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NEWS:

NARFE Headquarters, March 30, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“The Postal Reform Act of 2018 was introduced in the Senate late last week. The bill would force postal retirees to enroll in Medicare or lose their Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage. The leading House postal reform bill, H.R. 756, includes this requirement as well. NARFE members should contact their legislators and urge them to oppose these bills. Such legislation sets a dangerous precedent for all federal employees, as it adds a new condition to the receipt of promised and earned benefits. We cannot allow legislators to balance the books of the United States Postal Service (USPS) on the backs of its retirees.”

The Postal Reform Act of 2018 Introduced in the Senate

Sen. Thomas Carper, D-DE, introduced S. 2629, The Postal Reform Act of 2018 on March 23, with the support of three co-sponsors: Sens. Jerry Moran, R-KS; Claire McCaskill, D-MO; and Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND.

The bill would require current USPS retirees to enroll in Medicare Part B in order to continue receiving their current health insurance coverage through the FEHB Program, ultimately raising their overall health insurance premiums an additional $1,600 or more per year, despite the fact that they previously declined this coverage.

The goal of this requirement is to decrease USPS health insurance costs by shifting primary responsibility for retiree health care costs from USPS to Medicare. This shift in responsibility would cost taxpayers $10.7 billion over 10 years.

NARFE opposes the bill because it unfairly burdens tens of thousands of postal retirees and their survivors by changing the bargain regarding their health benefits after retirement, removing choice with regard to their health care and setting a dangerous precedent for all federal employees and retirees. NARFE President Richard Thissen’s statement in response to the bill can be seen here.

However, S. 2629 does contain several improvements over the leading House postal reform bill, H.R. 756, Postal Reform Act of 2017, that would address circumstances that NARFE found particularly concerning and had stressed to members of Congress. First, S. 2629 includes an exception for those living in a geographic area “in which there is a lack of participating Medicare Part B providers.” This allows those who retired overseas, for example, where doctors do not accept Medicare to be exempt from the new requirement. Second, it includes an exception for those who “would not derive benefit from enrolling in Medicare Part B because of comprehensive medical coverage provided by the Department of Veterans Affairs or other programs.” Both of these provisions prevent the bill from imposing a new cost without any benefit at all for the postal retirees in question.

While most bills must be considered by the relevant committee, Carper, the bill’s sponsor, has requested a Rule XIV waiver, which allows the bill to bypass the committee process and be placed on the calendar for consideration. This could prevent the type of thoughtful attention, thorough review and commonsense amendments that committee consideration allows. NARFE is urging lawmakers to reject this process, and object to consideration of the bill by the full Senate.

NARFE members must act now to prevent this legislation from becoming law. We encourage members to write and call their legislators and urge them to vote “no” on S. 2629 and H.R. 756. Members can access the Legislative Action Center for assistance in contacting their legislators regarding postal reform by clicking here.

The Federal Retirement Fairness Act

On March 22, 2018, Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-WA, introduced the Federal Retirement Fairness Act, H.R. 5389. This bill would allow federal employees who started their careers in temporary positions before transitioning into permanent roles to retroactively contribute toward their retirement for the years they were in temporary positons. The bill is co-sponsored by Reps. Walter Jones, R-NC, and Salud Carbajal, D-CA.

Under this legislation, affected federal employees must cover the government’s contribution to their retirement for the years spent in a temporary position in order to minimize the impact on the federal budget. Kilmer believes this aspect of the bill will make its passage more likely. If passed, this bill would allow affected employees to receive full benefits for the years they worked in service to our nation.

After a 1989 change to the federal system, affected employees could no longer retroactively contribute to their retirements for the years they worked in a temporary positon with the federal government. As a result, they have to choose between retiring just shy of achieving full benefits and incurring penalties or working for years longer for full benefits in order to make up for the number of years spent in a temporary position, which did not count toward a retirement plan.

NARFE supports the Federal Retirement Fairness Act, as it would allow for years of hard work in service to the American public to count toward federal employees’ retirement.

Grassroots Corner

Did you miss Thursday’s Advocacy webinar? This webinar, “Navigating Changes to NARFE’s Legislative Action Center” reviewed how to use new advocacy tools and presented suggestions for how to use the Action Center most effectively. To learn how to become more involved in advocating for federal employee and retiree earned pay and benefits, watch a recording of this month’s Advocacy webinar here.

Hotline on an As-Needed Basis until April 13

Due to a congressional recess for the next week, the Hotline will be published on an as-needed basis until April 13.

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, March 16, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“As you’ve been reading in the Hotline the last few weeks, the president’s budget contains several harmful proposals that would affect federal employee pay, how retirement is calculated, and eliminate COLAs for federal annuities. We need to keep up the pressure on our legislators to make sure they understand what these cuts would mean for NARFE members. Contact your legislators today and urge them to stand up for the federal community.”

