities as it was $4.8 trillion. It is closely followed by debt securities and mutual funds which stand at $3.9 trillion for both of the asset classes. The fourth biggest holding of pension funds in 2016 was Treasury Securities that stood at $2.3 trillion.

Government’s Assets

When reviewing the performance of retirement benefits fund assets, it is essential to see how the assets of the federal government have performed. The DB plan assets of the federal government were $3.4 trillion, and DC plan assets in 2016 were much less than that as they were just $466 billion. DB plan assets of state and local governments were just $5.6 trillion in 2016 while DC plan assets of state and local governments were just $490 billion.

Looking at the Flows

Debt securities were the biggest purchase of private and public DB plans in 2016 as they were around $190 billion, followed by Treasury Securities that were $120 billion and Corporate and Foreign Bonds at $61 billion.

For all the private DC plans, the highest numbers of inflows in 2016 were to mutual funds, at $24 billion. It was followed by debt securities at $22 billion and corporate and foreign bonds at $12 billion.

For the DC plans of federal government, the biggest purchasers in 2016 were debt and treasury securities as both were at $16 billion. They were followed by assets in the Thrift Savings Plan that were about $12 billion.

The biggest purchases of local and state DC plans in 2016 were unallocated insurance contracts at $8 billion and miscellaneous assets at $7 billion.

Conclusion:

The data shared by the Federal Reserve regarding retirement benefits fund assets is a good source of information for investors who wish to understand how these large plans are investing their asset, which may lead to an understanding of how these money managers perceive the economy and the potential investment risks that lie ahead.

1 Billion USD Paid to People without Social Security Numbers

A new audit has highlighted that $1 billion was paid to people without social security numbers. This is amongst the most shocking social security news that has come out in a long time. Lack of proper records is said to be the key reason behind the mistake, and the Social Security Administration (SSA) is seen defending itself post the release of this report.

social security numbers $1Billion given away to recipients without social security numbers

Report Says 1 Billion USD Paid to People without Social Security Numbers

The report which states $1 Billion was given to people without social security numbers was compiled during a fresh audit. The inspector general of the agency found many errors in the documentation done by the government for representative payees. The representative payees are also known as individuals who get disability or retirement payments on behalf of a person who is not able to manage the benefits themselves.

The key finding of the audit was that there were thousands of cases where there were no social security numbers present on file. This report was released just a few days back. It states that the social security administration paid $1 billion to about 22,000 representative payees without an SSN. It also highlighted that SSA has failed to follow its policy to retain the paper application.

Future Trend

The Inspector General also stated that if the SSA fails to take a corrective action in this regard, it will continue to pay around $182.5 million worth of benefits annually to the representative payees without any social security numbers or those representatives that lack a paper application regarding their selection.

The Past

In the past, the agency has paid USD 853.1 million in benefits since 2004 to individuals who were terminated as representative payees by the agency. According to the Inspector General, the errors occurred mainly because SSA failed to keep paper applications that supported an individual’s case to receive benefits on other person’s behalf. The agency also failed to update its system in the cases where the status was terminated.

More Data

Further results of the audit state that just 6 percent of representative payees had properly recorded social security numbers in a sample of 100 beneficiaries taken during the audit. It was also revealed that 17 percent of the representatives’ payees in the sample lack a record of any social security numbers as they were noncitizens who were undocumented. It clearly proves that government benefits deserved by American citizens are going to people who are in this country illegally via the current representative payee system, and in fact, that undocumented aliens without SSNs are receiving benefits from the government when acting as representatives for their minor children.

The Response

The social security administration responded to the audit by saying that it moved to a new Electronic Representative Payee System only last year and the transfer of information of representative payee may have resulted in the applications showing as not selected or terminated. It is clear from this statement that the federal government is defending the issuance of benefits to persons and noncitizens without any social security number.

SSA said that representatives play a crucial role in the lives of the beneficiaries. SSA has about 5.7 million representative payees who are managing the annual benefits for about 8 million beneficiaries. When appointing the representative payees, the agency adheres to the guidelines of the Social Security Act.

Specific to the latest audit, the Act permits SSA to appoint an undocumented alien or an applicant who resides outside the United States with no social security numbers in certain circumstances to serve a payee. SSA also mentioned that the Act states that SSA must verify the social security number of a person or the employer identification number while investigating the payee applicant. But the act does not mention that it is mandatory to have social security numbers while serving as a payee.

The agency added that the absence of a social security number is not a criterion that prevents an individual from serving as payee.

Conclusion

It is quite clear that offering social security benefits without social security numbers is a problem that must be addressed but the SSA is taking the matter lightly. It is not accepting that offering $1 billion to people without social security numbers is a shocking social security fact that may shake the trust of people in the system.

 

For more information on Social Security for Federal Employees please visit out content on frequently asked questions about federal retirement or the social security calculator.

How are Federal Employees’ Benefits Expected to Change Under the New Administration?

Whenever the administration of the country is changed, one of the key issues that pop up in the minds of the federal employees is that how will the new government reform the federal employees’ benefits. Would FERS retirement or Federal Employee Health Benefits remain the same? Would feds be able to get a pay raise? Here we try to get answers for all these questions.

federal employees

Which Federal Employees’ Benefits are Expected to Change as per Indications?

