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, September 15, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“The recovery efforts after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma will be long and daunting. Many living within the disaster zones have seen their lives upended, including your fellow public servants and NARFE members. The next few months will be extremely trying for these people and any assistance you can provide will go a long way in helping people rebuild and regain their sense of normalcy. Grants for major home repairs, temporary lodging and beds are available to those NARFE members who have been affected by the hurricanes through the NARFE-FEEA Disaster Fund. NARFE members have been extremely generous in responding to the challenges that face our nation, and I thank you for that. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support federal employees and NARFE members in disaster areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, or if you need to apply for a grant, please click here.”

Federal Retiree Expertise Needed for Hurricane Recovery and Relief Efforts

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is seeking qualified individuals to assist the agency in its Hurricanes Harvey and Irma recovery and relief efforts. The SBA is particularly interested in individuals with federal government experience or federal retirees to serve in a variety of ways. At the request of SBA, the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE) is distributing its call for help to its members and networks.

In a statement, SBA announced, “To augment our reserves, SBA is reaching out to individuals and businesses who can support our staff if needed, including the following roles – lawyers, paralegals and legal assistants, damage verifiers, loan specialists, program support assistants, call center specialists, public information officers, customer service representatives, IT specialists, construction analysts and administrative support assistants.” See SBA’s full statement here.

SBA is expected to use its waiver authority to allow for dual receipt of federal pay and annuities for federal retirees who go back to work. Federal retirees should note that they may request such a waiver in their applications. NARFE encourages federal retirees to seriously consider responding to this call for help by applying to the positions of need.

House Passes Government Funding Package

The House passed a fiscal year 2018 $1.2 trillion appropriations package by a vote of 211-198 this week, completing its role in the annual appropriations process. Four of the 12 appropriations bills were approved by the House in July. The other eight gained approval this week and were then packaged with the earlier four into one omnibus appropriations bill, which was sent to the Senate for consideration.

The appropriations package provides $621.5 billion for defense spending and $511 billion for nondefense discretionary funding. The package also sets aside $87 billion in Overseas Contingency Operation funding, which does not count toward budget caps. This is the first time since 2009 the House has completed the appropriations process before the end of the fiscal year.

Senate appropriators continue to move bills out of committee, but none have yet received a floor vote. Senate Democrats are expected to block floor action unless a bipartisan, bicameral compromise is reached on overall limits for both defense and nondefense discretionary spending. That compromise would need to include changes to budgetary caps, or else across-the-board spending cuts – known as sequestration – will take place.

Last week, a three-month continuing resolution authorized funding for the government at last year’s levels until December 8. By that time, Congress will need to reach a bipartisan compromise to authorize funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2018.

Consumer Prices Increase in August

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 0.35 percent in August 2017. The new CPI-W figure for August 2017 was 239.448, 1.87 percent higher than the average CPI-W for the third quarter of 2016 (235.057), which will be 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 August 2017 CPI-W figure (239.448) is 1.72 percent higher than the December 2016 CPI-W figure (235.390).

The 2018 COLA will be announced on October 13, 2017. NARFE members can access NARFE’s latest COLA update here.

TSP Eases Financial Hardship Withdrawal for Harvey and Irma Victims

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) announced a temporary change in its rules regarding financial hardship withdrawals. This move allows TSP participants who suffered losses from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma to become eligible for relaxed withdrawal options.

Withdrawal requests related to the hurricanes must be submitted to TSP by January 24, 2018, and distributions must occur before January 31, 2018. Participants must withdraw at least $1,000 and cannot make additional withdrawal requests for six months. TSP is waiving the rule that prohibits participants from contributing to their fund within six months after taking a withdrawal.

Separately from the TSP changes, NARFE partners with the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) to provide emergency grants and loans to federal employees and NARFE members affected by a declared national disaster through the NARFE-FEEA Disaster Fund. Find out more here if you are in need of assistance or are able to donate.

Senate Subcommittee Holds Second Hearing on Government Reorganization

The Senate Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management held its second hearing on the ongoing government-wide reorganization effort. The hearing focused on the failures and successes of past reorganization efforts. Witnesses from organizations outside the federal government testified before subcommittee members.

In his opening remarks, Chairman James Lankford, R-OK, said, “Timely and commonsense reorganization is something we need to work toward in order to make government more responsive to the people it serves. Congress needs to be included in this process, especially if the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) plans to propose executive reorganization authority or other legislative changes which would be necessary to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the federal government.”

