Saturday, October 21, 2017

NARFE Legislative Hotline October 20, 2017











Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“NARFE members should be on their phones and computers, calling and writingtheir legislators now that the Senate has passed its fiscal year 2018 budget resolution. While the Senate budget does not contain cuts to federal pay and benefits, the House budget does, to the tune of at least $32 billion. Differences between the two budget resolutions are being worked out between the chambers in conference, marking an important juncture for the federal community. If Congress decides to go the way of the House, the federal community will be one step closer to having to pay for tax reform through cuts to earned federal retirement and health benefits. NARFE members must contact their legislators NOW.”


Senate Passes Fiscal Year 2018 Budget Resolution 

The Senate passed its fiscal year 2018 budget resolution by a vote of 51-49. Unlike the House budget, the Senate budget does not contain any requirement to find savings from federal retirement and health benefits programs. Instead, the Senate version focuses solely on tax policy changes.

The Senate budget would allow the Senate Finance and House Ways and Means Committees to add $1.5 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years as a means to advance tax policy changes. Meanwhile, the House passed a budget resolution that instructs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) to find at least $32 billion in savings as the offset for tax changes. As the only substantial mandatory spending under OGR’s jurisdiction comes from federal retirement and health benefit programs, such instructions target those programs.

Now that the Senate passed a budget, a joint budget agreement must be negotiated between the two chambers, and passed again by both the House and Senate. This joint budget agreement, if passed, will determine whether or not federal pay and benefits cuts will be used to pay for tax reform. 

NARFE members are strongly encouraged to contact their lawmakers and ask that they oppose any joint budget resolution that contains cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community. See how to take action below.


Contact Your Legislators to Protect Your Earned Pay and Benefits!


1) Send a Message via NARFE’s Legislative Action Center 

NARFE members are strongly encouraged to send an action letter to their members of Congress via the NARFE Legislative Action Center.

2) Call your Legislator’s Office!

Do you prefer talking directly with a congressional office? A new call script regarding the budget process is available here.

3) Send a Letter to the Editor

Writing a letter to the editor is an effective way to reach a large audience, including gaining the attention of congressional offices. Raise additional awareness about your concerns with proposals in the budget by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper here.

4) Post on Social Media

Looking for another way to take action? Social media is a powerful tool to gain the attention of your legislators. Use NARFE’s social media toolkit to take action and be sure to use the hashtag #RetirementTax in your posts.

Senate Committee Holds Hearing for OPM Director Nominee 

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) held a hearing this week on the President’s nominee for Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Jeff Pon, Ph.D., who previously served as deputy director of eGovernment at OPM and as the chief human capital officer at the Energy Department.

Pon testified before the committee and answered questions on areas he would like to see improved at OPM. Pon expressed concern with OPM’s retirement claims backlog and advocated for ways to create greater efficiency, such as reducing reliance on paper processes by transitioning to electronic transactional methods. He also reflected on the current slow pace of the federal hiring and expressed his desire to speed up the process. Pon even broached the subject of security clearances and cited a need to standardize the clearance process across the federal government.

When asked about the protection of personal information, notably the 2015 cyber breaches at OPM, Pon responded that OPM would have qualified personnel and a plan in place to protect against known cybersecurity risks under his leadership.

While the hearing went smoothly, HSGAC Committee Chairman Ron Johnson, R-WI, warned of his intention to hold up the confirmation process over an issue with employer contributions to congressional health insurance policies. At this point, the state of the confirmation by the full Senate remains uncertain.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to quickly and easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues, sign up for action alerts and track NARFE-related bills and votes.

Have you attended a meeting, town hall or telephone town hall with your senator(s) or representative recently? Fill out a simple feedback form here in the Action Center to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website and available to NARFE members via telephone by calling 1-800-456-8410 and selecting option 4. Past editions are archived online for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 1-800-456-8410 and select option 3.

Friday, October 13, 2017

NARFE Legislative Hotline October 13, 2017




Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“Lawmakers in the House passed legislation that would create more flexible withdrawal options for the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). NARFE applauds this move and encourages the Senate to quickly follow their House colleagues. Just before the vote, lawmakers touted that this bill would grant federal workers greater control over their retirement, a concept we all support. However, the $32 billion in cuts included in the House-passed budget resolution directly contradicts this concept. Federal workers and retirees base their retirement on a set of conditions upon employment. Cutting those benefits before and during retirement breaks a fundamental promise and strips the federal community of their retirement security. Everyone needs to take a stand. Read below to find out how to contact your legislators.”