If the indications offered by the new government are of any value, there are a lot of changes that will be related to the federal employees’ benefits. Let’s begin by having a look at whether feds can expect a salary increase in 2018 or not. Many people in the congress believe that federal employees’ benefits are too high and way beyond what’s offered in the private sector.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer has already stated that federal workforce has expanded by a significant number in the last two administrations as it went from 1.8 million to 2.1 million. He also said that the federal employee health benefits and retirement benefits are even now based on antiquated assumptions. The level of generosity of these benefits has long since abandoned in the private sector. The costs of the federal employees’ benefits are unsustainable for the federal government.

It is believed that if there is a pay rise in 2018 at all, it would be very small and the amount of the raise could also be tied to the performance ratings.

Making it Easy to Fire a Federal Worker

The Merit Act of 2017 that’s got 12 co-sponsors and is in the House of Representatives aims to ensure that a federal employee could be easily fired for a misconduct or lack of performance. This bill is referred to the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

FERS Retirement System

The likelihood of changing the core one among federal employees’ benefits, the FERS retirement system is very high. Many of the Congress members believe that the federal retirement system is too generous. A report had recently noted that the federal government contributed up to 18 percent of federal employees’ retirement which includes the thrift savings plan contributions. The same report mentioned that the private sector companies contribute just three of five percent to the pension programs.

One recent proposal says that the federal government contribution should be reduced to eight percent instead of 18 percent. This proposal would be harmful to the new feds who have yet to join or those who have less than five years of service.

Federal Health Benefits

A proposal has also been made to eliminate the federal subsidy for retiree health benefits of the new hires. As the federal government continues to offer FEHB plans to federal employees who retire, a way to cut down on the expenses of federal government would be to eliminate FEHB subsidized health insurance coverage after a person retires.

Another proposal says that the federal subsidy for retiree health benefits for new feds should be eliminated. As per this proposal, the federal government would continue to provide access to FEHB benefits in retirement. The employee would be responsible for paying the total cost of the premiums. It is a fact that the government subsidizes a large percentage of the cost of FEHB health insurance, the result would probably include shifting many of the new retirees to Medicare.

Federal Labor Relations Program

When all the federal employees’ benefits are under scanner, it is also likely that the federal labor relations program will also be changed. One of the most likely changes would be to place restrictions on how a person uses the official time. A GAO report, released recently stated that there was no accurate recording and reporting of the official time in Department of Veterans Affairs. It is highly unlikely that the Department of Veterans Affairs is the only one department where the time is not reported or recorded.

So, Congress may pass restrictions on federal employees using the official hours to work for any union. In all probability, there will also be restrictions on using government facilities for union activities. The appeal options available to federal workers may also be restricted in the future.

Conclusion:

Well, after reading the aforementioned information it would be right to assume that many federal employees’ benefits are really in danger of being removed or changed drastically. But before a federal worker starts worrying about the salary hike, FERS retirement changes or Federal Employee Health Benefits, one should realize that changes always occur with any new administration. Sometimes, the fear of change can turn out to be worse than the change itself. Hence, one should not fear the change. One should remember that there are people out there who have the best interests of the federal workers in their hearts and they will work towards making these changes more acceptable.

Federal Employee Benefits and Early Federal Retirement

Considering Early Federal Retirement?  You should know what happens to your benefits when you retire before you are eligible for your full benefit package?

People often wonder about the best date to retire so that they can avail maximum federal employee benefits. It’s always advised that a person retires only after he or she is eligible for it. It will help the person to be financially sound while he or she needs to face the realities of retirement. If a person is planning to retire early, the person should know about the consequences of retiring early in order to make a wiser, better and smarter decision.

Early Federal RetirementCounting the clock before retirement?

Why do Federal Employees Elect Early Federal Retirement and Sacrifice Some Federal Employee Benefits?

There are many reasons of why people choose to retire early and sacrifice some of the federal employee benefits that might have grown over time. The reasons may range from complex health issues to just being tired of working for the federal government. Some people also leave jobs to start something of their own and some just fear that they might lose their job if the agency they are working for is abolished in the new administration. No matter what the reason is, every federal employee must know about what happens to his or her federal employee benefits if they choose to retire earlier than the eligibility. Here’s what actually happens.

Insurance

If an individual chooses to retire earlier than the eligibility date, the person will get an automatic 30-day extension of their FEHB (health insurance). At the end of these extended days, a person has the option of converting to an individual policy from the current insurer. The person can also continue the current coverage for 18 months as per the temporary continuation of coverage.

The costs and coverage of the individual policy will vary. The costs for a Temporary Continuation of Coverage (TCC) will include a person’s share, the government’s share and a two percent administrative fee. In both scenarios, there is no need to undergo a physical. Also, there is no ban on the pre-existing conditions.

A person can easily convert the life insurance to an individual policy. But it must be noted that there will be no coverage for dismemberment or accidental death in an individual policy. The policy also cannot be term insurance and has to have premiums.

Pension

If a person has got five years of creditable federal service, the person can choose to leave the retirement funds on deposit with OPM or Office or Personnel Management and be entitled to FERS pension or CSRS at a later date. This option is highly recommended to ensure that a person maximizes the federal employee benefits or retirement benefits even if the person retires earlier than the eligibility date.

