Federal Employees Continue to Retire in Greater Numbers Than in Previous Years

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Federal employees continue to file for retirement at an increased pace compared with recent years, continuing a trend that began more than a year ago.

According to statistics from the Office of Personnel Management, 7,510 federal workers filed for retirement in November. That figure is a 34 percent increase over the same month in 2017, when 5,572 employees retired.

In October, the number of retirement requests increased as well, although only slightly. That month, 9,012 federal employees filed for retirement, compared with 8,850 for the same period last year.

Statistics for the last two months suggest a continuation of the trend where increasing numbers of workers are leaving the civil service. Over the course of fiscal 2018, which ended on Sept. 30, retirements were up 24 percent from the previous year.

Federal workforce observers have long predicted a retirement wave. Currently, 14 percent of federal workers are eligible to retire, according to a July report, and that number is expected to increase to 30 percent within five years.

Despite the rising retirement numbers, OPM has for the most part kept the backlog of pending claims in check. Last month, the agency processed far more claims (8,077) than it did the previous November (5,138) or the previous month (6,911).

The existing backlog at the end of November was 19,162, a decrease from 19,729 in October. That is also below the total of 19,294 a year ago.

Now, the agency will prepare for the annual spike of retirements that occurs in January. At the beginning of 2018, OPM received 14,590 new claims, and the backlog peaked at 24,225 pending claims the following month.

If you are in need of assistance, let us help you prepare your retirement package for you after a complete Federal Retirement Review.  Contact Us Today.

Expanding Veterans Preference

On the policy front, OPM on Thursday published a rule in the Federal Register that expands who is eligible to be hired by the federal government under veterans’ preference standards.

The rule implements a provision of the 2015 Gold Star Fathers Act, which allows parents of a veteran who died overseas or is permanently disabled to be eligible for veterans’ preference hiring standards at federal agencies, provided the parent is unmarried, separated from their spouse, or if their spouse is also permanently disabled.

This measure permanently implements an interim rule issued by OPM in December 2016, although the language of that rule was partially altered to refer to parents, rather than “mothers.”

Some Secrets To A Financially Secure Retirement

By | Benefits, Federal Pay, Retirement, TSP | No Comments

What is the best way to ensure a comfortable and enjoyable retirement? This week, I thought I’d share some observations I’ve made over the years about employees who end up with the same (and sometimes even greater) income during their retirement years than while they were employed.

These folks have been planning for retirement throughout the beginning, middle and pre-retirement stages of the federal careers. I sometimes meet employees who tell me they remember me from a retirement planning class they attended 20 years ago.

For those covered under the Federal Employees Retirement System, the Thrift Savings Plan has played an important role. These people have learned how to invest for the long term and what it means to diversify their investments among the G, C, F, S, and I Funds—or used the L Funds to automatically shift their investments as their careers progress. They have learned to tolerate a certain level of risk in order to obtain maximum results by not reacting emotionally to swings in market conditions.

FERS employees who have successfully leveraged their TSP accounts tend to have several things in common:

  • Those in higher income brackets are saving the maximum in their TSP accounts. The maximum employee contribution for 2019 is $19,000 plus an additional $6,000 in catch-up contributions if you’re turning 50 or are already older than 50.
  • Those in lower income brackets are living with little or no consumer debt and have saved a minimum of 5 percent of their salary in the TSP.
  • In general, they haven’t borrowed from their TSP account—or if they have, they didn’t stop contributing while repaying their loan balance.

The TSP was designed to be an integral part of FERS, but many employees under the Civil Service Retirement System also have taken advantage of participating in the plan and putting away savings on a pre-tax basis. They now have a significant nest egg for retirement.

Successful planners who are married have considered the “what-if” situations about the future. For example:

  • They weigh the value and cost of the spousal survivor benefit election. This causes a reduction in your CSRS or FERS retirement of about 10 percent, but it can mean the difference between financial security and uncertainty for a surviving spouse.
  • They consider that a delay in claiming Social Security may be more important to a future surviving spouse than to a couple’s short-term need for income. You may have other options than taking Social Security as soon as you can: delaying retirement, taking larger TSP distributions while waiting to claim Social Security, or embarking on a second career for a few years after your retirement from government. The difference between claiming at age 62 and waiting until age 70 is a benefit that is about 75 percent larger for the rest of your life and possibly later to the life of your surviving spouse.
  • They’re wary of using life insurance as a substitute for a survivor benefit. Life insurance is very expensive to continue as a substitute for a survivor’s annuity. Life insurance also doesn’t carry a cost of living adjustment or a guaranteed lifetime payment stream. And life insurance is not protected under the spouse equity provisions of the law, so it can be canceled without spousal consent.

Single people who have successfully planned for retirement have considered the amount of income they will need for a retirement that could potentially last longer than their career. This means both adequate retirement savings and thinking about such considerations as the potential need for long-term care.

If you’re a single woman, you may have a longer life expectancy than your male counterparts, and you also may have had lower lifetime earnings. This could translate into a need to save diligently for retirement and become a savvy investor. You need to put yourself first to ensure your financial independence before helping others.