During the hearing, Lankford and Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, agreed that the administration should pursue “low-hanging fruit” reforms, such as ending agency duplicative functions. One of the witnesses, the president of National Treasury Employees Union, called for OMB to give greater attention to the suggestions of frontline employees.

Agencies have until the end of September to submit their final reform plans to OMB. The full hearing, including opening statements and witness testimony, can be found 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, September 8, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“You likely have seen the devastation Hurricane Harvey has caused and the impending destruction of Irma, and some of you are experiencing their unprecedented impact firsthand. NARFE partners with the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) to provide emergency grants and loans to federal employees and NARFE members affected by a declared national disaster through the NARFE-FEEA Disaster Fund. I am proud of the NARFE members who have donated more than $458,000 in aid to those affected by natural disasters. I am once again asking you to lend a helping hand if you are able. If you would like to make a tax-deductible donation to support federal employees and NARFE members in disaster areas affected by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, or apply for a grant, please click here.”

Senate Passes Package to Fund Government Until December 8

In a show of bipartisanship, the White House and congressional leaders have agreed to a short-term measure to fund the government, raise the debt ceiling and provide disaster aid in response to Hurricane Harvey. The agreement funds the government and extends the debt ceiling deadline until December 8, allowing lawmakers more time to pass a budget and debate the debt ceiling.

The Senate passed a $15.25 billion Harvey aid package with a three-month continuing resolution and debt ceiling extension added to the bill. The legislation was quickly taken up by the House, which passed the bill on Friday. It now goes to the president’s desk for his signature.

The continuing resolution extends the budget process and keeps the government operating at current spending levels until December 8. This move pushes back any decisions regarding budget proposals affecting the federal community, such as eliminating the Federal Employees Retirement System Annuity Supplement and decreasing or eliminating cost-of-living adjustments.

NARFE is closely following the latest budget developments and is working with lawmakers to prevent proposals that would negatively impact the federal community. NARFE members are strongly encouraged to write and call their legislators about attempts to reduce their earned pay and benefits.

President Sets 2018 Federal Employee Pay Raise

President Trump submitted an alternative pay plan for civilian federal employees on August 31. The 1.9 percent average pay raise includes a 1.4 percent across-the-board increase and an average additional increase of 0.5 percent in locality-based pay adjustments.

Statutory policy calls for federal pay to increase at the rate of the Employment Cost Index for private-sector wages and salaries, minus 0.5 percent. Based on that figure, the across-the-board increase should have been 1.9 percent, with additional locality pay increases to close the gap between public- and private-sector wages. However, the president has the authority to override this automatic calculation.

NARFE President Richard G. Thissen commented, “While federal employees will appreciate the raise, an average increase of 1.9 percent is the minimum required to prevent federal pay from declining further, and more rapidly, below market than the current 35 percent wage disparity between public- and private-sector wages. Both Congress and the president should work together to pursue a more robust pay increase to maintain the highly qualified workforce needed to run an efficient federal government.” See NARFE’s full statement on the pay raise here.

New OPM Director Nominee Announced

President Trump announced Jeff Tien Han Pon as his latest pick for director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Pon previously served as deputy director of eGovernment at OPM, where he played a hand in the rollout of the USAJobs website. Pon also served as the chief human capital officer at the Energy Department, and most recently, he served as the chief human resources and strategy officer for the Society for Human Resource Management.

Pon is President Trump’s second nomination for director of OPM. George Nesterczuk, a Bush administration veteran, withdrew his name from consideration at the end of July. NARFE looks forward to learning more about Pon through the confirmation process.

TSP Eases Financial Hardship Withdrawal for Harvey Victims

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) announced a temporary change in its rules regarding financial hardship withdrawals. This move allows TSP participants who suffered losses from Hurricane Harvey to become eligible for the relaxed withdrawal option.

Withdrawal requests related to Hurricane Harvey must be submitted to TSP by January 24, 2018, and distributions must occur before January 31, 2018. Participants must withdraw at least $1,000 and cannot make additional withdrawal requests for six months. TSP has waived the rule that prohibits participants from contributing to their fund within six months after taking a withdrawal.

It is estimated that nearly 60,000 federal employees live or work in the area hit by Hurricane Harvey. NARFE partners with the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund (FEEA) to provide emergency grants and loans to federal employees and NARFE members affected by a declared national disaster through the NARFE-FEEA Disaster Fund. Find out more here if you are in need of assistance or are able to donate.

