newsletter

 

Our newsletters are published monthly, except for July and August.

NEWS:

NARFE Headquarters, November 18, 2018

Message from NARFE President Ken Thomas:

“The contentious midterm elections are over, and lawmakers were back in the nation’s capital this week to conduct legislative business. With the January deadline for establishing a 2019 federal employee pay raise fast approaching, NARFE members must continue to push for a modest 1.9 percent pay increase. NARFE activists led the way in getting us this far in the fight for equitable federal employee pay, and we cannot slow down now that the finish line is in sight. If Congress fails to affirm a pay raise, President Trump’s proposed pay freeze will take effect, and federal pay will unfairly languish while private-sector wages continue to increase in a strong economy, widening the pay gap between Feds and their private-sector counterparts.”

Congress Enters the Lame-Duck Session

Lawmakers have a lot to accomplish in the lame-duck session before the end of the 115th Congress—namely, the passage of remaining fiscal year 2019 (FY19) appropriations bills. Thus far, Congress passed five out of 12 appropriations bills, and needs to pass the remaining seven or another continuing resolution (CR) by December 7 to avoid a partial government shutdown.

Tied-in with appropriations, a federal employee pay raise for calendar year 2019 still hangs in the balance as House and Senate conferees for the appropriations minibus H.R. 6147 negotiate the reconciliation of the two chambers’ differing versions of the legislation. The Senate version of the bill provides a modest 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees while the House remained silent on federal pay. Despite media outlets reporting a tentative agreement between House and Senate Republicans in favor of the pay raise, a decision on 2019 federal pay is yet to be finalized. If Congress doesn’t take action before January, the president’s proposed pay freeze will be enacted and federal pay will unfairly stagnate. NARFE members should contact their legislators and urge their support of the 1.9 percent pay raise through the appropriations process.

Open Season is Underway

The 2018 Federal Benefits Open Season began November 12 and will remain open through December 10. You have 25 days left to select your Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program and Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) plans from an array of coverage options. Your current FEHB and FEDVIP plans will carry into the next year if you choose not to make modifications and the plans are still operating in your service area, just look out for premium and coverage changes. For employees, time is running out to enroll or re-enroll in the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS). Open Season allows you to enroll in the right health, dental and vision insurance options and also find plans that minimize expenses in the coming year. Now is your window of opportunity, as you cannot make changes outside of Open Season unless you experience a “Qualifying Life Event.”

To assist you in making this important decision, NARFE provided details about Open Season and tips for selecting a health plan in the October, November and December issues of NARFE Magazine. For further resources from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) click here. OPM also offers an FEHB health plan comparison tool to help you make an informed decision, though the agency strongly recommends that you refer to the individual FEHB brochures before making your final enrollment decision, as the brochure is the official statement of benefits.

Did You Miss the NARFE-PAC 2018 Election Recap Webinar?

In the November Advocacy webinar, “NARFE-PAC 2018 Election Recap,” Advocacy Deputy Director John Hatton and Political Associate Ross Apter broke down the results of the midterm elections and discussed some of the key races where NARFE-PAC played a critical role. Watch the recording now by clicking here to find out more about the important work of NARFE-PAC during this election cycle and what could be in store for the federal community in the 116th Congress.

Grassroots Corner

LEGcon19 registration is open! Register today to secure your spot at LEGcon19, NARFE’s Legislative Training Conference. You’ll learn how best to engage with legislators and staff, develop best practices for communicating your concerns and participate in a NARFE day on Capitol Hill. Join hundreds of fellow NARFE members for this three-day training conference, March 10 – 13, 2019, at the Mark Center Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, VA.

LEGcon19 is open to all NARFE members interested in learning how to advance NARFE’s legislative priorities and protect members of the federal community from having their earned pay and benefits cut. The $199 early-bird registration fee will be available through December 15. After registering for LEGcon19, don’t forget to book your hotel room at the NARFE rate of $175 per night. For more information on the hotel, click here.

