Saturday, June 24, 2017

NARFE Legislative Hotline June 23, 2017










Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“I’m pleased to inform you that with NARFE’s endorsement, legislation expanding withdrawal options in the Thrift Savings Plan was introduced in the House this week. This legislation mirrors legislation pending in the Senate. NARFE members should write their members of Congress and ask them to support this legislation. More information is provided below.”

Representatives Introduce Companion Legislation to Change TSP Withdrawal Options

This week, Reps. Elijah E. Cummings, D-MD, and Mark Meadows, R-NC, introduced the TSP Modernization Act of 2017, H.R. 3031, the companion bill to its Senate counterpart, S. 873. These bills would provide more flexible withdrawal options for Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) accounts and are supported by the Employee Thrift Advisory Council, of which NARFE is a member.

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 59-½.

The legislation also would add flexibility to the TSP by allowing the election of quarterly or annual payments and permitting periodic withdrawals to be changed at any point during the year. Payments could be stopped while allowing the account balance to remain in the TSP. Currently, periodic payments can be selected only in monthly intervals, can be adjusted only once per year and cannot be stopped unless the participant withdraws the entire remaining balance.

Finally, the bill would eliminate the withdrawal election deadline. Currently, participants are required to make a post-separation withdrawal election by April 1of the year following the year in which they turn age 70-½ and are separated from federal service. This requirement too often is conflated with the requirement to begin taking required minimum distributions the same day, which leads to withdrawals of the full TSP balance.

NARFE members are encouraged to send a letter to their legislators asking them to support the bill here.

House Budget Negotiations Ongoing

House Republicans continue to negotiate the framework for a fiscal year 2018 budget resolution, with no clear consensus emerging. With negotiations ongoing, it is unclear whether or not the House Budget Committee will mark up a budget resolution next week, as previously planned.

The current stalemate centers around defense and non-defense spending targets, and whether – and how much – to earmark for cuts to mandatory spending programs (that do not rely on annual appropriation by Congress), which include federal retirement benefits. Among the issues being debated is whether to use any mandatory spending cuts to offset increased defense spending, tax reform, or both.

As the budget process continues, NARFE members should continue to write and call their legislators and ask them to reject the proposed cuts to their earned pay and benefits included in the president’s FY 2018 budget.

Lawmakers Send Letter to OPM on Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program

Reps. Gerald E. Connolly, D-VA, and Don Beyer, Jr., D-VA, sent a letter to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) asking for solutions to improve the affordability and stability of the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). Last November, NARFE testified before Congress alongside OPM’s Director of Healthcare and Insurance on the drastic premium increases and pressed for reforms to fix the program.

During the hearing, the former OPM Director of Healthcare and Insurance testified, “[OPM does] not have a proposal that is ready for being shared with the committee at this time.” The two lawmakers from Virginia followed up this week noting that the director’s response was not sufficient and requested that an update be sent to them on the status of a timeline for proposed solutions.

NARFE proposed several solutions for the program which can be found in our testimony here. NARFE looks forward to working with Congress and the new OPM leadership to improve the program. 

Letters Sent to Committee and Party Leadership to Protect Earned Benefits

Nine Republican lawmakers, led by Rep. Rob Bishop, R-UT, recently sent a letter to House leadership expressing concern over the proposed cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community outlined in the president’s FY 2018 budget. The letter highlighted the financial sacrifices the federal community already has made and specifically mentioned the proposals to which NARFE objects. The letter also points out how the egregious policies “break a commitment to employees and retirees who have based financial planning on longstanding promised benefit calculations.” 

The Federal-Postal Coalition, of which NARFE is a member, also sent letters to the House and Senate Budget Committees, urging the committees to exclude reconciliation instructions to the respective committees with jurisdiction over the federal workforce as they craft their budgets. Reconciliation legislation will be the budget vehicle in which cuts are made to the earned pay and benefits of active and retired federal employees. View both letters by going here and here.

OPM Warns Retirees of an Aggressive Marketing Plan Targeting Federal Pensions

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) recently alerted federal annuitants to a particularly aggressive company offering retirees cash in return for some or all of their federal annuity. According to OPM, the cash payment being offered is worth much less than the long-term worth of annuities and comes with high interest rates and fees. Click here to read the OPM alert.