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 September 8, 2017

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NARFE Headquarters, July 28, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“We are just days away from the start of Grassroots Advocacy Month, and it could not come at a more critical time. The federal community is facing many threats during the federal budget process, and your legislators need to hear from you. It is time we use our collective voice to let legislators know that we will not stand for ANY cuts to our earned pay and benefits. Proposals that would negatively impact your retirement, such as eliminating or reducing your cost-of-living adjustments, are on the table. If we do not speak out against cuts to your earned pay and benefits, Congress will view this as acceptance.”

TSP Modernization Act Approved by Senate Committee

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee (HSGAC) followed its House counterpart and approved the TSP Modernization Act of 2017, S. 873. The bill was approved by voice vote in the committee. The legislation would allow multiple partial post-separation withdrawals, which participants can time to their individual needs and provide multiple age-based withdrawals for participants who are still working and are older than age 59-1/2. The bill also would add flexibility to withdrawals by allowing the election of quarterly or annual payments and permit periodic withdrawals that can be changed at any point during the year. Payments could be stopped while allowing the account balance to remain in the TSP. Finally, the bill would eliminate the withdrawal election deadline.

NARFE supports the legislation and sent a letter urging HSGAC members to advance the proposal. The bill now must be considered by the full Senate and House. NARFE members are encouraged to send a letter to their legislators asking them to support the bill here.

Republican Study Committee Releases Proposed Budget

The Republican Study Committee (RSC), a group of about 150 lawmakers, released its fiscal year 2018 budget proposal this week. The budget includes similar and additional cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community that were previously suggested by the president and the House Budget Committee.

The proposal recommends that current employees contribute a higher percentage toward their retirement and their retirement benefits be calculated by a worker’s highest five years of salary as opposed to the current three years. The RSC also proposes cutting the annual across-the-board pay increases for current federal workers by 0.5 percent below what the current formula allows. Additionally, the budget includes eliminating the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) annuity supplement for employees who retire before age 62.

Within the proposed budget is a recommendation to voucherize the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which would limit the government’s contribution toward premiums and cause enrollees to pay a greater share over time. Of note, the recently introduced budget proposals from the president and the House Budget Committee did not include any changes to FEHBP. Finally, the RSC budget proposal prohibits automatic deductions of union dues for federal employees, eliminates the use of union official time and recommends considering all employees as “at-will.”

NARFE stands against the cuts outlined in all of the aforementioned budget proposals. Members are strongly encouraged to write and call their legislators in defense of the federal community.

Use of the Holman Rule Defeated in the House

The House defeated its first attempt this year to use the Holman rule by a vote of 116-309. Rep. Morgan Griffith, R-VA, offered an amendment to a four-bill appropriations minibus, which would have abolished the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office’s (CBO) 89-employee budget analysis division.

Under the Holman Rule, an amendment may be offered during floor debate on an appropriations bill to do any of the following: reduce the number of employees within a federal agency; reduce the salaries of those employees, or even a single employee’s salary; or, eliminate one particular federal position.

NARFE stands against the use of the Holman rule — which was last used in the 1980s — and lobbied for its removal from the House rules package. Hopefully, the resounding failure of this amendment will serve to prevent its use in the future.

House Passes $788 Billion “Minibus” Spending Package

The House passed a $788 billion "minibus" spending bill, which would fund the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Energy Department, the Department of Defense and the legislative branch for fiscal year 2018. The bill passed by a vote of 235-192. Of note, the package includes a 2.4 percent increase in military pay.

The spending levels outlined in this package are not likely to become law without additional action to lift the strict caps on spending set forth by the 2011 Budget Control Act. Bipartisan budget negotiations will determine the ultimate levels, and final appropriations will be determined thereafter. Eight other spending bills, which would fund the rest of the federal government, still await action by the House. The current federal spending authority expires on September 30.

Grassroots Advocacy Month is Almost Here!

It’s nearly August, which means Grassroots Advocacy Month is almost here.

During NARFE’s Grassroots Advocacy Month, NARFE members are encouraged to take advantage of the long congressional recess to reconnect with legislators and urge them to oppose any cuts to the earned pay and benefits of the federal community. Are you ready to stand in opposition to harmful policies affecting the federal community?

NARFE members are encouraged to check out NARFE’s grassroots resources on the NARFE Grassroots Advocacy page here. Make sure to log in to the NARFE website so you can access this important information. If you have not done so already, get acquainted with Grassroots Advocacy Month by watching NARFE’s webinar "Choose Your Own Advocacy Adventure: Preparing for August" here.

Hotline on an As-Needed Basis Until September 8

Due to the congressional recess, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until September 8. In lieu of the Hotline, the NARFE Legislative Department will send messages regarding how NARFE members can take action during Grassroots Advocacy Month.

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 July 28, 2017

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