Additional information about the conference is available on the LEGcon19 website. If you have any questions, please contact the Advocacy Department at advocacy@narfe.org. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

 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 top news

Return to November 18, 2018

NARFE Headquarters, November 9, 2018

Message from NARFE President Ken Thomas:

"Registration for LEGcon19, NARFE’s 2019 Legislative Training Conference, is now open. All NARFE members, from our most seasoned advocates to our newest members, are invited to join us for this event. NARFE’s tireless advocacy is what stands between all hard-working, middle-class Feds and unfair cuts to your earned pay and benefits. We weathered countless attacks in the past and our success means we will continue to face these threats in the future. For this reason, it is essential that we continue to enhance our advocacy skills. At LEGcon19, you will be able to put what you learn to work immediately with meetings on Capitol Hill, but you will also return to your community to help lead NARFE’s advocacy efforts. I hope to see you in March.”

Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Released

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the latest Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) in October. OPM conducts this survey annually to measure the perspectives of federal employees of different job types and from across the country regarding job satisfaction, agency leadership, compensation and more. The 2018 FEVS was distributed as a census to all permanent, non-seasonal federal employees.

Respondents’ answers display the hard-working nature of the federal workforce and their desire to improve and better meet agency goals. Highlights include: 96 percent of respondents reported they are willing to put in extra effort to get a job done; 91 percent agree they are constantly looking for ways to do their jobs better; 90 percent believe their work is important; and, 84 percent believe they produce high quality work in their work unit. Meanwhile, some survey answers regarding managers’ ability to deal with performance and rewards could be used as fuel to push for civil service modernization proposals, such as pay-for-performance and increased employee accountability. For example, among non-supervisory employee respondents, only 28 percent believe that steps are taken to deal with a poor performer in their work unit who cannot improve, only 25 percent believe that pay raises depend on how well employees perform their jobs and only 34 percent believe that promotions in their work unit are based on merit.

Overall employee engagement for 2018 scored 68 percent, up one point from last year and continuing modest increases since 2014. Employee engagement measures are based on employees’ perceptions of leadership, employees’ relationships with supervisors and employees’ feelings of motivation and competency in the workplace. The top agency scores include: 89 percent for the U.S. Office of Government Ethics among very small agencies; 85 percent for the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service among small agencies; 83 percent for the Federal Trade Commission among medium agencies; 82 percent for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration among large agencies; and, 73 percent for the Department of Health and Human Services among very large agencies.

Global satisfaction, which assesses job, pay and organizational employee satisfaction as well as whether employees would recommend their agencies as good places to work, remained steady at 64 percent. The top agency global satisfaction scores include: a tie at 83 percent for the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and the National Capital Planning Commission among very small agencies; 88 percent for the National Indian Gaming Commission among small agencies; 82 percent for the Securities and Exchange Commission among medium agencies; 80 percent for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration among large agencies; and, 71 percent for the Department of Health and Human Services among very large agencies.

Open Season Is Here!

The 2018 Federal Benefits Open Season for the 2019 plan year will soon be upon us, running November 12 through December 10. NARFE members should use this time to make sure they have the health plans that suit them and their families’ needs in the coming year. Through public service, you earned access to a wide variety of health plans, so do your due diligence and take full advantage of this hard-earned benefit. This is your chance to enroll, change plans, change enrollment type or cancel coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program and the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP). This is also an opportunity for employees to enroll or re-enroll in the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS).

If you decide not to act, your current FEHB and FEDVIP plans will remain the same automatically, so long as your current plans did not end coverage in your service area or cease program participation, but keep in mind that changes in coverage and premiums may occur. FSAFEDS, however, requires re-enrollment during Open Season for each plan year. You cannot enroll, re-enroll or cancel coverage for any of these programs outside of Open Season unless you experience a “Qualifying Life Event.”

For a listing of premiums and further information provided by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) please click here, or take a deep dive into the November issue of NARFE Magazine. OPM also offers an FEHB health plan comparison tool to inform your enrollment decision, though the agency strongly recommends that you refer to the individual FEHB brochures before making your final enrollment decision, as the brochure is the official statement of benefits.

Register for the NARFE-PAC 2018 Election Recap Webinar

After many months of campaigning, the 2018 midterm elections are complete. Americans took to the polls all across the country to cast their ballots and the results are in. With the election now over, join the NARFE Advocacy Department for an upcoming webinar and find out more about the important work of NARFE-PAC during this election cycle.