OPM has received numerous phone calls from one company in particular asking not only for verification of annuity amounts, but also banking information, including routing numbers and account numbers. The OPM Office of the Inspector General (OIG) discovered this company is currently under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Please report any suspected scams to the OPM OIG at 877-499-7295 or by submitting a complaint form here. Read more on this new marketing push here.

Upcoming Legislative Webinar: Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure!

NARFE's Legislative Department will host a webinar on preparing for Grassroots Advocacy Month titled "Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure: Preparing for August." This webinar will review actions you can take to urge your legislators to protect your earned pay and benefits. Are you ready to stand in opposition to harmful policies affecting the federal community? Do you know how to take action to help prevent these policies from becoming law? Participate in the Legislative Department’s webinar on June 27 at 2 p.m. ET to learn how to be most effective in your advocacy efforts this August! 

The hourlong webinar will be hosted by NARFE Grassroots Program Manager Molly Checksfield on Tuesday, June 27, 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.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the new, easy-to-use NARFE Legislative Action Center to 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 new 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 and 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.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

The Grass is Greener When Congress Leaves Washington!








August is the month Congress goes home... and the perfect time for constituents to call on them.

August is NARFE Grassroots Advocacy Month. 

Are you ready to engage your legislators on the issues that affect your earned federal benefits? Join NARFE for a one-hour webinar on the best practices you can employ to defend the benefits you have earned from serious congressional attacks.

Whether you’re a veteran or first-time advocate wanting to play a more active role, this webinar will help you polish your advocacy skills.

We need all federal employees and retirees to speak out against proposals containing cuts to your earned pay and benefits if we are going to be successful. Join NARFE's Grassroots Program Manager Molly Checksfield to learn more during June's legislative webinar, "Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure: Preparing for August." 

Now is not the time to stay silent as Congress debates serious cuts to your earned benefits! To be effective, we must plan for the August recess now. Don’t let those five weeks when your legislators are at home pass by without them hearing from you.

The hourlong webinar will be hosted on Tuesday, June 27, at 2 p.m. ET. Registration for this live event is limited to the first 1,000 registrants, so click here to register now!

The webinar will be presented using GoToWebinar. After you register, you will receive an email with a unique login from GoToWebinar. Approximately 60 minutes before the webinar, you will receive a reminder email with your unique login information. Note: The login information may recommend a microphone hookup. However, you will not need the hookup since we will take questions at the end of the webinar via a chat box.

If you are unable to attend the live webinar, it will be archived on the NARFE website within 48 hours. If you have any questions, please email NARFE’s Legislative Department at leg@narfe.org.

Thank you,
NARFE’s Legislative Department

Friday, June 16, 2017

NARFE Legislative Hotline June 16, 2017




Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“Our thoughts and prayers are with those who were wounded in an act of senseless violence when a gunman opened fire at a congressional baseball practice this week. In the line of fire, the heroic actions of the U.S. Capitol Police saved many lives and prevented the situation from being much worse. The officers, who were wounded, courageously protected those in harm’s way and are an example of the important, and sometimes lifesaving, work of federal employees. Every day Americans benefit from the work of federal employees. We are all grateful for the swift action of the U.S. Capitol Police.”

Combat Zone Tax Parity Act Introduced in the House

The Combat Zone Tax Parity Act, H.R. 2929, was introduced in the House by Reps. Rob Wittman, R-VA, and Gerald E. Connolly, D-VA, and would extend the tax credit available to military personnel who serve in combat zones to the civilian federal employees working alongside them. Currently, only members of the military and federal contractors qualify for federal income tax exemptions on their base pay as a result of serving in designated combat zones.

The legislation would compensate for the hardships federal employees and their families face from the separation and stress that accompany service in a combat zone. It also would provide a valuable incentive for civil servants to apply for overseas duty. U.S. missions require individuals with expertise often not found in the military to fill critical positions in such areas as transportation reconstruction projects and health care.

The bill now makes its way to the House Committee on Ways and Means. NARFE members are encouraged to write their legislators in support of this bill here.