2.0 Percent COLA for Federal Retirees in 2018

There will be a 2.0 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) for civil service annuities, Social Security benefits and military retirement annuities in 2018. 

Each year’s COLA is determined by comparing the change in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the third quarter months of the year (July, August and September) with the average for the third quarter of the last year in which a COLA became effective. To trigger a COLA, the average CPI-W for the third quarter must be greater than the previous third-quarter average.

The September CPI-W was 240.939. Combined with the CPI-W for July (238.617) and August (239.448), the 2017 third-quarter average is 239.668, or 2.0 percent greater than the average CPI-W for the third quarter of 2016, which was 235.057.

NARFE continues to support strong COLAs based on fair assessments of increases in consumer prices to protect the value of federal annuities from inflation. NARFE specifically supports a switch to the CPI-E (Consumer Price Index for the elderly), which would better take into account prices of consumer goods purchased by retirees, who spend more on health care. Write your legislators in support of the CPI-E Act of 2017 here.


House Passes Bill to Expand TSP Withdrawal Options

This week, the House of Representatives passed the TSP Modernization Act of 2017, H.R. 3031, by voice vote. The bipartisan bill, introduced by Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-MD, and Mark Meadows, R-NC, would provide more flexible withdrawal options for Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts.

The legislation would allow multiple, partial post-separation withdrawals, which participants can time to their individual needs, and would provide multiple, age-based withdrawals for participants who are still working and are older than age 59-1/2. The TSP Modernization Act also would provide greater flexibility by allowing the election of quarterly or annual payments and permitting periodic withdrawals that can be changed at any point during the year. Payments could be stopped while leaving the account balance in the TSP. Finally, the bill would eliminate the withdrawal election deadline.

The bill is now awaiting action in the Senate. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee already approved an identical bill, S. 873, so the prospect of passage by the full Senate appears good, although timing is uncertain. NARFE will continue to advocate for swift passage into law of this commonsense, bipartisan legislation. Write your senators in support of this legislation here.


New Ways to Contact Congress to Protect Your Earned Pay and Benefits

Your voice is needed to protect the federal community from cuts to earned pay and benefits. Lawmakers need to hear that you won’t stand for cuts to what you have rightfully earned. 

Now that the House has voted on a budget, NARFE members are encouraged to send a new action letter to their representative via the NARFE Legislative Action Center. An appropriate letter will be sent to the representative based on their vote on the House budget. A separate letter for your senators is available here. Want to talk directly with a congressional office? New call scripts regarding the budget are available for your senators and representative. Raise additional awareness by writing a letter to the editor of your local paper here.

Looking for another way to take action? Social media is a powerful tool to gain the attention of your legislators. Find your legislators on Twitter here and send a tweet at them voicing your concern with the proposed cuts to your earned pay and benefits. Be sure to use the hashtag #RetirementTax in your tweet.

Do you have a Facebook account? Go to the NARFE Facebook page and use the top post to send a message to your legislators. Use the #RetirementTax hashtag and tell them to vote against any budget that contains cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community.


Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to quickly and easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues, sign up for action alerts and track NARFE-related bills and votes.

Have you attended a meeting, town hall or telephone town hall with your senator(s) or representative recently? Fill out a simple feedback form here in the Action Center to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website and available to NARFE members via telephone by calling 703-838-7780 or toll-free at 877-217-8234. Past editions are archived online for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.



Chapter Presidents

How do I contact a chapter President?
Make sure you have your magazine handy.

Click this Link or Photo.



Saturday, October 7, 2017

NARFE Legislative Hotline October 6, 2017










Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“The House passed its fiscal year 2018 budget resolution this week, sending instructions for $32 billion in cuts to the committee of jurisdiction over federal pay and benefits. This means a majority of lawmakers in the House voted to cut your earned benefits to offset the cost of tax reform. Simply, they are trying to pay for tax reform on the backs of the federal community, the backbone of the middle class. The budget process still has many steps left before tax reform becomes law, but the threats to your earned pay and benefits are very real.”

Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program Premium Increases

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced the 2018 rates for FEHB plans, ahead of the November 13 start of Open Season. On average, the premiums for non-postal employees and all annuitants will be 4.0 percent higher in 2018, with the average enrollee share increasing by 6.1 percent.