Settle in with NARFE Advocacy Department's Deputy Director John Hatton and Political Associate Ross Apter as they breakdown the results of the election and discuss some of the key races where NARFE-PAC played a critical role. Get the latest on the strength of NARFE-PAC and find out more about what could potentially be in store for the federal community in the 116th Congress. You don’t want to miss out.

The “NARFE-PAC 2018 Election Recap” webinar, including Q&A, will be held on Tuesday, November 13, at 2 p.m. ET. Registration for this live event is limited to the first 1,000 registrants, so click here to register now.

For questions about this upcoming webinar, please contact advocacy@narfe.org. Grassroots Corner LEGcon19 registration is open! Register today to secure your spot at LEGcon19, NARFE’s Legislative Training Conference. You’ll learn how best to engage with legislators and staff, develop best practices for communicating your concerns and participate in a NARFE day on Capitol Hill. Join hundreds of fellow NARFE members for this three-day training conference, March 10 – 13, 2019, at the Mark Center Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, VA. LEGcon19 is open to all NARFE members interested in learning how to advance NARFE’s legislative priorities and protect members of the federal community from having their earned pay and benefits cut. The $199 early-bird registration fee will be available through December 15. After registering for LEGcon19, don’t forget to book your hotel room at the NARFE rate of $175 per night. For more information on the hotel, click here. Additional information about the conference is available on the LEGcon19 website. If you have any questions, please contact the Advocacy Department at advocacy@narfe.org. We look forward to seeing you at the conference.

Grassroots Corner

LEGcon19 registration is open! Register today to secure your spot at LEGcon19, NARFE’s Legislative Training Conference. You’ll learn how best to engage with legislators and staff, develop best practices for communicating your concerns and participate in a NARFE day on Capitol Hill. Join hundreds of fellow NARFE members for this three-day training conference, March 10 – 13, 2019, at the Mark Center Hilton Hotel in Alexandria, VA.

LEGcon19 is open to all NARFE members interested in learning how to advance NARFE’s legislative priorities and protect members of the federal community from having their earned pay and benefits cut.

The $199 early-bird registration fee will be available through December 15. After registering for LEGcon19, don’t forget to book your hotel room at the NARFE rate of $175 per night. For more information on the hotel, click here.

Additional information about the conference is available on the LEGcon19 website. If you have any questions, please contact the Advocacy Department at advocacy@narfe.org. We look forward to seeing you at the conference!

 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 top news

Return to November 9, 2018

NARFE Headquarters, October 12, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen:

“Federal retirees rightfully earned their annuities through hard work in service to the American people. If retirees are not provided sufficient cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs), their earned retirement security will be eroded by inflation. Despite the announcement of a 2.8 percent COLA in 2019, the current COLA formula does not accurately account for the spending habits of seniors, and therefore retirees are not fully protected from rising consumer prices. This may be the largest COLA increase since 2012, but it still falls short of what seniors need to keep pace with rising costs.”

COLA Announced for 2019

Based on the latest consumer price data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the 2019 COLA for Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuities and Social Security benefits will be 2.8 percent. This is the largest COLA for CSRS retirees and Social Security beneficiaries since 2012. Meanwhile, retirees under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) will not receive the full amount and instead will only receive a 2 percent COLA to their annuities.

CSRS annuity and Social Security benefit COLAs are adjusted according to the change in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners (CPI-W) from year to year, based on the average of the third-quarter months of July, August and September. However, pursuant to federal law, when the CPI-W increases between 2 and 3 percent, FERS COLAs are unfairly and arbitrarily capped at 2 percent. NARFE opposes this policy and is urging Congress to ensure FERS retirees receive the full COLA necessary to protect the value of their earned annuities from rising inflation.

The COLA, as currently calculated, fails to accurately account for how seniors spend their money and the extent they are impacted by rising consumer prices. Using the CPI-W inaccurately bases seniors’ COLAs on the spending habits of urban wage earners and clerical workers under the age of 62. Instead, COLAs should be calculated based on the CPI-E. NARFE strives for the fair assessment of consumer prices in the determination of annual COLAs. To that end, we support the CPI-E Act of 2017, H.R. 1251, which would change the calculation of annual COLAs to more accurately reflect the actual spending habits of Americans over age 62. Click here to contact your legislators and ask them to cosponsor the CPI-E Act of 2017.

