Electronic copies  of our newsletters are available from the links to the left. Our newsletters are published monthly, except for July and August.

NEWS:

NARFE Legislative Hotline, July 24, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“A big thanks to all the NARFE members who took action this week and last to protect their benefits. With the help of thousands of NARFE members who sent email messages and made phone calls to their senators, NARFE successfully defended against a congressional raid on the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) G Fund. This week, NARFE also commented on a proposed rule that would ensure you receive the best retirement advice when considering moving your TSP holdings. Finally, late in the week, a Senate committee approved an amendment to provide additional protection for federal employees and others who were affected by the cyberattacks at the Office of Personnel Management. More information on all of these is provided below. You made the difference!”

NARFE Wins Fight to Protect the TSP … for Now

During consideration of legislation to reauthorize the Highway Trust Fund, senators were looking at a proposal to use the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) to pay for the bill. The proposal, which originated in the fiscal year 2016 House Budget Resolution, would have reduced the rate of return on the TSP G Fund and used the proposed savings to pay for the Trust Fund reauthorization. Specifically, the proposal would have changed the rate of return on the G Fund from 2.25 percent annually to 0.02 percent.

Before the bill text was finalized, NARFE members went on the offensive, with thousands of phone calls and emails, telling their senators not to use their hard-earned retirement savings as a budget tool to pay for unrelated legislation. NARFE President Richard G. Thissen also sent a letter to the Senate, and NARFE signed two other letters from coalition partners, asking for the proposal to be rejected. The blitz worked, and the provision was not included in the highway bill.

Thank you to all the NARFE members who took action to protect the retirement security of all federal employees and retirees and military personnel.

NARFE Submits Comments in Support of DOL Fiduciary Rule

On July 17, NARFE submitted comments in support of the Department of Labor’s Conflict of Interest Rule Proposal, which would update the definition of “fiduciary investment advice” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). The new rule would ensure individuals saving for retirement are protected by a “best interest” standard when receiving investment advice. The public comment period closed July 21. NARFE also sent its comments to the Senate Health, Labor and Pensions Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety in advance of its July 21 hearing regarding the proposed rule.

“NARFE is particularly concerned that federal employees and retirees invested in low-fee Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) funds – the federal government’s version of a 401(k) for federal civilian employees and military personnel – currently are not adequately protected from bad financial advice regarding their TSP holdings,” explained NARFE President Thissen in the comments. To read the full NARFE comments, click here.

OPM Breach Update and Legislative Action

This week, NARFE staff met with Office of Personnel Management (OPM) staff to discuss ways to improve the OPM website and dissemination of information to those impacted by the two cybersecurity breaches at the agency. OPM continues to update its website: https://www.opm.gov/cybersecurity/.

On July 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee completed action on the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill, which addressed the breaches. Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-MD, offered an amendment to provide greater protection to federal employees whose personal information may have been compromised in the OPM data breaches. The amendment provides for not fewer than 10 years of credit-monitoring services and $5 million in liability protection for related damages. The committee approved the amendment. The bill now goes to the full Senate.

OPM Cyberattack Review

According to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), 4.2 million individuals were affected by the first incident targeting personnel records, and those people have been notified.

In the second breach, sensitive information, including the Social Security numbers of 21.5 million individuals, was stolen from background investigation databases. This includes 19.7 million individuals who applied for a background investigation and 1.8 million nonapplicants, predominantly spouses or cohabitants of applicants. If an individual underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or later (which occurs through the submission of forms SF 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions; SF 85, the Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions; or SF 85P, the Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions, for a new investigation or periodic reinvestigation), it is highly likely that the individual is impacted by this cyberbreach. These individuals have not been notified yet. Notification will not be sent and protection services will not be offered until a contractor is selected by mid-August.

If you have questions, please contact NARFE’s Federal Benefits Service Department at fedbenefits@narfe.org or 703-838-7760. NARFE continues to update its OPM Security Breach webpage.

Good Advice on Contacting Congress

Earlier this week, Roll Call published an op-ed from the Congressional Management Foundation on how to write a better letter to Congress. NARFE’s Legislative Department staff encourages NARFE members to personalize and edit the messages available on the NARFE Legislative Action Center. The suggestions made in the Roll Call piece are a great reminder of how to make your letter stand out to your legislators and their staff. Be sure to repeat your message from the letter when speaking to your member of Congress at community events during the August recess.

Return to July 24, 2015

Return to top news

NARFE Legislative Hotline, July 17, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“This week, we learned that some senators are looking to change the rate of return on the TSP’s G Fund to pay for the highway bill. On the heels of two massive data breaches affecting federal employees and retirees, their families and friends, this action seems particularly cruel. Please see the section below on our advocacy efforts and learn how you can take action. Remember, silence equals acceptance!”

