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, June 26, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“After three weeks, I wish I had better news to share with you, but the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) still isn’t as forthcoming about its cybersecurity breaches as we would like. On Monday, I will be meeting with officials from OPM and the Office of Management and Budget, and I will be taking with me the concerns NARFE members have shared with me over these weeks. Rest assured, NARFE is working hard to get you answers.”

OPM Security Breach Update

On June 23, OPM updated its Frequently Asked Questions page regarding the two security breaches. OPM also released a Cybersecurity Action Report, which lays out the steps it has taken up to this point to secure its compromised systems and what the agency’s plan is going forward.

Several congressional committees held hearings this week at which OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and other OPM officials and contractors were called as witnesses. Archuleta continues to state that 4.2 million current and former federal employees had their personal data exposed in the first breach of OPM’s databases. When asked by legislators about media reports that as many as 18 million individuals may have been affected, Archuleta said she would not specify a figure while the investigation is ongoing. While the White House supports Archuleta, many on Capitol Hill continue to call for her resignation.

NARFE Legislative Counsel Alan Lopatin appeared on Fox Business News on June 23 to discuss the security breach. Topics discussed included NARFE member reaction to the breach and steps federal employees can take to protect their information after receiving a notification from OPM. A clip of the interview can be viewed here.

In addition, the Federal-Postal Coalition, of which NARFE is a member, sent a letter to President Obama expressing frustration with the lack of communication surrounding the breaches and asking for swift action to protect sensitive employee information. The Federal-Postal Coalition is chaired by NARFE Legislative Counsel Alan Lopatin. You can read the letter here.

NARFE continues to be in communication with OPM officials and will update the OPM Security Breach webpage on the NARFE website as more information becomes available.

Competitive Service Act Passes Committee

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has approved the Competitive Service Act, S. 1580. Introduced by Sen. Jon Tester, D-MT, the bill would allow federal agencies to review and select job candidates from other federal agencies’ lists of “best qualified” applicants, cutting down on duplication for applicants who have already undergone a competitive assessment process and are certified as eligible for selection. NARFE supports this commonsense legislation.

Senate Panel Approves Bonus Ban Bill

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee also approved an amended version of S. 742, the so-called “Stop Wasteful Federal Bonuses Act of 2015,” introduced by Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH.

The amended bill would prohibit bonuses for any federal employee when the head of his/her agency determines that the employee has violated a policy of the agency for which the employee may be removed or suspended for a period of not less than 14 days, or violated a law for which the employee may be imprisoned for more than one year. It also would require employees to pay back bonuses awarded during the year in which the employee committed one of those violations.

The original bill allowed adverse findings from an inspector general or other senior ethics official to trigger the bonus ban and payback. It also allowed minor adverse findings, such as a violation that would warrant only a one-day suspension, to trigger the ban, and it did not provide appeal rights.

Bill to Repeal GPO/WEP Introduced in the

On June 23, Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-OH, introduced the Social Security Fairness Act of 2015, S. 1651, which would repeal the Government Pension Offset (GPO) and the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP). The GPO and WEP have an impact on more than two million federal retirees and spouses by taking away their earned Social Security benefits, costing them thousands of dollars of income each year. A similar bill, H.R. 973, was introduced in the House by Rep. Rodney Davis, R-IL, in February. NARFE supports S. 1651 and H.R. 973 and the repeal of the GPO and WEP. Now available on the Legislative Action Center is an action letter you can send to your senators, urging them to cosponsor S. 1561 or thanking them for supporting this legislation.

House and Senate Appropriators Move to Stop Proposed Fiduciary Rule

This week, both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees reported bills to the full Senate that would prevent the Department of Labor (DOL) from finalizing or implementing a rule proposed by DOL to help protect individuals, including federal employees and retirees, from getting bad retirement investment advice. Each committee included the rider in its Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Appropriations bill. The DOL proposal would amend the definition of “fiduciary investment advice” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to ensure individuals saving for retirement are protected by a “best interest standard” when receiving investment advice. Under the current rule, the best interest standard does not apply to advice given on a one-time basis, advice regarding rollovers, or any advice on investing in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). NARFE supports the proposed rule, and opposes the appropriations language preventing it from being finalized or implemented. NARFE signed letters to both committees as part of the Save Our Retirement Coalition in support of the rule.

Congress in Recess, Legislative Hotline Pending

Congress is in recess next week for the July 4th holiday. While the Legislative Hotline is usually on hiatus when Congress is in recess, NARFE may send a Hotline next week if events surrounding the OPM security breaches warrant. Because of the holiday, many members of Congress will be home in their districts, making this a perfect opportunity for NARFE members to meet with their legislators at public events. More information about getting involved in NARFE grass-roots advocacy can be found here. Don’t let this opportunity pass you by!

 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 June 26, 2015

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NARFE Legislative Hotline, June 19, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“I understand and share the frustration of NARFE members regarding the data breaches at OPM. We are working hard to get answers to your questions, but information isn’t as forthcoming as we’d like. We are continuing to push for answers, even if that push isn’t public. We are updating the NARFE website with information as it becomes available to us.”