Leave

When a person leaves a federal job, the annual leave, compensation time balance and credit hour are paid to the person. It is credited in a short period of time from the date of leaving the job. The sick leave is useless until a person plans to come back to the federal service. If it happens, one can re-credit this one among federal employee benefits.

TSP

With a TSP, a person has several choices. When a person leaves their job, he or she can leave their retirement balance in the TSP, create an income stream with the balance or make a TSP Withdrawal. A person also has the option of making inter-fund transfers even after retirement. The TSP can also be transferred to a tax-deferred retirement plan of a subsequent employer or to an IRA. When choosing the transfer option, you should remember to do a direct transfer (from TSP to a new plan) to help avoid any sort of withholding.

People who are wondering what will happen if they choose to retire before reaching 55 years of age should know that whatever money you withdraw from your TSP before reaching 59 1/2 years of age would be subject to a 10 percent early withdrawal penalty plus the corresponding income tax on that withdrawal. For people serving the nation as a special category employee (the ones who are in Firefighting, Air Traffic Control or Law Enforcement, etc.) have 50 as the age, not 55.  You may be able to avoid this early withdrawal penalty by exercising a 72(t) withdrawal strategy, but you should talk with your financial advisor before attempting this maneuver to ensure you understand the requirements, etc.

Conclusion:

It is recommended that federal employees, as with all employees, choose the best date to retire for their unique circumstances.  Talk with a financial professional to ensure your receive proper education and information regarding your federal employee benefits and to make sure you are prepared for the realities of retirement. In the event that you choose to retire early it is recommended that you work with an expert prior to retirement and especially when it comes to how you handle your TSP.  You will also want to consider the ever-increasing expenses associated with FEGLI and may want to change your life insurance to an individual policy prior to retirement.  Take a few precautionary steps and always talk with a professional to make sure you have the information you need before opting to for early federal retirement.

Federal Government to be sued by Tennessee Regarding Refugee Resettlement

The state of Tennessee is about to sue the federal government. It has got the approval of the House of Representatives and now the State’s attorney general will be directed to sue the federal government. The lawsuit is filed because it was alleged that the government didn’t consult with Tennessee regarding refugee resettlement and has forced it to resettle the refugees despite the non-agreement of the state.

Federal Government’s Tactics

It is worthwhile to mention that Tennessee would be the third state that has sued the federal government over refugee resettlement issues. The reason behind the lawsuit is the fact that Tennessee had withdrawn from U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program in the year 2008 but still, the federal government kept sending thousands of refugees to the state through Catholic Charities.

Tennessee wasn’t the only state that has pulled out of the program. 12 states have pulled out from it and the government is doing the same with all those states.

The Voting

The decision to sue the government was confirmed only after The House of Representatives allowed Tennessee to do that on account of the 10th Amendment. This amendment states that the federal government has got only the powers offered as a part of the U.S. Constitution. All the other powers are reserved for the states only. 69 members were in favor of the lawsuit and only 25 were against it.

The Need for the Move

The people who are supporting the move made by the state of Tennessee argue that federal government did not consult the Tennessee government over the resettlement issue and the forceful resettlement of refugees is leading to security issues. They also argue that the federal government has shifted the costs related to administering the program to the state of Tennessee too.

Opponents Opinion

People who were against the lawsuit claim that the lawsuit would have a bad impact on the refugee community of Tennessee and it will also lead to a culture of fear.

The Federal Refugee Act

The Federal Refugee Act has garnered a lot of attention lately because the US federal government is accepting refugees from every part of the world. A major chunk of the refugees are Syrians who have fled their own country that is dominated by the ISIS. The act was created to ensure the establishment of a permanent procedure for the admission of refugees in the US.

Many Federal Employees Disapprove of Trump

A new survey has revealed that many federal employees disapprove of Trump and his way of handling the transition process. Many of the feds also believe that his administration might not be too effective at managing the day to day operations while some think that their direct bosses, chosen by Trump might not be as good as needed. Some even thought that Trump’s own businesses may pose a conflict of interest against his duties as a President of the nation.

federal employees

New Survey Says Many Federal Employees Disapprove of Trump

The survey that says many federal employees disapprove of Trump was carried out by Government Business Council/GovExec.com. It highlighted that nearly 6 in 10 federal employees think that Trump’s transition is not worthy of an approval. Just 27 percent of people approved of the same. About 62 percent of the feds accepted that they have voted for the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton in the recent election while just 28 percent had voted for the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, stated the survey.

How the Survey that says Many Federal Employees Disapprove of Trump was Conducted?

The survey that says many federal employees disapprove of Trump was conducted on a random sample of Nextgov, Government Executive, Route Fifty and Defense One subscribers. The respondents of the survey were 745 federal employees who represented about 36 defense and federal agencies. About 395 of the respondents were at the GS/GM-13 or above the grade levels. The report of the survey was released on January 18, 2017. The poll had 4 percentage points margin of error (plus or minus).

Day to Day Operations

About half of the survey respondents also stated that the incoming Trump administration would only be a little effective or not at all effective at managing the day to day operations of government. About one third also stated that the new administration would be at least somewhat effective at managing the day to day operations. About 48 percent of the respondents also felt that Trump as a President will have a negative impact on their agency while about 20 percent stated that he will have a positive impact on their agency.