Bill Blocking Fiduciary Rule Passes in the House

Late last week, the House passed the Financial CHOICE Act of 2017, H.R. 10, in a party-line vote of 233-186. Of special interest to NARFE members is a provision that would block the Department of Labor (DOL) fiduciary rule, a rule which NARFE supports. In other action, an individual bill, H.R. 2823, which would end the current fiduciary rule, was introduced by Rep. Phil Roe, R-TN.

The Senate companion bill to the CHOICE Act, S. 1321, was recently introduced by Sen. Johnny Isakson, R-GA. The bill could face a filibuster in the Senate, as passage requires 60 votes. Just recently, DOL Secretary Alexander Acosta allowed the June 9 effective date of the fiduciary rule to go into effect. However, the Secretary noted last month that a review of the final rule will continue.

Under the fiduciary rule, financial advisers are subject to new impartial conduct standards when recommending rollovers of assets into individual retirement accounts (IRAs), including rollovers from the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). For this reason, NARFE supports the rule and is working to prevent any attempts to undo it. You can contact your lawmakers in support of the rule here.

Lawmakers Sign Letters Rejecting Proposed Cuts to Earned Pay and Benefits

This week, 108 lawmakers signed onto a letter authored by Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-MD, urging House leadership to reject the proposed cuts to the earned pay and benefits of federal workers and retirees outlined in the president’s budget. The letter specifically mentions the proposals to reduce and eliminate cost-of-living adjustments and points to the financial sacrifices federal employees have made since 2010.

Rep. Barbara Comstock, R-VA, also sent a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-WI, and Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-CA, on the budget. Comstock’s letter mentioned the sacrifices made by the federal community and highlighted the important role that federal workers play in our society. It also emphasized the importance of financial security for those nearing and currently in retirement.

NARFE thanks these lawmakers for standing up for federal employees and retirees.

Senate Holds Hearing on Agency Reorganization Plans 

The Senate Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee held a hearing this week titled “Agency Approaches to Reorganization: Examining OMB's Memorandum on the Federal Workforce.” The hearing focused on how agencies are crafting their agency reorganization and workforce reduction plans before the administration’s June 30 submission deadline.

Representatives from the Departments of Commerce, Justice, Agriculture and Homeland Security all stated that their departments would meet the June 30deadline. When detailing the plans, much of the hearing’s discussion focused on creating greater efficiency rather than implementing workforce reductions. Many witnesses discussed how their departments were gathering suggestions from their workforce and highlighted their goals of improving customer service.

Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford, R-OK, noted during the hearing that there was no requirement to slash the workforce and also expressed that he has no interest in instituting such a requirement. More information on the hearing, including testimony, is available here.

Upcoming Legislative Webinar: Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure! 

NARFE's Legislative Department will host a webinar on preparing for Grassroots Advocacy Month, titled "Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure: Preparing for August." This webinar will review actions you can take to urge your legislators to protect your earned pay and benefits. Are you ready to stand in opposition to harmful policies affecting the federal community? Do you know how to take action to help prevent these policies from becoming law? Participate in the Legislative Department’s webinar on June 27 at 2 p.m. ET to learn how to be most effective in your advocacy efforts this August! 

The hour-long webinar will be hosted by NARFE Grassroots Program Manager Molly Checksfield on Tuesday, June 27, 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.

Consumer Prices Increase Slightly in May

Relevant to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to civil service annuities for 2018, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) increased 0.07 percent in May 2017. The new CPI-W figure for May 2017 is 238.609. This is 1.51 percent higher than the average CPI-W for the third quarter of 2016, which is used to determine the 2018 COLA.

Individuals receiving insurance benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) received a 2.0 percent COLA in March 2017. Looking ahead to the 2018 COLA for FECA benefits, the May 2017 CPI-W figure (238.609) is 1.37 percent higher than the December 2016 CPI-W figure (235.390).

NARFE members can access NARFE’s latest COLA update here.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the new, easy-to-use NARFE Legislative Action Center to 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 new 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 and 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.

