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, November 17, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“There will not be a hotline next week, so I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a happy Thanksgiving. The federal family has faced many threats this year, and I am most thankful for the NARFE members who have taken action to protect their earned pay and benefits. Now, a new threat looms on the horizon as the federal government quickly approaches December 8, the day the latest continuing resolution expires and the government is no longer funded. If past is prologue, the federal community could be targeted as a means to offset increases in government spending. Please contact your legislators and tell them not to cut the earned pay and benefits of the federal community in any bipartisan two-year budget agreement.”

Act Now! Budget Spending Agreement Could Threaten Federal Benefits

The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution, which expires on December 8, leaving Congress with a tight window to keep the government funded, especially considering Congress is in recess next week for the Thanksgiving holiday.

Congress could go multiple routes during this process, most likely passing another short-term continuing resolution. However, at some point fiscal year 2018 will have to be fully funded, and Congress will push to do this by the end of the year. NARFE is particularly concerned about the possibility of another two-year bipartisan budget agreement, which could use federal benefits as an offset for raising sequestration budget caps.

Congress passed bipartisan agreements in 2013 and 2015, both setting government funding levels for two years. Bipartisan negotiations are underway to do the same for fiscal years 2018 and 2019. If the final agreement follows the same pattern as the last two, increases in agency budgets would require offsets in spending. In 2013, increased retirement contributions for newly hired federal employees were used as an offset. Feds were spared in the 2015 agreement.

This time around, all of the proposals we’ve been successfully fighting are back on the table. These include ending the FERS Annuity Supplement, eliminating or reducing cost-of-living adjustments, decreasing the value of Thrift Savings Plan funds and increasing retirement contributions for current employees.

NARFE members must once again mobilize and take action to protect their earned pay and benefits. Take a few minutes today to contact your legislators and tell them that the federal community has paid more than its fair share and should not be targeted again by going here. NARFE members successfully made their voices heard just recently; the time has come to do it again.

House Passes Tax Reform Bill

The House passed its version of tax reform by a party-line vote of 227 – 205, handing the next move on tax reform to the Senate. The bill did not cut federal retirement or health benefits, but NARFE is closely monitoring the process of tax reform for potential implications on the federal community.

One area of concern NARFE has with the House version of the bill is the repeal of the medical expense deduction. Millions of taxpayers over age 65 use this deduction to reduce large out-of-pocket medical expenses, such as nursing home care, which can potentially bankrupt consumers. NARFE has joined with its coalition partners in the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) to oppose the repeal of this deduction. The Senate version of the tax bill, which was approved by the Senate Finance Committee on November 16, does not currently contain a repeal of this medical expense deduction.

NARFE will continue to provide updates on the status of the tax reform as it moves through the legislative process.

Consumer Prices Decrease in October

Last month, a 2.0 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) was announced for civil service annuities, Social Security benefits and military retirement annuities in 2018. Now that the 2018 COLA is set, NARFE is tracking consumer prices for the 2019 COLA.

Relevant to the 2019 COLA, the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) decreased 0.15 percent in October 2017. The new CPI-W figure for October 2017 was 240.573, 0.38 percent higher than the average CPI-W for the third quarter of 2017 (239.668), which will be used to determine the 2019 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, which is computed on a calendar-year basis, the October 2017 CPI-W figure (240.573) is 2.20 percent higher than the December 2016 CPI-W figure (235.390).

No Legislative Hotline November 24

Because of the Thanksgiving holiday, there will be no Hotline next week. NARFE Headquarters will be closed November 23-24. The Hotline will return to its regular schedule on Friday, December 1.

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, November 9, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“Once again, NARFE members took action when it was needed and pressed their legislators to pass meaningful legislation providing more flexible withdrawal options for Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) participants. NARFE applauds the passage of the TSP Modernization Act of 2017 by Congress and we anxiously await its implementation. This bill will provide the proud men and women who serve this nation in the civil service and in the military greater control over their own retirement savings and the ability to plan responsibly for their future. This commonsense, bipartisan legislation is a win for NARFE and the entire federal community.”