Congress Threatens to Use TSP to Fund Highway Bill

A group of senators led by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-UT, has proposed using the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Government Securities Fund (G Fund) to finance an extension of the Highway Trust Fund. NARFE urges members to call or write their senators and tell them not to use the TSP G Fund to finance the Highway Trust Fund. Use NARFE’s toll-free number, 1-866-220-0044, to call your senators’ Washington offices. Use NARFE’S Legislative Action Center to send a letter. Take action now!

On behalf of NARFE members, NARFE National President Richard Thissen sent a letter to senators on July 14 asking them to consider other funding options. NARFE also signed letters sent by the Federal-Postal Coalition and the Employee Thrift Advisory Council (ETAC). You can read those letters here and here, respectively.

The House passed a short-term highway extension July 15 that made no mention of using the TSP to finance transportation. The Senate is continuing its negotiations on the matter through the weekend, with a vote expected next week.

OPM Security Breach Update

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and its contractor CSID have largely concluded notifying the 4.2 million individuals whose personnel records were compromised in the first of two OPM data breaches. CSID is offering credit monitoring services and identity theft insurance to individuals whose personnel records were compromised in the first breach.

OPM is in the process of contracting with another vendor to handle notifying the millions more who were victims of the second breach, which resulted in background investigation data being compromised. Individuals affected by the second breach will receive notification in the upcoming weeks.

Individuals affected by the personnel records incident are beginning to receive emails from CSID providing identity theft insurance documents. In some instances, these emails also indicate there is a premium of $0.27 per month for this insurance. There are concerns about whether these are legitimate emails and if individuals are expected to pay the monthly premium. These are legitimate emails, but the individual is not paying the premium.

To clarify, according to New York state law and Minnesota state law, companies providing insurance coverage to an individual must provide a copy of the policy with the premium amount disclosed. The policy must be provided to the consumer in an exact format, and CSID cannot alter the language. In the cases of those individuals affected by the personnel data breach, the individual is not paying the premium. CSID is paying the premium on their behalf and must disclose how much it is paying.

Some individuals have reported receiving phone calls purportedly from CSID, and there are concerns if these phone calls are legitimate. OPM has confirmed that CSID does not call an individual unless the individual has sent CSID an email or left CSID a voice mail requesting a call back. NARFE members who receive an unsolicited telephone call from someone saying they are from CSID should try to get the name of the caller and report it to NARFE’s Federal Benefits Service Department so it can be forwarded to OPM for further investigation.

If you have questions, please contact NARFE’s Federal Benefits Service Department at fedbenefits@narfe.org or 703-838-7760. NARFE continues to update its OPM Security Breach webpage.

Urge Your Legislators to Provide Lifetime Protection to Victims of OPM Hacks

Last week, legislation was introduced in both houses of Congress to expand the identity theft insurance and credit monitoring protection offered by OPM for all individuals affected by the OPM security breaches. The legislation would extend credit monitoring for life and increase the identity theft protection to no less than $5 million. The “Reducing the Effects of the Cyberattack on OPM Victims Emergency Response (RECOVER) Act of 2015” was introduced in the Senate (S. 1746) by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, and in the House (H.R. 3029) by Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC.

NARFE has endorsed this bill. Please use NARFE’s Legislative Action Center to send a letter to your representative and senators asking them to cosponsor this important legislation.

Consumer Prices Increase in June

Regarding the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to civil service annuities for 2016, the June Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is 233.804, a one-month increase of 0.38 percent. With three months remaining in the measurement year, the CPI-W has decreased 0.19 percent from the 2014 third-quarter average base index. If the third-quarter average of 2015 remains below the 2014 third-quarter average, retirees would not receive a COLA in 2016. Of interest to individuals receiving benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), the June CPI-W figure is 1.70 percent higher than the December 2014 CPI-W figure.

The July CPI-W figure will be released August 19. For NARFE’s full COLA update, click here.

 Accessing the Legislative Action Center /h4>

NARFE members can use the Legislative Action Center (LAC) as the hub to send letters to your members of Congress and track NARFE-related bills and votes. NARFE frequently updates the LAC, so check back often.

Return to July 17, 2015

Return to top news

NARFE Legislative Hotline, July 10, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“On July 10, OPM Director Katherine Archuleta announced her resignation, and Beth Cobert, currently the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, will be taking over the job as interim director. OPM needs a proven leader not only to ensure a breach of this magnitude never happens again, but also to provide adequate protection to those affected. The Administration’s first priority must be to protect federal employees, retirees and their loved ones impacted by the breaches. I hope Ms. Cobert heeds our request for lifetime protection. I also call upon her to improve communications between OPM and federal employees and retirees and the groups that represent them.