Direct Bosses

Though it is a fact that many federal employees disapprove of Trump, they also weren’t impressed with their upcoming bosses either. Only 35 percent of the respondents admitted that they think Trump’s direct appointee will lead their agency effectively while about 44 percent expressed just a little confidence.

Carrying Out the Missions

About 26 percent of the respondents accepted that they will not be able to carry out the respective missions of their agencies in the Trump administration while 38 percent said that they will do so.

The Conflict of Interest

About 68 percent of the respondents believe that the businesses of Trump will pose a conflict of interest with his duties as a president. Only 23 percent stated that there will be no conflict of interest. Around half of the respondents mentioned that Trump’s business experience will hamper his management of the federal government while 28 percent said that it would help him.

Leaving the Service

Though many of the federal employees disapprove of Trump, they love their jobs more as 65 percent of the respondents stated that they will not leave the job just because he is the new president of the country. Only 14 percent were considering leaving the jobs while 14 percent were not sure yet. About 7 percent of respondents didn’t know about it.

About 52 percent of the feds who considered leaving stated that they planned to retire earlier than they planned before while 37 percent mentioned that they would seek another job rather than working for the federal government.

The Perception

Around 60 percent of the federal employees who took part in the survey said that the 2016 Presidential Elections have changed the public perception of the federal service negatively or very negatively. Approximately 32 percent said that there was no change while roughly 8 percent said that it changed positively or very positively.

The Bureaucratic Waste

Around 51 percent of the respondents admitted that their agency produces bureaucratic waste but they termed it as insignificant. Just 24 percent stated that their agency produces bureaucratic waste that could be cut down while 14 percent didn’t think that their agency produced any bureaucratic waste. Approximately 55 percent of the respondents also stated that Trump administration won’t be able to do much about the bureaucratic waste while 17 percent were confident in Trump’s ability to do away with the bureaucratic waste.

Respondents Classification

The survey that highlights that many federal employees disapprove of Trump included 91 percent of federal government civilians, 1 percent active duty military members, and 8 percent DoD civilians. Approximately 53 percent of the total respondents were females while 46 percent were male respondents.

Retirement Checks Are Hit by Student Loans in America

A new study by GAO has reported that retirement checks are hit by student loans in America. Social security benefits of many Americans were withheld as they defaulted the student loan debts last year. The change has hit the Americans with low level incomes hard. Many of the Americans who were hit had taken loans for their own education while some have taken it for the benefit of their kids. Experts believe this report is only highlighting a part of the giant problem faced by American seniors.

retirement

Report Says Retirement Checks Are Hit by Student Loans in America

The report that says retirement checks are hit by student loans in America is the result of a study conducted by GAO. It says that student loans are not only haunting the young. It is also haunting the older Americans. The federal government withheld over $170 million in 2015 that were to be paid to retirees. The money was withheld because the retirees defaulted the student loan debt. The study is now referred to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.

Lower Income Retirement Checks Are Hit by Student Loans in America

The GAO also clarified that the older Americans who have lower incomes were forced to bear the brunt of the change very hard as retirement checks are hit by student loans in America.

Unforeseen Result

The result of withholding the money was that many people had incomes below the poverty line. It ranged from $40,890 for a family of eight people and from $11,770 for a household with a single-family. All these developments occurred in 2015 only, says the Department of Health & Human Services.

More Facts

The GAO report also stated that more than 1.1 billion dollars in social security have been withheld for the same reasons since the year 2001. It also highlighted that the borrowers who were 50 years of age or older saw a monthly reduction of income of around $140 due to the withheld money. It was pointed out that about 40 percent of the defaulters have had the student debt for at least 20 years. Three quarters of the defaulters took the loans for their own education while the others borrowed the money to pay for the education of their kids.

Experts Speak

When asked about the uncovering of the fact that retirement checks are hit by student loans in America, two of the three democrats who serve on the committee, Elizabeth Warren and Claire McCaskill said that the number of seniors who had unpaid student debts was just the tip of the iceberg to a problem that has been growing rapidly.

How many Americans are using myRA for retirement benefits savings?

When one thinks of the myRA plan offered by President Obama, the first question that comes to mind is that how many Americans are using myRA for retirement benefits savings. The numbers were revealed recently and they are not encouraging. But the experts believe that the numbers would grow exponentially in the near future. The pros and cons of the plan were also highlighted.

Retirement Benefits

Exactly how many Americans are using myRA for retirement benefits savings?

For people who are wondering that how many Americans are using myRA for retirement benefits savings as of now, the answer is around 20,000 people have signed up for it. It was revealed by the Treasury Department recently. Yes, it may seem like a small number given the fact that President Obama proposed the new program to help Americans save for retirement about two years ago. But the fact is that the myRA became available nationwide only last November and since then the enrolment ahs been increasing steadily.

Why was myRA launched?

The need to launch myRA stems from the fact that about 55 million U.S. workers do not have access to an employer-sponsored plan. myRA was initiated with the aim to help Americans save for retirement. It is a starter retirement account that is very similar to Roth IRA but it is sponsored by the federal government.

Better Future

David John who serves as an adviser at the AARP Public Policy Institute states that the future of myRA is very bright because earlier the treasury was taking a very measured and careful approach to ensure that everything works. Now, the department plans to promote myRA through TurboTax and government websites.