In a statement, NARFE National President Richard G. Thissen said: “This is another year in which the federal community is reminded of the all-too-familiar cycle of low or no pay raises, small or nonexistent cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) and rising medical bills. Like most Americans, federal employees and retirees are middle-class taxpayers, continuing to feel the pinch on their wallets every day. Years of no or low COLAs and pay raises that lag behind the private sector have created a financial burden on the federal community, increasing the urgency for meaningful reform.” 

Of interest to many enrollees, the cost of Self Only coverage in the popular Blue Cross Blue Shield Standard Option will increase by $15.54 more per month in 2018, to $245.18 monthly. Those with Self Plus One will pay $36.92 more per month, to $558.59 monthly, and those with Self and Family coverage will pay $38.39 more per month, to $589.23 monthly.

Since the Self Plus One option was unveiled in 2016, many have made the switch from Self and Family, as Self Plus One offers lower-cost premiums to enrollees for a substantial majority of plans, according to OPM. However, hundreds of thousands of those eligible remain in Self and Family when they could be paying lower premiums in a Self Plus One plan.

The Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) also will also see changes in premiums. Dental plans will increase an average of 1.26 percent, but vision plan premiums will decrease by an average of 0.48 percent.

The November issue of narfe magazine will include coverage of the plans and what you need to know for Open Season.

House Passes Budget Resolution Targeting Federal Retirement and Health Benefits 

The House passed a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution, H.Con.Res. 71, by a vote of 219 – 206, setting the stage for cuts to federal retirement and health benefit programs. Republican leaders are using the budget process to lay the groundwork for major tax policy reform.

As part of that effort, the House budget resolution instructs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) to find at least $32 billion in savings over 10 years from mandatory spending under the committee's jurisdiction. As the only substantial mandatory spending under OGR’s jurisdiction comes from federal retirement and health benefit programs, such instructions may target those programs.

The House Budget Committee’s report provides some options OGR is likely to consider. They include: increasing retirement contributions for current federal employees, limiting the rate of return on the Thrift Savings Plan’s (TSP) G fund and limiting the government’s portion of Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) premiums to inflation. The report also mentioned ending the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) Annuity Supplement and increasing the employee share of FEHB contributions for postal employees.

The House also voted on two other budget resolutions, both of which failed. An alternative budget resolution, introduced by Rep. John Yarmuth, D-KY, contained policies that specifically protect federal workers’ pay and benefits. The other budget resolution, introduced by Rep. Tom McClintock, R-CA, contained $427 billion in mandatory cuts to the federal community and a drastic overhaul of the federal retirement system.

This week, the Senate Budget Committee marked up a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution, which does not contain any requirement to find savings from federal retirement and health benefit programs. Instead, the Senate version focuses solely on tax policy changes.

If the full Senate passes this resolution, a joint budget agreement must be negotiated between the House and Senate, and passed again by both chambers. NARFE members should remain vigilant and engage with their senators to ensure that they continue to protect the federal community from any budget cuts. There’s still a long way to go.

Senate Committee Passes Bill to Allow Increased Separation Incentive

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) approved a bill that authorizes a $40,000 maximum Voluntary Separation Incentive Payment (VSIP) for civilian and military employees throughout the government. Based on the new legislation, separation incentive payments would be adjusted annually by being tied the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers (CPI-U).

This change would bring the rest of the federal government in line with the Department of Defense, which was granted an increase for the maximum VSIP payment for fiscal year 2017.

A similar request was made by the White House earlier this year. This latest attempt coincides with the submission of agency reorganizations plans to the Office of Management and Budget, which may cause workforce cuts. It is unclear at this point if the full Senate will consider the bill.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to quickly and easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues, sign up for action alerts and track NARFE-related bills and votes.

Have you attended a meeting, town hall or telephone town hall with your senator(s) or representative recently? Fill out a simple feedback form here in the Action Center to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website and available to NARFE members via telephone by calling 703-838-7780 or toll-free at 877-217-8234. Past editions are archived online for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.

