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 Headquarters, 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 30 deadline. 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 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 LAC to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

The Legislative Department appreciates your advocacy efforts to protect the earned pay and benefits of active and retired federal employees!

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived 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.

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NARFE Headquarters, June 9, 2017

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.”

TAKE ACTION NOW

 

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 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 LAC to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

The Legislative Department appreciates your advocacy efforts to protect the earned pay and benefits of active and retired federal employees!

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived 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.

Return to June 9, 2017

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NARFE Headquarters, May 26, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“The president’s budget is out and the threats are real. This budget goes beyond previous attacks by taking aim at those who already have retired. NARFE members must stand against these unprecedented attacks and let their legislators know that we will not tolerate such an insult. As public servants, we worked hard for our benefits while serving this great nation. Now we are being singled out simply because we chose to work for the greater good. This budget is disrespectful and tells all those associated with public service – in the past, present and future – that years of dedication to this country can be wiped away.”

President’s 2018 Budget Contains Substantial Cuts to Federal Retirement Benefits

The president’s 2018 budget proposal was released this week and contains unprecedented threats to the earned pay and benefits of federal workers and retirees. NARFE feels strongly that this budget is a step in the wrong direction and we urge our members to contact their legislators and ask them to reject the egregious cuts aimed at the federal community. Write your legislators here.

The budget contains a series of provisions that negatively impact the earned benefits for federal workers who are already retired. Notably, cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) for current and future retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) would be reduced by 0.5 percent each year, and for current and future retirees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), COLAs would be eliminated altogether. This amounts to taking away hundreds of thousands of dollars of earned money from the pockets of retirees. Write your legislators asking them to reject these changes to COLAs here.

The president’s budget also takes aim at the benefits of current FERS workers, impacting financial plans for retirement. Federal employees covered under FERS would see employee contributions to their annuities increased by 1 percent each year for the next six years, without any corresponding benefit increase. This will cost FERS employees $72 billion over the next 10 years, and more thereafter. Additionally, both CSRS and FERS annuities would be based on the average of the highest five years of salary instead of the current highest three.

Furthermore, the FERS Annuity Supplement would be eliminated for new retirees beginning in 2018. Those who are currently receiving the supplement would still maintain the benefit. However, federal law enforcement officers and other workers forced to retire early due to age caps would not receive the supplement if they retire in or after 2018.

The president’s budget also would shift $54 billion in discretionary funding from government agencies to defense spending and avoid sequestration-related cuts. On a positive note, the budget also outlined a 1.9 percent pay increase for the federal workforce and a 2.1 percent increase for military personnel.

Many legislators on Capitol Hill consider this budget "dead-on-arrival," so it will be telling if Congress takes up any of the proposed changes. It is important that NARFE members remain vigilant and speak out against these egregious cuts. Write your legislators and urge them to reject any attempts to cut or reduce the earned pay and benefits of the federal community here.

First Phase of Fiduciary Rule Set to Begin June 9

Department of Labor (DOL) Secretary Alexander Acosta announced this week that financial advisers will be required to comply with the first phase of the department’s fiduciary rule on June 9. The rule previously had been delayed 60 days after the president signed a presidential memo directing the DOL to review the rule to determine whether it should be revised or rescinded. In an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal, Acosta said, “[R]espect for the rule of law leads us to the conclusion that this date cannot be postponed.”

Starting June 9, financial advisers will be required to comply with impartial conduct standards, which would require advisers to adhere to the best interest standard of care, receive no more than reasonable compensation, and make no materially misleading statements.

Advisers who receive commission-based compensation will not be required to comply with additional requirements until January 1, 2018. There likely will be continued attempts to modify the rule prior to that date.

Notable for NARFE members, financial advisers will be subject to new impartial conduct standards beginning June 9 when recommending rollovers of Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) assets into individual retirement accounts (IRAs). NARFE supports the rule and is working to prevent any attempts to undo it.

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!

Congress in Recess, No Legislative Hotline June 2

The House and Senate are in recess until the week of June 5 due to the Memorial Day holiday. Consequently, the Hotline will not be published next week and will return to its regular schedule on Friday, June 9.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the new, easy-to-use 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 LAC to tell NARFE’s legislative staff the details of your legislator’s stance on NARFE issues.

The Legislative Department appreciates your advocacy efforts to protect the earned pay and benefits of active and retired federal employees!

Obtaining the Hotline

This weekly legislative message is emailed to NARFE members, posted on the NARFE website, www.narfe.org, and available to NARFE members via telephone (703-838-7780 and toll-free at 1-877-217-8234). Past editions are archived 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.

Return to May 26, 2017

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