Government Funding Deadline: March 23

Capitol Hill lawmakers continue to negotiate an omnibus spending bill that would fund federal government agencies through September 30, 2018. They face a March 23 deadline to fund government operations or trigger another government shutdown. While there are ongoing points of dispute, another government shutdown appears unlikely. If Congress is unable to finalize an omnibus spending agreement for the remainder of fiscal year 2018, they also have the option to buy themselves more time by extending the current continuing resolution (CR) for a week or two. This would continue government agency operations at last year’s funding levels. NARFE will be sure to cover the latest from Congress on government funding in upcoming issues of the Legislative Hotline.

Spotlight on Training and Education for Feds at FEDcon18

Feds will learn from the best at FEDcon18 this August 26-28 in Jacksonville, Florida. Attendees can choose from 24 sessions to meet their personal and professional goals.

Tracks like Federal Benefits help current and retired feds optimize their hard-earned benefits and ensure a secure future. Advocacy breakouts offer insight on legislation affecting the federal community and how feds can become activists. Lifestyle sessions tap the personal needs of feds and their families from managing social media to caretaking and more. There’s also a NARFE Leadership track to explore ways to influence and inspire local members.

With all these sessions as well as four inspirational keynote speakers and many opportunities to connect with colleagues and friends, FEDcon18 is shaping up to be the event of the year for the federal community.

Visit FEDcon18 today for registration and daily event details! Register today to SAVE $25 Early Bird Rates end March 31, 2018

Upcoming Advocacy Webinar!

Your federal benefits were promised to you at the start of your career as a public servant, but Congress can take action at any time through the legislative process to reduce or eliminate what you have earned. Before contacting your legislators, make sure you are aware of additions to and changes to functionality in the NARFE Legislative Action Center. If you want to learn about how to effectively advocate on your own behalf using NARFE’s number one advocacy tool, join NARFE’s Grassroots Program Manager Molly Checksfield for a webinar, “Navigating Changes to NARFE’s Legislative Action Center,” on Tuesday, March 27 at 3 p.m. ET, and then contact your legislators. Click here to register.

NARFE’s Grassroots Corner

Improvements have been made to NARFE’s Legislative Action Center to make it easier to take action. The Action Center now fully displays action letters and letters to the editor on the front page. This change removes an extra click to view the list of actions and places the greatest emphasis on issues important to NARFE members.

NARFE’s Legislative Action Center is the go-to resource for NARFE members to contact their legislators and urge them to protect the earned pay and benefits of the federal community. Visit the Action Center today to take action and see the changes for yourself.

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, March 2, 2018

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“It was a relatively quiet legislative week on Capitol Hill, but that doesn’t mean NARFE members should remain silent. The president’s budget includes a proposal to freeze pay for federal employees in calendar year 2019 and is under review by Congress. Most proposed cuts to federal benefits have to be approved by Congress, but absent congressional action, the president has the authority to determine federal pay raises. Please take a moment to contact your legislators and urge them to set a federal employee pay raise in the fiscal year 2019 appropriations process.”

President’s Budget Freezes Federal Employee Pay in 2019

The president’s budget includes a provision calling for a federal employee pay freeze in calendar year 2019. The president has the authority to set a pay raise, absent congressional action. NARFE members should contact their legislators and urge them to support a federal employee pay raise through the FY19 appropriations process. Click here to easily contact your legislators using NARFE’s Legislative Action Center.

Federal employees experienced a three-year pay freeze in 2011-2013, setting the federal community behind and increasing the gap between public- and private-sector pay. This three-year freeze cost federal employees $98 billion dollars over 10 years in lost wages. An additional pay freeze would cost the federal community billions more and impact annuity calculations for those nearing retirement.

This proposed pay freeze is particularly striking, as it comes at a time of rising private-sector wages and economic strength. NARFE members are strongly encouraged to contact their legislators to voice their concerns with this proposal.

Want to be an even stronger NARFE advocate? After sending a message in the Action Center, select the “Tweet” icon to send a tweet to your legislators and the “Call” icon to use a call script to call your two senators and representative.

NARFE Sends Letter to OPM on Retroactive Benefit Changes

In July 2016, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) reversed its nearly 30-year policy regarding the apportionment of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) Annuity Supplement for those with a divorce decree. This sudden benefits change came without notice and retroactively apportioned a part of the supplement to retired federal employee’s ex-spouses, after a final state court order was set. In some instances, federal retirees owed tens of thousands in retroactive payments.

Soon afterward, a complaint was filed with OPM and the Office of Inspector General (OIG) launched an investigation. In February, the OIG released a management advisory report, which included three recommendations to OPM on the new policy. A copy of the OIG report can be found here. OIG recommended that OPM take the following actions:

  • Cease implementation of its policy change and apportion the Annuity Supplement only if the court order specifically directs OPM to do so.
  • Make whole all those affected by the re-apportionment with a court order that did not expressly address the supplement.
  • Determine whether OPM has a legal requirement to make this updated guidance publicly available.

After receiving concerns from several affected members, NARFE President Thissen issued a formal letter to OPM and urged Acting Director Kathleen McGettigan to follow the OIG’s recommendations. Retroactive changes to earned benefits, especially without proper notice, can have devastating financial impacts on retirees living on fixed incomes. NARFE will continue to keep its members updated on this issue.

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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