The Pros

The benefit of the myRA plan is that the monthly contributions average between $50 and $100. So, a person can save the amount that they feel more comfortable with. The participants of the plan are distributed among various ages and geographical locations which highlight that it’s a hit among the people of various ages and geographies. It is also a risk-free plan that does not have any administrative costs.

The Cons

For people who are wondering that 20,000 people are not a satisfactory answer to the question of how many Americans are using myRA for retirement benefits savings, they should know of the main reason behind the slow popularity of the plan is that the money doesn’t grow too much. The funds are invested in a treasury securities fund that is super safe so it only offered 2.9 percent return in the last decade.

Contractor’s Employees Working For Federal Government to get 7 Sick Leaves Annually?

It seems that the Obama Administration is trying to be there for contractor’s employees working for the federal government in sickness and in health. President Obama had passed a bill to allow contractors and subcontractors’ workers who are on a government project to get a 7 day leave every year. It will be their sick leave and would benefit over 1 million people.

federal governmentImplementation of Bill regarding Sick Leave of Contractor’s Employees Working for Federal Government

As the bill that helps contractor’s employees working for federal government get more leaves has been signed by President Obama in the form of an Executive order in last September, now the Department of Labor is finalizing it so that it can be implemented. The final rule in expected to go into effect on January 1. 2017. The rule makes it clear that every federal contractor and subcontractor must give up to 7 days of sick leave to all their people who are working on federal contracts. The Department of Labor is also taking into account the comments from workers unions, worker advocates, employers, business associations and small businesses.

The Beneficiaries

It is pertinent to mention here that the additional paid leaves would benefit 1.15 million people who are working on federal contracts. It includes about 600,000 employees who don’t have access to any kind of paid sick leave yet. As per the new rule, the workers who are eligible for it will earn one hour of paid sick leave for every 30 hours they have worked on a federal contract that is covered. It can go up to 56 hours in a year or even at any point of time.

The Key Aspects

The key aspects of the new rule are listed over here.

  • This bill would allow eligible workers to use the paid sick leave for any health care needs they have or the health care needs of their family members.
  • It would also enhance the health and performance of the federal contractors. It is also supposed to bring benefits package offered by the contractors at the level of leading firms to ensure that the contractors can find the best talent.
  • The bill would also play a key role in protecting public health by reducing the transmission of illnesses in the workplace. If a sick employee is on leave, he or she won’t be able to transmit diseases to the co-workers or clients.
  • Another vital benefit of this bill for contractor’s employees working for federal government is that the bill responds to the employer’s concerns by making sure that there is coordination with the existing paid time off policies.

Federal Employees Earn 34 Percent Less than Private Sector Workers

The pay gap between the federal employees’ salary and private sector workers’ salary has reached more than 34 percent. Recommendations are being made to increase the salary of the feds at the same pace the salaries are increasing in the private sector. Union leaders want the government to get over the 1 percent increase and offer better raise as the economy is doing well.

federal employees

The Meeting on Federal Employees’ Salaries

In an annual meeting of the Federal Salary Council held a few days back, some outside experts on compensation and union representatives announced that federal employees earn about 34.07 percent on average less than private sector employees while doing similar work.

The Similar Gap

It is pertinent to mention that the pay gap has not changed much in the last three years. It was 35.37, 35.28 and 34.92 percent in the past few years.

Expert Opinion

Tony Reardon who is the President of the National Treasury Employees Union and a member of the Federal Salary Council opined that federal pay needs to be increased substantially. When compared with the private sector, the increases the feds have been getting are hugely overshadowed by the increases offered to the private sector workers. Reardon adds that it’s high time for the Congress to step up and pay the federal employees what they really deserve.

The Data

The pay gap figures that are being generated are based on the surveys done by the Labor Department while comparing salary data on 250 federal occupations at different levels of responsibility with parallel rates available in  the local labor markets

AFGE’s Opinion

  1. David Cox Sr. who serves as the President of the largest American Workers Union, American Federation of Government Employees as well as the member of the Federal Salary Council opines that the 1 percent raises are not enough for the federal employees. Even though the economy has been doing well in the recent past, the federal employees are still living in misery.

He added that the low raises are making it difficult to operate the federal government too. The government executives are finding it hard to hire and retain talented people in their agencies.

Further Process

Now the salary council will make its recommendations to another high-level group that is entitled as President’s Pay Agent. The raises would be finalized by making use of a late-year executive order. It is being hoped that this gap between the private sector and federal employees would be reduced soon.

Federal Employees Spending Billions with Untracked Credit Cards

Federal employees are being allowed to spend billions of dollars on credit cards that are untracked. The main reason behind the lack of reporting and assessments is that the law only makes it mandatory for state agencies to track and assess the credit card usage. The Inspector Generals are responsible for preparing an assessment report based on agencies’ data every year. Many agencies are not sharing the data and the IGs have not taken any steps to do the assessments. Major reasons for the lack of assessments are being highlighted.

The Increased Spending of Federal Employees

Recent data shared by the General Services Administration states that about 261,000 federal employees spent about $19 billion dollars in the year 2015 by using the government-issued credit cards. There has been an increase in the figures because, in 2014, about 263,000 employees spent $17.1 billion. The spending was very high in 2011 as it reached $19.5 billion that year.