Pon Resigns as OPM Director

On October 5, Dr. Jeff Pon abruptly resigned from his Senate-confirmed post as Director of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The same day, the White House appointed Margaret Weichert to the position of Acting Director of OPM. In a statement, the White House claimed Weichert will take on the new OPM responsibilities in addition to her current duties as the Deputy Director for Management with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). In this position, Weichert is involved in the administration’s efforts to reshape the civil service and transform the role of OPM.

Pon held the position of OPM Director for roughly seven months. During that time, he played a key role in advancing many of the Trump administration’s proposals related to the civil service, and was working to unveil a major civil service reform package this month. Pon also advocated for many of President Trump’s fiscal year 2019 (FY19) budget proposals that would reduce federal earned pay and benefits.

Pon came into the job with his own vision of a civil service modified for the needs of future generations. He prioritized the digitalization of employee and retiree records to streamline OPM services, the flexibility for future federal workers to smoothly come and go from federal service, the acceleration of federal hiring processes to ensure we are able to attract top talent, as well as the heightened public appreciation of federal employees for the indispensable services they provide.

Legislation Creating Process for Government Reorganization Advances

Following release of a plan to privatize the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) and move federal benefits programs out of OPM, NARFE members should contact their legislators and voice their unease with the administration’s government reorganization plan. On September 26, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved the Reforming Government Act of 2018, S. 3137, and unanimously advanced a modified version of the legislation to the full Senate chamber. S. 3137 would create a procedure for the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to submit a formal government reorganization plan to Congress for consideration and a vote. The legislation would provide OMB two years to submit a formal reorganization plan to Congress that would accomplish cost savings or decrease the number of federal agencies.

During the markup, Democrats expressed apprehension that a 51-vote requirement to pass the reorganization proposals would pollute the process with partisanship and diminish any opportunity to accomplish meaningful reforms. To induce bipartisanship, Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND, put forward an amendment that would require a 60-vote margin to pass the formal reorganization proposals into law. After further deliberation, the committee agreed to a modified amendment introduced by Heitkamp and then reported the bill favorably to the full Senate. This amendment maintains the simple majority vote, but requires the formal reorganization plan to acquire a minimum of five cosponsors from each party to ensure bipartisanship and minority party buy-in. Companion legislation in the House has not been considered.

NARFE has grave concerns with certain aspects of the administration’s reorganization plan. Among these is a concern that transferring federal personnel policy from OPM to the Executive Office of the President risks exposing nonpartisan career civil servants to tumultuous politicization. This is especially troubling considering the administration’s recent proposed cuts to federal earned pay and benefits. Likewise, the administration of federal retirement and health benefits may receive less attention and resources with the transferring of OPM’s programmatic functions to an expanded General Services Administration (GSA). Additionally, the reorganization plan’s proposal to privatize USPS would severely undermine the agency’s prized universal service and jeopardize the jobs, pay, benefits and retirement security of dedicated postal employees. NARFE members should express their concerns with these changes to their legislators using NARFE’s legislative action center.

Grassroots Corner

With the November midterm elections less than a month away, you may be wondering how to effectively approach your members of Congress and those running for office to ensure they are aware of NARFE and its legislative priorities. How should you impress upon candidates and incumbents the vital work of the federal community between now and November 6?

In an upcoming NARFE Advocacy webinar, Grassroots Program Manager Molly Checksfield will provide suggestions on how to connect with legislators and candidates in the final weeks leading up to the midterm elections. October advocacy during an election year is unique, and you’ll want to approach your advocacy in a way that builds recognition for NARFE and its legislative priorities. The light at the end of the tunnel is visible, but the work isn’t done yet.

The “Preparing for Midterm Elections” webinar, including Q&A, will be held on Tuesday, October 16, at 2:00 p.m. ET. Registration for this live event is limited to the first 1,000 registrants, so click here to register now.

For questions about this upcoming webinar, please contact advocacy@narfe.org.

 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 top news

Return to October 12, 2018