OPM



OPM has recently learned of an aggressive marketing push targeting Federal annuitants. Companies are offering a cash payment in exchange for a portion, or all of your future annuity payments, generally much less than their long-term worth, and typically charging high interest rates and fees.

We have specifically received numerous phone calls from one company in particular asking us to not just verify annuity amounts, but also banking information, including routing numbers and account numbers. Our suspicions were confirmed by our Inspector General's office who discovered this company is currently under investigation by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

CFPB lists three things you can do to protect your retirement annuity:

(1) Avoid loans with high fees and interest. Pension advance companies may not always advertise their fees and interest rates, but you will certainly feel them in your bottom line. Before you sign anything, learn what you are getting and how much you are giving up. 


(2) Don't sign over control of your benefits. Companies sometimes arrange for monthly payments to be automatically deposited in a newly created bank account so the company can withdraw payments, fees and interest charges from the account. This leaves you with little control. 


(3) Don't buy life insurance that you don't want or need. Pension advance companies sometimes require consumers to sign up for life insurance with the company as the consumer's beneficiary. If you sign up for life insurance with the pension advance company as your beneficiary, you could end up footing the bill, whether you know it or not.

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Take Action


Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“Members of Congress returned to Capitol Hill this week after spending time in their home districts over the Memorial Day holiday. Thank you to those who took time to contact your legislators; we must not allow them to make cuts to our earned pay and benefits as outlined in the president’s budget proposal. Congress will soon begin developing its budget, so if you haven’t contacted your legislators to remind them that our benefits were earned, please do so now. We must all take action if we are to be successful.”

Employee Thrift Advisory Council Meets to Discuss TSP Modifications 

On May 31, the Employee Thrift Advisory Council (ETAC) met with members of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB), to discuss the status of the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) as well as plans for modifications to products and services. ETAC is a select group of fifteen organizations offering counsel and advice to the FRTIB, the body that administers the TSP and NARFE Secretary/Treasurer Jon Dowie attended the meeting in his capacity as an ETAC member.

With more than $500 billion in plan assets and 5.1 million participants and beneficiaries, the TSP is the largest retirement savings plan of its type in the world. As part of the TSP’s investment options, Lifecycle (L) Funds were established to spread risk across the five investment funds that comprise the TSP to correlate with one’s projected retirement age. Among the subjects discussed at the ETAC meeting was the potential to fine-tune the L Funds to offer participants 5-year increments for savings rather than the current 10-year options.

ETAC members were briefed by FRTIB staff and consultants, who covered issues ranging from service operations at call centers, including measures undertaken to respond to emergencies without risking center responsiveness, and proposals to further diversify investment options to respond to market trends. Also discussed was the potential impact on TSP investments that could be engendered by President Trump’s recent budget submission. While proposing no changes to the TSP, the Trump budget does propose an increase in retirement contributions to Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuities, without any increase in retirement benefits. This would leave employees with less money available to put into their TSP accounts.

NARFE, along with ETAC, is working to advance bipartisan legislation to permit more flexibility in TSP withdrawals. The TSP Modernization Act (S. 873) has been introduced in the Senate by Sens. Rob Portman, R-OH, and Thomas R. Carper, D-DE. Companion legislation may soon be introduced in the House of Representatives.

New Chair of House Committee Announced

This week, Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-SC, was chosen by the Republican Steering Committee to head the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which has jurisdiction over the federal workforce and employee and retiree benefits.

Gowdy would replace outgoing Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, who resigned from Congress effective June 30. The change is expected to take place next week, after Gowdy’s confirmation by the full House Republican conference.

Gowdy is best known on the national stage for leading the House select committee that investigated the attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi in 2012. Of interest to NARFE members, Gowdy holds a 4 percent lifetime NARFE voting record.

VA Accountability Bill Passed in the Senate 

Legislation to ease the firing of employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) passed the Senate this week by voice vote. The Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017 would amend both pre- and post-removal procedures and the appeals process for VA employees. Given its strong bipartisan support, there is a good chance Congress will pass the bill.