OPM Security Breach Update

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a press release on June 12, stating that a second security breach occurred that could put even more federal employee information at risk. It is believed that databases hacked contained information on security clearances, background checks and more personal data of current and former federal employees. The number of people affected in this second breach is unknown, although OPM says the number of people affected by the first breach, announced June 4, remains 4.2 million. OPM is continuing to contact those individuals. Today, OPM updated its Frequently Asked Questions webpage regarding the two security incidents.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and OPM’s Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour appeared at a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It was revealed during the hearing on Tuesday, June 16, that OPM chose not to shut down a number of major systems that failed to meet basic security standards, going against the recommendation of the agency’s inspector general. Archuleta failed to answer the committee’s questions regarding what and whose information was hacked, saying she could not release that information to the public because it was part of an ongoing investigation. Some lawmakers are calling for Archuleta to resign from her position.

While NARFE continues to be in contact with OPM officials, they have failed to respond to crucial questions. On June 17, NARFE President Richard G. Thissen sent a letter to OPM Director Archuleta asking for answers. In his letter, he also asks OPM to increase the credit monitoring and fraud insurance assistance for all individuals affected by the security breach. The letter can be read here.

 NARFE continues to update the OPM Security Breach webpage on the NARFE website as more information becomes available.

House Panel Holds Hearing on DOL Conflict of Interests Rule Proposal

On June 17, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on a rule proposed by the Department of Labor to help protect individuals, including federal employees and retirees, from getting bad retirement investment advice. The proposal would amend the definition of “fiduciary investment advice” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to ensure individuals saving for retirement are protected by a “best interest standard” when receiving investment advice. Under the current rule, the best interest standard does not apply to advice given on a one-time basis, advice regarding rollovers, or any advice on investing in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

 NARFE President Richard G. Thissen sent a letter to members of the committee in support of the rule. He noted: “NARFE is particularly concerned that federal employees and retirees invested in low-fee Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) funds – the federal employee version of a 401(k) – are not adequately protected from bad financial advice regarding their TSP holdings. Because rollovers are not covered by the current rule, financial advisors may legally recommend that TSP account holders roll over their TSP holdings into an IRA where the money could be invested in a mutual fund providing the same, or essentially similar, product, such as an S&P 500 index fund, for as much as 50 times the cost.”

Competitive Service Act Introduced in the Senate

On June 16, Sens. Jon Tester, D-MT, and Rob Portman, R-OH, introduced S. 1580, the Competitive Service Act. The measure aims to streamline the hiring process for prospective federal employees. The bill would allow federal agencies to review and select job candidates from other federal agencies’ lists of “best qualified” applicants, cutting down on duplication for applicants who have already undergone a competitive assessment process and are certified as eligible for selection. Currently, agencies that have similar hiring needs cannot share such information.

NARFE, along with several other federal employee and good-government organizations, supports the bipartisan efforts of the Competitive Service Act to modernize and simplify the hiring process for federal employees.

Reps. Gerald E. Connolly, D-VA, and Rob Wittman, R-VA, introduced the companion bill, H.R. 2827, in the House.

Consumer Prices Increase in May

Relevant to the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to civil service annuities for 2016, the May Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is 232.908, a one-month increase of 0.60 percent. With four months remaining in the measurement year, the CPI-W has decreased 0.57 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 May CPI-W figure is 1.30 percent higher than the December 2014 CPI-W figure.

The June CPI-W figure will be released July 17. For NARFE’s full COLA update, click here.

 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 June 19, 2015

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NARFE Legislative Hotline, June 12, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“NARFE continues to stay in communication with the Office of Personnel Management regarding the cybersecurity incident at OPM. We are updating the NARFE website with any new information we learn. Should you have any questions, please contact NARFE’s Federal Benefits Service Department at mailto:fedbenefits@narfe.org or 703-838-7760. More information is below.”

OPM Security Breach Update

Information on the recent cybersecurity breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) continues to be released both by the administration and by NARFE as it becomes available. Here is the latest:

 Recent claims made in a letter sent from the president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta state all federal employee, retiree, military and veteran personnel data was compromised during the security breach. NARFE believes that AFGE’s evaluation of the incident is overstated, and OPM continues to say that it believes only 4.2 million individuals were affected. OPM also commented that it does not keep congressional or military employment data.

Since the announcement of the security breach last week, NARFE has been in close communication with OPM officials who say the employment data, which contain information such as Social Security numbers, job assignments and salary information, was the information most likely exposed in the breach. OPM is contacting all individuals whose information was compromised by email or U.S. mail. OPM has contracted with CSID to assist with the response effort and will be sending out the email or postal notifications from June 8 to June 19. Emails will come from mailto:opmcio@csid.com. More details will be provided in the notifications.

NARFE has set up an http://www.narfe.org/legislation/action.cfm?ID=3835 webpage on the NARFE website, which is updated as more information becomes available. The page provides more details about the breach and what steps are being taken to manage the incident. NARFE members should regularly check the page for updates.

Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations Update

The House voted Tuesday on fiscal year (FY) 2016 funding for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The $55.3 billion spending bill includes funding for Amtrak and the Washington, DC, Metro system, and lifts the provisions restricting travel to Cuba. The bill also includes next-year funding levels for the Highway Trust Fund, whose authorization expires in July. The bill passed on a 216-210 vote.

On Thursday, the House passed a $579 billion appropriation for the Department of Defense on a 278-149 vote. The bill includes a 2.3 percent pay raise for military personnel. The bill drew opposition from Democrats because it uses war-fighting accounts to raise defense spending for FY 2016, avoiding congressional spending caps. The Senate companion bill has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To date, the House has passed half of the 12 annual appropriations bills. While the Senate Appropriations Committee is making progress, the full Senate has not yet considered any of the funding bills.

 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 June 12, 2015

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