“I am encouraged to know that Beth Cobert will be taking over the job as interim director. Ms. Cobert, who has been involved in the investigation of the cyberattacks, brings a wealth of management experience and a proven track record of improving performance.

“NARFE’s concerns that a resignation could leave a vacuum in leadership have been adequately addressed by this appointment. As Ms. Archuleta leaves her post amid this crisis, I thank her for her service to our country and for her efforts to improve cybersecurity at OPM. The failure of OPM to protect those who serve our nation as federal employees was decades in the making. Ms. Archuleta did her best to right the ship and deal with the fallout from the massive data thefts that occurred under her watch, the blame for which must, in fairness, be shared widely.”

 NARFE Testifies Before House on the OPM Data Breach

NARFE Federal Benefits Service Director David Snell testified Wednesday, July 8, before two subcommittees of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology – the Subcommittee on Research and Technology and the Subcommittee on Oversight. In the hearing titled, Is the OPM Data Breach the Tip of the Iceberg?, subcommittee members heard testimony on the national security implications of the breaches, the effects on federal workers and retirees, and what can be done going forward to improve the federal government’s cybersecurity.

“The federal government – including both the Administration and Congress – now has an obligation to correct, to the best of its ability, what has transpired,” said Snell. “This should have started with effective communication with federal employees, retirees, others affected by the breaches and the organizations that represent them. Unfortunately, communication has fallen short of expectations.”

“In addition to better communication, the federal government should provide lifetime credit monitoring and additional identity theft insurance,” Snell added. Snell’s complete written testimony, which was submitted to both subcommittees, is available on the NARFE website.

OPM Security Breach Update

OPM issued a press release July 9 with new information on the second breach, which was originally announced June 12. While OPM had previously confirmed that 4.2 million individuals were affected by the first breach of personnel records, it said that 21.5 million individuals were affected by the second breach. Of those affected, 3.6 million people were hit by both hacks, putting the final tally at 22.1 million. Those impacted by the second breach include 19.7 million individuals who applied for a background investigation, such as federal employees; federal retirees; contractors and job applicants; and 1.8 million nonapplicants, predominantly spouses or cohabitants of applicants.

If an individual underwent a background investigation through OPM in 2000 or afterward (which occurs through the submission of forms SF 86, the Questionnaire for National Security Positions; SF 85, the Questionnaire for Non-Sensitive Positions; or SF 85P, the Questionnaire for Public Trust Positions, for a new investigation or periodic reinvestigation), it is highly likely that the individual is impacted by this cyberbreach. If an individual underwent a background investigation prior to 2000, that individual still may be impacted, but it is less likely. Any applicant, whether a federal employee or contractor, hired or not, would have had his or her data exposed.

Those impacted will be notified once OPM selects a vendor to provide credit monitoring and other services. This process will take several more weeks.

There is no sign that information has been misused since the breaches were discovered by OPM in May. As of now, there is no indication that systems holding retirement, health, financial or payroll information were compromised.

NARFE continues to be in communication with OPM officials. The latest information was provided in a July 9 conference call to NARFE and other federal employee and retiree groups. NARFE has updated its OPM Security Breach page on the NARFE website. More details can be found there.

 If you have questions, please continue to contact NARFE’s Federal Benefits Service Department at fedbenefits@narfe.org or 703-838-7760.

New Legislation Introduced to Protect Victims of OPM Hack

Legislation that would extend protection for individuals whose personal information was compromised in the OPM data breach has been introduced in the Senate by Sen. Ben Cardin, D-MD, along with Sens. Barbara Mikulski, D-MD; Mark Warner, D-VA; and Tim Kaine, D-VA; and in the House by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, D-DC. The “Reducing the Effects of the Cyberattack on OPM Victims Emergency Response Act of 2015” or RECOVER Act, would expand the identity theft insurance offered by OPM to lifetime coverage for all federal employees and retirees, as well as other individuals affected by the OPM security breach.

“Private-sector cyberhacks and cyberattacks have become too commonplace, but when the federal government’s own computer system shows its vulnerabilities to the world, we have a responsibility to protect the people who have been put at risk,” said Sen. Cardin. “Off-the-shelf solutions are not good enough. We need to plug the holes in the federal network and make sure our workers, their families and all those who have been violated are held harmless from any damage that may be done.” NARFE and several other federal employee and retiree groups have endorsed this legislation.

 Accessing the Legislative Action Center

NARFE members can use the Legislative Action Center (LAC) as the hub to send letters to your members of Congress and track NARFE-related bills and votes. NARFE frequently updates the LAC, so check back often.

Return to July 10, 2015

Return to top news