The bill shortens the time for notification and opportunity to respond prior to removal for rank and file employees and senior executives to 15 days, and would remove the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) from the appeals process for senior executives, replacing MSPB review with an internal VA appeals process. Additionally, the bill authorizes the VA to recoup bonuses from employees engaged in misconduct or poor performance. Finally, the legislation reduces the response to a notice of adverse action for supervisors who commit a prohibited personnel action from 14 days to 10, and codifies the creation of the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection within the VA.

If passed by the House, the bill will make its way to the president, who has publicly stated that he intends to sign the legislation into law.

Take Action! Contact Your Legislators About the President’s Budget

The president’s recently released 2018 budget proposal contains unprecedented threats to the earned pay and benefits of federal workers and retirees. Have you made your voice heard yet? This budget is a step in the wrong direction, and NARFE urges its members to contact their legislators and ask them to reject these egregious cuts aimed at the federal community.

Proposing to cut benefits for those who have already retired goes beyond any proposal we’ve seen before. This would renege on the government’s promise to pay the full amount of retirement annuities – which includes cost-of-living adjustments – in exchange for years of hard work over long careers by our nation’s public servants.

It is critical that your legislators hear from you now. If you have not done so already, write and call your legislators. If they do not hear from you and other federal retirees about the effects of these dangerous proposals, your silence will be viewed as acceptance. Take action now!

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 new, easy-to-use NARFE Legislative Action Center to 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 new 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 and 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, June 9, 2017

Chapter 1587 Meeting

Marshall County Chapter 1587 of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association met at Doe's Eat Place in Downtown Paducah, KY.

Chapter President Joe Joe Horcher asked Tom Crider to lead us in prayer and Mickey Horcher led us in our Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag and Nation.

All photos by Laurel Diaz



Tom Crider
Mickey Horcher

After Marshall County Chapter 1587 President told us about the upcoming Federal budget and how it would affect us; he also told us about the State Convention and how well it was done this year.
Mary Hammond
Executive Director
 The Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB)

Joe introduced us to our guest speaker for the meeting, Mary Hammond, The Executive Director of the The Paducah Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB). She gave us some historical facts about old Paducah and what was going on today in Paducah.

Chapter 1587 Members:












Marshall County Chapter 1587 Next Meeting Date:

13 July Benton Library 2:00 PM 
 Business meeting following program (TBD)

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Speak Out! Your Retirement Is At Risk!





The president’s 2018 budget proposal, released last week, would reduce the value of the earned benefits of active and retired federal employees. This proposal is already being mulled over by legislators on Capitol Hill. Now is the time for NARFE members to take action to urge Congress to reject any attempts to diminish their earned pay and benefits!

Proposing to cut benefits for those who have already retired goes beyond any proposal we’ve seen before. This would renege on the government’s promise to pay the full amount of the retirement annuities – which includes cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) – in exchange for years of hard work over long careers by our nation’s public servants.

As just one egregious proposal, COLAs would be reduced for current and future retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) by 0.5 percent each year, and would be eliminated for current and future retirees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). The proposal would hurt retirees living on fixed incomes, taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from their pockets over the course of retirement.

These threats are on the table. It is critical that your legislators hear from you now. Let them know how these policies would harm voters, like yourself, in their district. If your legislators do not hear from you and other federal retirees about the effect of these dangerous proposals, they will view your silence as acceptance.

Don’t wait until it is too late. Get involved now!

Here’s what you can do:

1) Pick up the phone and make some calls! NARFE has a dedicated phone number that will connect you directly to Capitol Hill and your legislators. Dial 1-866-220-0044 and follow NARFE’s easy to use call script. Advocacy comes in many forms and calling your legislators is one of the most effective ways to make your voice heard.


2) Write your legislators today and urge them to reject this proposal. Hundreds of thousands of dollars, which you earned, are on the line. Write your legislators here using NARFE’s Legislative Action Center. This easy-to-use system will allow you to contact your legislators right away!




If we’re going to prevent these attacks from becoming law, then Congress needs to hear from all NARFE members and every federal employee and retiree. Spread the message loud and clear and let the federal community know that it is time to take action. Congress will soon begin to develop their budget. We need to make it clear that we will not accept any cuts to the earned pay and benefits of active and retired federal employees. Call and write your legislators today!


Thank you,


NARFE's Legislative Department