Friday, September 29, 2017

NARFE Legislative Hotline September 29, 2017


Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

















“The fiscal year 2018 budget is making its way through Congress and spells trouble for your earned pay and benefits. The House is expected to vote on its budget resolution next week, opening the door for drastic cuts to federal workers’ and retirees’ earned benefits. Lawmakers are looking to cut at least $32 billion in federal benefits, which we cannot let happen. Every NARFE member needs to contact their legislators and tell them to oppose any budget that includes these cuts. There could be detrimental changes to your cost-of-living adjustments, early retirement annuities, TSP accounts and more. We cannot back down.” 

House to Vote on Budget Next Week

The House is expected to vote on a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution next week, setting up cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community. In its current form, the budget resolution instructs the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform (OGR) to find at least $32 billion in savings from mandatory spending under the committee's jurisdiction. Presumably, these spending cuts would be used as an offset for tax reform.

The Budget Committee put forward two suggestions that would cut retirement benefits: increasing retirement contributions with no additional benefit for current federal employees, and ending the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) Annuity Supplement. However, it is ultimately up to OGR to develop a legislative proposal that includes the instructed savings. This opens the door to unprecedented cuts like the ones contained in the administration’s budget, which would eliminate or reduce cost-of-living adjustments for retirees.

NARFE members should call or write their legislators and urge them to oppose the House budget resolution and any budget that eliminates or reduces the earned pay and benefits of active and retired federal employees.

The Senate Budget Committee is expected to mark up its version of the budget next week, with a floor vote anticipated two weeks later. Unlike the House budget, the Senate budget unveiled September 29 did not include instructions that would require cuts to federal retirement or health benefits. NARFE members must remain vigilant however, especially if the House budget passes as currently written. Ultimately, a joint agreement must be negotiated between the House and Senate.

OPM Establishes Emergency Leave Transfer Program for Employees Adversely Affected by Hurricane Maria

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memorandum on Wednesday, September 27, to establish an emergency leave transfer program (ELTP) for federal employees adversely affected by Hurricane Maria.

The ELTP allows federal employees to donate unused annual leave to other federal employees from the same or another agency who need additional paid leave as a result of Hurricane Maria’s adverse effect on themselves or a family member. Employees who wish to receive additional leave through this program must apply in writing to their agencies.

OPM has authorized each agency to administer the leave transfers to employees within their agencies. The full memorandum is available here. OPM also extendedthe ability for agencies to allow a special solicitation for federal employee donations to support the victims of Hurricane Maria and has set up a dedicated webpage on employee guidance for all three hurricanes. 

Combined Federal Campaign Begins October 2 

The Combined Federal Campaign (CFC), the world’s largest workplace charity campaign, is running its 2017 campaign season from October 2, 2017 through January 12, 2018. The new campaign season brings an exciting series of changes, such as allowing federal retirees to continue their charitable giving through recurring donations from their annuities.

Those who wish to make a donation can do so through an online giving portal, available once the campaign begins. Cash donations will not be accepted. This change was made in an effort to reduce costs.

The CFC will have four promotional days during the campaign to foster engagement within the federal community. These days will raise awareness of the campaign, allow participants to talk about their favorite charities and encourage people to volunteer. Next week’s Hotline will contain additional information and links to the CFC website.

Congress Reauthorizes Federal Aviation Administration

A bill to reauthorize the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and provide hurricane relief passed Congress this week. H.R. 3823 would extend the FAA’s authorization for six months through March 31, 2018 and offer tax cuts and benefits to individuals living in areas impacted by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

After an initial delay, the House passed the bill that includes provisions to encourage the creation of private flood insurance markets. However, those provisions were removed once the bill reached the Senate. The amended legislation was sent back to the House after passing the Senate via a voice vote and was quickly approved by the lower chamber. The bill now awaits the president’s approval. 

An agreement on a longer reauthorization for the FAA stalled because of a controversial plan to privatize the FAA. That plan, spearheaded by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-PA, would have shifted the FAA into a nonprofit corporation that would be controlled by a board made up of various airline representatives, federal appointees and other aviation related groups.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to quickly and easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues, sign up for action alerts and track NARFE-related bills and votes.

Have you attended a meeting, town hall or telephone town hall with your senator(s) or representative recently? Fill out a simple feedback form here in the Action Center to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website and available to NARFE members via telephone by calling 703-838-7780 or toll-free at 877-217-8234. Past editions are archived online for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.
 