The Law

The Government Charge Card Abuse Prevention Act which was introduced by Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa does not require the federal government to calculate how much money from the credit cards is lost to abuse, fraud, and waste. This law was passed in 2012 does require all the state agencies to submit a report of confirmed violations regarding credit card abuse to their Inspector Generals and the Office of Management and Budget but most agencies are not doing so.

Major Lapse

The law clarifies that the IGs must conduct assessments of the purchase card program and they must submit a report. The reports must be submitted once every year. Again, the IGs are not preparing any such reports. They are also not even considering issuing some reports that would analyze the waste, abuse, and fraud related to the government credit card on a yearly basis.

No Response

When a politically conservative news and opinion website, The Daily Caller tried to contact the Office of Management and Budget regarding the matter, no response was given.

The Reasons

The reasons behind the IGs inclination to not do the mandatory yearly assessments were highlighted by some IGs. They highlighted that there was the lack of documentation and the numbers of inactive credit card holders were too high. The lack of training was also a common problem that ensures there are no assessment reports.

It is clear that the agencies and IGs need to sort the matter and there is a need for a new law that controls the rapidly rising credit card expenses of the federal employees.

Special Government employees not Tracked by Federal Agencies

The Office of Governance Ethics has pointed out that the federal agencies are not reporting the Special Government Employees who are not serving on federal boards. It also shared that 3 out of 5 agencies questioned by it on the matter failed to come up with data on SGEs not serving on federal boards. The agencies have also reduced the use of SGEs not serving on federal boards over time. GAO has asked the agencies to offer reliable data in the future.

federal government

The Limited use of Special Government Employees not serving on Federal Boards by Federal Agencies

Data revealed by Office of Government Ethics states that the number of Special Government Employees not serving on federal boards has reduced over time as the federal agencies are not hiring them with regularity. In December 2014, about three percent of SGEs worked as Consultants or Experts and did not serve on federal boards. GAO also found that agencies used an annual average of 2,000 SGEs from 2005 to 2014. The numbers of SGEs used were at the highest at 3,100 in the year 2009 and they were at the lowest on about 500 in 2013.

The Responsibility

It is the responsibility of the federal agencies to report SGEs not serving on federal boards to the OGE and the OPM also needs the agencies to identify all the SGEs on the personnel action of the individual. 3 out of 5 agencies that were reviewed by the GAO had challenges in reporting reliable data with regard to SGEs not serving on federal boards.

Which Agencies Lacked Proper Data?

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) could not identify whether SGEs were serving on federal boards or not and it could not explain the discrepancies in data. There were instances where the SGEs were not serving on the board at the Department of State and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) but they provided the GAO with correct data.

The Recommendation

The GAO has recommended that the HHS must take some vital steps to improve the data reliability with regard to SGEs not serving on federal boards. It also recommended that the OGE must determine whether any other federal agencies are having data reliability or availability issues regarding the use of Special Government Employees not serving on federal boards. HHS has concurred with the suggestion and OGE partially concurred.

Fighting Veteran Homelessness Becomes Easier Thanks to a Big Grant

It’s been just a few days since we reported how the veteran homelessness has reduced considerably since 2010. Now, we have some more good news for veterans who are dealing with the problem of homelessness. The veterans of San Antonio have just gotten a big grant that would be used to find them a home of their own and fight veteran homelessness. Though the grant is very valuable, experts believe that homelessness of veterans is a constant challenge that cannot be resolved with a big grant.

The Grant to Fighting Veteran Homelessness

veterans affairs federal employeesThe problem of veteran homelessness would now be solved in a better manner thanks to the efforts made by the Texas Veterans Commission. A $550 thousand grant has been approved for veterans who are already homeless or those veterans who are on the verge of being homeless in the near future. The grant would be used to help such people living in San Antonio. The details of the grant and the announcement were made by Navarra Williams who serves as the SAM Ministries President. It is pertinent to mention here that this grant is the largest of its kind that is handed out by the Commission.

The Fight

The grant was offered soon after the proclamation which stated that there has been an end to veteran homelessness in San Antonio. But the fight against veteran homelessness has been ongoing and changing each day in San Antonio according to Williams. He revealed the fact that every few days a new homeless veteran from another place makes San Antonio his home or some veteran who had a temporary home loses it and becomes homeless again.

The Challenge

Williams also shared his thoughts regarding homelessness being a bigger challenge for veterans as compared to other people. He stated that it usually takes a bit longer for a veteran to get used to not being homeless as compared to non-veterans. The reason behind the difference is that a veteran often has to deal with some issues that are not present in a normal person’s life. Post Traumatic stress is one such issue that is commonly found in veterans but not in non-veterans as they have not been traumatized on the job.

It is being hoped that the grant for reducing veteran homelessness would help a few veterans get over these challenges and make a home for themselves.

Report Questions why Full Time Union Federal Employees are Paid with Tax Dollars

A new report has found out that several federal employees who work full time as the union employees are being paid from the taxpayers’ money. Experts believe that the report highlights how much control the federal governments have over the federal agencies. They also believe that the report shows that no one wants to change the status quo as everyone is benefitting from it. Some agencies are working hard to change the status quo so that the taxpayers’ money can be put to better uses.

taxesHow Many Federal Employees are Benefitting

The report was created through the Freedom of Information Act requests. It discovered that about 490 federal employees who work as full-time union employees are getting paid by using the taxpayers’ money. The report was recently published by the Americans for Limited Government Foundation. The vital report also highlighted the departments which had the most number of such employees. The departments of Education, Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security and Labor are among them. It also includes employees from the U.S. Postal Service and the Federal Aviation Administration.