TSP Modernization Act of 2017 Passes Congress

The Senate passed the TSP Modernization Act of 2017, H.R. 3031, by unanimous consent and sent the bill to the president for final approval. Passage of this bill grants federal workers and military personnel greater control over their retirement and is an overall win for the federal community. Thank you to all of those who took action by contacting their lawmakers in support of this bill.

The legislation allows multiple, partial post-separation withdrawals, which participants can time to their individual needs, and would provide multiple, age-based withdrawals for participants who are still working and are older than age 59-1/2. The TSP Modernization Act also provides greater flexibility by allowing the election of quarterly or annual payments and permits periodic withdrawals that can be changed at any point during the year. Payments could be stopped while leaving the account balance in the TSP. Finally, the bill eliminates the withdrawal election deadline.

The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, which oversees the TSP, has two years to issue regulations necessary to implement the expanded withdrawal options. While a window for implementation has been set, an exact timeline has yet to be announced.

Once signed by the president, NARFE encourages the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board to issue the regulations necessary to make these options available as soon as possible.

Open Season Begins Monday!

The 2017 Federal Benefits Open Season begins Monday, November 13, and will run through Monday, December 11. This is an opportunity for federal employees to enroll in or make changes within the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) and the Flexible Spending Accounts for Federal Employees (FSAFEDS) program. Federal retirees and survivor annuitants can change their FEHB health care plans as well as enroll in or change a FEDVIP plan during Open Season. The October, November and December issues of narfe magazine include excellent coverage of the plans and what you need to know for Open Season.

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, November 3, 2017

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“This week, the House released its highly anticipated tax reform bill, beginning a massive undertaking aimed at overhauling our nation’s tax code. NARFE is reviewing the bill for changes that could affect NARFE members. The legislation will likely go through a series of changes as it makes its way through the House, but NARFE will closely monitor the process and weigh in if necessary.”

OPM Establishes Emergency Leave Transfer Program  Due to California Wildfires

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a memorandum on October 31 to establish an emergency leave transfer program (ELTP) for federal employees adversely affected by the California wildfires.

The ELTP allows federal employees to donate unused annual leave to other federal employees from the same or another agency who need additional paid leave as a result of the adverse effect on themselves or a family member. Employees who wish to receive additional leave through this program must apply in writing to their agencies. OPM has authorized each agency to administer the leave transfers to employees within their agencies. The full memorandum is available here.

Legislative Webinar: Trick or Treat? Congress’ Plan for Feds

Did you miss the latest NARFE Legislative Department webinar on what’s to come in Congress for the remainder of the year? Now that Congress has passed a budget resolution, are threats still on the table? What about postal reform and legislation making Thrift Savings Plan withdrawals more flexible? The webinar, "Trick or Treat? Congress’ Plan for Feds,” reviewed the federal budget process and upcoming legislation that will impact the federal community. Watch an archived version of the Legislative Department’s webinar here.

Probationary Period Extension Approved by Committee

This week, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee approved the Ensuring a Qualified Civil Service Act of 2017, H.R. 4182, which would create a two-year probation period for new hires and managers of the competitive service and Senior Executive Service, tacking on an additional year to the current one-year period. The probationary period would start after any training is completed.

During the hearing, Rep. James Comer, R-KY, who introduced the bill, argued, “A longer probationary period gives agencies the time to ensure candidates for employment and new managers will be able to successfully carry out the functions of the positions for which they are seeking.” Comer then went on to say that one year is not long enough for supervisors to observe and assess new hires.

A two-year probationary period is already in place for Defense Department employees. An amendment that would require a study of agencies already requiring a two-year probationary period failed to be included in the bill. After brief debate, the bill was approved by the committee.

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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