Saturday, September 23, 2017











Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“NARFE members shouldn’t let their guard down now that the government is funded until December 8. We all must exercise our due diligence and contact our members of Congress as the budget process continues. The budget proposal that passed the House Budget Committee instructed the committee with jurisdiction over our retirement benefits to find $32 billion in savings. Further developments are likely as we approach December. NARFE members routinely answer the call when asked to fight for what they have earned. We cannot slow down now. The coming months will require members to build momentum in our fight against cuts to our earned pay and benefits.”

OPM Establishes Emergency Leave Transfer Program for Employees Adversely Affected by Hurricane Irma

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memorandum on September 20 to establish an emergency leave transfer program (ELTP) for federal employees adversely affected by Hurricane Irma.

The ELTP allows federal employees to donate unused annual leave to other federal employees from the same or another agency who need additional paid leave as a result of Hurricane Irma’s adverse effect on themselves or a family member. Employees who wish to receive additional leave through this program must apply in writing to their agencies.

OPM has authorized each agency to administer the leave transfers to employees within their agencies. The full memorandum is available here

Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Approves 2018 TSP Budget 

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the governing body of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), recently approved a $309.7 million budget for fiscal year 2018. The budget is a 20.4 percent increase from the current year and coincides with a massive wave of new TSP participants coming from the military’s new blended retirement system.

Beginning January 1, 2018, an anticipated 400,000 to 750,000 additional people will participate in the TSP, with several hundred thousand more anticipated in the years to come. The TSP expects that new participants will have questions, creating a need for additional TSP staff to handle the influx of calls and requests. Additionally, the increased budget will allow the TSP to continue its plan to increase cybersecurity and modernize IT systems.

The increased budget does not necessarily mean that TSP account fees will increase by the same percentage, according to a TSP spokesperson interview with GovExec. Similarly, money not used is not deducted from participant’s accounts, the spokesperson noted.

Senate Passes the National Defense Authorization Act

This week, the Senate passed its version of the fiscal year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, authorizing defense programs, policies and activities that could cost upwards of $700 billion. While this bill authorizes the programs and activities, it does not directly provide the money for them – that will come through appropriations bills. The House recently approved an omnibus spending package that included only $621.5 billion in base-level defense spending for fiscal year 2018, but the Senate has yet to take action on appropriations bills. 

Senators passed the bill with bipartisan support, with a vote of 89-8. The bill authorizes nearly $640 billion in base-level defense spending and an additional $60 billion in war funding. The Senate avoided voting on controversial amendments in an effort to speed up passage of the bill.

Upcoming Legislative Webinar! Successful Advocacy: When, Why and How to Follow Up

NARFE's Legislative Department will host a webinar on how members can build off grassroots momentum from August, NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month. The webinar, titled "Successful Advocacy: When, Why and How to Follow Up," will review next steps in advocacy and answer questions such as, “When is the best time to follow up with my legislator after an event?” Participate in the Legislative Department’s webinar on September 26 at 2 p.m. ET to learn how to sustain the meaningful work of NARFE’s grassroots advocates. 

The hour-long webinar will be hosted by NARFE Grassroots Program Manager Molly Checksfield on Tuesday, September 26, at 2 p.m. ET. Registration for this live event is limited to the first 1,000 registrants, so click here to register now! Those unable to attend the live webinar can access it on the NARFE website within 48 hours.

Let NARFE Know If You Have Been Selected to Assist the Small Business Administration 

Have you applied and been selected by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) to assist the agency in its Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recovery and relief efforts? NARFE would like to hear from you and thank you for your continued service. Many NARFE members have expressed interest in joining the SBA and we could not be more proud. Let us know if you have been selected by sending an email to leg@narfe.org

Like and Follow NARFE on Facebook and Twitter

Want to make sure that you’re staying on top of the latest news regarding the federal community? Interested in keeping up with the whirlwind that is breaking news? Be in the know with the NARFE Facebook and Twitter pages. “Like” the NARFE Facebook page and follow us on Twitter to make sure you know what’s going on as it happens. Check it out.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the NARFE Legislative Action Center to quickly and easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues, sign up for action alerts and track NARFE-related bills and votes.

Have you attended a meeting, town hall or telephone town hall with your senator(s) or representative recently? Fill out a simple feedback form here in the Action Center to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website and available to NARFE members via telephone by calling 703-838-7780 or toll-free at 877-217-8234. Past editions are archived online for NARFE member access. If you have any questions regarding the information in this Hotline, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org or call 703-838-7760.