The Money Spent

The report divulged that this practice has cost about $1 billion over the past 20 years and it was paid through the taxpayers’ money. The amount increased further if the money spent by the local and state government was also counted.

Experts Speak

Jared Labell, who is currently serving as the Executive Director of Chicago-based Taxpayers United of America shared his opinion on the report. He stated that the report clearly shows that unions have a lot of influence on the federal agencies and the agencies don’t seem to have any incentive to change. This practice is benefitting the labor unions, the politicians so no one wants to change it.

The Efforts

Labell stated that this issue of paying the federal employees working full time for the union by using the taxpayers’ dollars is highlighted by his organization at the state level so that some reforms can be enacted that lessen the influence of unions on the taxpayer-funded agencies. He said that by emphasizing the issue, his organization hopes to bring changes at the federal levels as well. He also expressed hope that other organizations would join in the effort so that the issue can get maximum exposure and the speed at which the reforms are expected can be expedited.

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.

Federal Employees Recognized in Federal Government Awards Program Ceremony

A huge chunk of federal employees were recognized and appreciated as a part of the Federal Government Awards Program ceremony. The ceremony was concluded quite fruitfully and the organizers and recipients of the awards were quite happy with it. The number of participants in the ceremony has increased from last year.

Federal Employees’ Enthusiasmfederal employees

Many of the award recipients seemed to be exhilarated after getting the awards. Master-at-Arms 1st Class Jorge Galindo who got an award for Excellence in the Community Service category felt honored and grateful to volunteer at several communities on the island of Oahu. He hopes to motivate his Sailors and hopes that they would learn that what a person does for the community won’t go unheard.

The Event

The ceremony was held at Hickam Officer‘s Club on Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam (JBPHH) on May 6, 2016. It was organized to appreciate and recognize service members and federal employees. The Event was entitled 60th Annual Excellence in Federal Government Awards Program ceremony, It was sponsored by Honolulu-Pacific Executive Board (HPFEB).

The Aim

The aim of the ceremony was to recognize as many deserving federal employees as possible. It included federal civilians and military personnel. The aim was to showcase the achievements and accomplishments of all federal employees. These aims were shared by Toni Allen who serves as the Deputy Executive Director for HPFEB.

The Honored Ones

The federal employees and service members from commands throughout Hawaii received the honors they deserved. The honored ones also included Navy Region Hawaii, Sailors from JBPHH and U.S. Pacific Fleet.

Awards

The awards were divided into seven categories. It included an employee of the year in administrative, professional, clerical, technical or assistant categories. Some of the federal workers were given recognition for demonstrating excellence in doing community service.

The Turnout

Chris Conklin who serves as the Executive Director for HPFEB appreciated the turnout numbers. He said that this was the biggest turnout to date. He commended the efforts of the awardees and the leaders who made the effort and took the time to appreciate the top performers. It must be added here that this ceremony is one of the most attended events of HPFEB.

These awards play a key role in encouraging federal employees towards innovation and excellence. They also reinforce pride in federal service and gathers public attention to the extensive range of services offered by federal workers.

Federal Employees May Lose Access to Free Yoga Classes

Federal employees who have been enjoying free yoga and Pilates classes as a fringe benefit of their job may have to lose this benefit soon. A US senator has introduced legislation to stop these classes. He has introduced a bill that wants the government to stop spending money on these classes in order to stop wasting the money of the American taxpayers. The bill was introduced after another senator pointed out a few ways in which the government was wasting taxpayers’ money.

Legislation that Impacts Federal Employees’ Fitnessfederal employees

Republican candidate, Sen. Matt Salmon has recently introduced legislation that aims to stop government agencies to stop spending money on the yoga and related classes of federal employees. He stated that the federal government agencies were spending more than $150,000 on these exercise sessions of employees. The figure was counted since the year 2013. The legislation is H.R. 5242 and it is a part of the Shrink our Spending Initiative taken by Salmon.

Not Competing with Startups

Salmon issued a statement in which he said that startups are offering unique benefits to their employees because they want the employees to play a role in developing the business with a new culture. But the bureaucrats in Washington are paid by the hard-earned money of the taxpayers and these sorts of fringe benefits are a waste of dollars taken away from all the American families. He also pointed out that the government should stop trying to be like Google because it isn’t like any private sector company.

The Spending

A press release from Salmon’s office has recently revealed that the two agencies, Department of Energy and the State Department have spent over $168,000 on Pilates and yoga classes of employees in the last 5 years. Out of the $168,000, the Department of Energy awarded over $30,000 in grants to employees for yoga services since the year 2013. The Energy Department also spent $11,000 to offer Pilates classes just to the employees working in California.

The Data Source

The amount of money spent on yoga and Pilates classes of federal employees was first highlighted in the report presented by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that was offered recently. The report declared that the federal government was bending over backward to waste the taxpayers’ money. It is believed that the bill was introduced by Salmon in response to that report only.

Federal Employees’ Social Media Accounts to be Analyzed

A new policy has allowed the federal government to scan the social media accounts of federal employees who need to go through a security clearance. Only the public postings of the employees would be monitored and the accessed data will be deleted if nothing suspicious is found. Officials believe that this approach will help in detecting the people who have wrong intentions.

federal employeesWhich of the Federal Employees’ Accounts would be analyzed?

The social media accounts of only those federal employees would be monitored who have either applied or reapplied for any sort of security clearances. All types of social media accounts, such as Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, etc. would be scanned.

Public Posts and Removal of Search

The federal investigators checking the social media accounts of federal employees would not ask for the login information of any employee. They would also never hack into the account or open it by using unlawful methods. They would simply search for the name of the person and go through the posts that are made public by him or her.

If the investigators find nothing suspicious in the public posts, the search and the steps that were taken to view the profile of a prospective, current or retired employee would be wiped from the government servers. These details were clearly defined in the policy so that no one can misinterpret the liberty offered to scan the employees’ social media accounts.

Expert Opinion

James Clapper who serves as the Director of National Intelligence has given a directive that says social media is a vital tool in doing the background check of the employees. It is as important as the interviews conducted with the friends and family of the person and several other background check methods that have been followed by the federal government for decades.

It is worthy to mention that many terrorists and people involved in mass shootings had shared their intentions on social media channels in the past. So maybe this new policy is not a complete waste.

OPM’s Take

Acting Director of OPM, Beth Cobert also expressed her views on this new method of background checks of federal employees. She said that all the agencies make vital decisions such as clearance decisions by making use of a ‘whole person approach.’ This approach helps in accessing who is an acceptable security risk. She shared her views in front of the lawmakers at a hearing on the new policy.

Federal Government Shells Out $18 Million to Destroy Marijuana

The federal government has spent a lot of money on eradicating illegal marijuana in the last year. The eradication efforts even went on in the states that have legalized marijuana for adults. Several lawmakers are asking the government to use the eradication funds towards more productive programs such as domestic violence but there have been no positive developments in this regard.

The Money Spent by the Federal Government

The federal government has spent about $18 million in the cannabis eradication program in the year 2015. The Drug Enforcement Administration’s controversial program details were shared by the administration. It also said that federal, state and local authorities evacuated about 4.1 million cultivated marijuana plants that were present in all 50 states.

In 2014, the number of plants was 4.3 million. The money spent by the federal government in 2014 was about the same. The cost of destroying a plant comes down to $4.42 in 2015 while it was $4.20 in 2014.

The Program

The program allows local and state law enforcement agencies to search, seize, and destroy illegal marijuana plants in the USA. A large amount of money to fund this program is offered from the asset forfeiture fund of the Justice Department. The program money is also used to employ helicopters to scour the countryside areas for the production of marijuana.

The Better Use of Funds

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif. Along with a small group of lawmakers had tried to pass a legislation that aims to redirect the funds involved in marijuana eradication into more productive uses like the domestic violence prevention programs. They were unsuccessful in their efforts and their leader still thinks that marijuana must be removed from Schedule I classification and DEA must not allow the wasteful eradication program to go on for long.

States that have Legalized Marijuana

The eradication operation was also conducted in the states such as Oregon and Washington that have now legalized marijuana use for the recreational purpose by the adults. In Washington only, about 36,000 plants were done away with and the cost of it came ou to about $950,000. It means that the DEA spent about $26 per plant.

States Not Accepting Federal Government Help

There are states like Colorado and Alaska that refused to use the federal government funds to do away with the illegal marijuana plants. They stuck to removing the illegal marijuana plants on their own.

Federal Government Forgives Honda

The federal government has forgiven Honda with regard to its failure to report incidents. The government publicized through its website that the company has taken all the respective measures to follow the rules now and has paid a fine also. The company would now be implementing new rules and has already started training its personnel on the new rules.

Initiation of the Case by the Federal Government

federal government
Honda Logo. (PRNewsFoto/American Honda Motor Co., Inc. )

The federal government started a case against Honda due to its failure to report accidents, deaths, and injuries caused by the vehicles it manufactures. In December 2014, the company was asked to pay a fine of $70 million. Interestingly, it was the largest civil penalty levied against any automaker at that time.

The Consent

Honda gave its consent with regard to the matter and accepted that it failed to report more than 1,700 complaints in which the vehicles manufactured by it led to injuries and deaths. The company also confessed that some of the deaths and injuries were a result of air bag inflators that are manufactured by Takata Corp.

Honda also accepted that the company failed to create legally required reports for 11 years as the failure to make the reports was going on since 2003. The company accepted the mistakes made by it and yet it took 3 long years for the company to take any action. The company had learned of its negligence in 2011 itself. Some federal officials have also revealed that Honda also did not report several warranty claims during the same timeframe.

 The Fine

A federal law makes it necessary for all the automakers to submit injuries and death complaints so that the potential safety threats can be controlled and faulty vehicles can be recalled. As Honda as failed to submit the reports, it paid a fine of $70 million after signing a consent order with the traffic safety administration in December 2014.

The New Steps

Apart from paying a hefty fine, the Japanese automaker also developed written procedures that guide employees on reporting injuries and deaths. The employees are also trained on reporting the incidents. It also got an outside party audit done in this regard.

The Closure

After witnessing the steps taken by Honda, The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has closed the case against the automaker. This step taken by the federal government comes as a major relief for the company.