Those who have successfully managed the retirement preparation process have another thing in common: They’re realistic. They, may, for example, limit the financial assistance they provide to their children in retirement to protect their savings. And some of them find that working a little longer than they anticipated eases the future financial strain. Sometimes following the path to a comfortable retirement involves some hard choices.

Which ever category you may fall in, its always best to ask a Federal Benefits Consultant how you are doing and let us help guide you to make sure you are maximizing all of your resources properly. Request your Free Consultation today. 

TSP Finally Unveils Plans for Expanding TSP Withdrawal Options

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The Thrift Savings Plan has until November to implement the 2017 TSP Modernization Act. That law will allow federal employees and retirees to make multiple age-based withdrawals from their TSP accounts and remain eligible for partial withdrawals after they leave government. Additionally, those who have left government would be able to make multiple partial post-separation withdrawals, and retirees will be able to change the amount and frequency of their annuity at any time, instead of only once per year.

Tanner Nohe, a project manager for the TSP, said the agency plans to have the law fully implemented by mid-September 2019. The project has caused officials to go beyond simply adding the functionality needed to implement the new law and instead “make some fundamental changes” to how withdrawals work, he said.

Under the new system, participants will no longer be forced to make a full withdrawal election—a choice between setting up annuity payments, taking a partial lump sum withdrawal, or a full lump sum payment—when they reach 70 and a half years old. That change will be retroactive, officials said.

“People on installment payments now, and [next year] they can come back and say, ‘I want to stop taking installments for a while,’” said Tee Ramos, director of participant services.

Nohe said his team is coming up with three new forms to help participants make use of the new flexibilities, including one that allows participants to change the amount and frequency of their annuity payments at any time. The agency is also doing away with a policy that suspends a participants’ contributions to their TSP accounts for six months if they take a hardship withdrawal.

“You can change your monthly installment payments currently only during [a fall open season period],” Nohe said. “But in the future, you can choose between monthly, quarterly and annual installment payments, and changes can be made to that at any time during the year.”

TSP officials said they plan not only to provide new flexibilities to participants, but make it easier to make use of those flexibilities. Nohe touted the fact that there will be four new “wizards” on the TSP website to help federal employees and retirees go through the various new processes.

“Right now, our wizards are just form fillers, but [next year], they will be more dynamic,” he said. “It can tell what’s in your account, and ask if you want to take [withdrawals] out of your Roth distribution or your traditional account. It’ll understand what you have so it can suggest what distribution you can take . . . It will take you from start to finish in your withdrawal.”

The first phase of implementation, focused on installment payment maintenance and removal of the withdrawal selection deadline, is slated to go into testing within the next two weeks, Nohe said. The public rollout of the new features is slated to occur on Sept. 15, although TSP officials will begin communicating with participants about the coming changes next February.

»To get the best federal retirement assistance and ideas about your benefits, request your free Federal Retirement Review.

Choices You Have During Open Enrollment Season

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There are a few ways to simplify the open season chore so it doesn’t become an overwhelming task. There are tools on the Office of Personnel Management website you can use to understand your options, identify your needs and narrow your choices to the best plan at the best price for you and your family. These include both an OPM-generated plan comparison tool and a link to the Consumer’s Checkbook Guide to Health Plans for Federal Employees. Many agencies pay for employees to have access to this tool.

To make the best use of any of these tools, it helps to know the meaning of key terms in the health insurance world. Let’s look at some of the most important.

Deductible: The amount you must pay before your insurance plan will pay a claim. In most cases, when you use network providers, you will not have to pay a deductible for preventive care services.

Copayment: The amount you’ll pay for your share of health care services or prescription drugs.

Coinsurance: The percentage amount you’ll pay for covered health care services or prescription drugs.

Catastrophic Limit: The most you will pay out of pocket for covered health care services and prescription drugs. Most plans have a higher catastrophic limit when you use out of network providers or facilities. Not all expenses are included in this limit.

Preferred Provider Organization: A network made up of health care providers who have agreed to provide covered services at reduced cost. You can find a provider list on your plan’s website. PPO networks are more extensive in some areas than in others.

Participating Providers: To complicate matters, some local plans also contract with other providers that are not in their PPO network. They are referred to as participating providers or member facilities. They have agreed to accept a different negotiated amount than PPO providers as payment in full. They will also generally file your claims for you.

Fee-for-Service Plans: Also known as indemnity plans, all of these in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program have PPO networks. When you visit a PPO you usually won’t have to file claims or paperwork. When you use non-PPO providers, you may have to file your claims with your plan. The plan will then pay the benefits to you and you must pay the provider. When you need medical attention, you visit the doctor or hospital of your choice. This approach may be more expensive for you and require extra paperwork. To choose the best FFS plan for you and your family, it is a good idea to pay attention to the PPO network providers and facilities to make sure they are located conveniently for you and your family members.

Health Maintenance Organization: Members of an HMO are required to choose a primary care physician to take care of most of their health care needs. With many HMO plans, you will need a referral to see a specialist unless the plan offers open access. There are many HMO plans in FEHBP that offer a wide range of health care services through a network of regional providers who agree to supply services to members. The drawback to most HMO plans is you have no coverage for services when you use out of network providers. HMOs have the reputation of being more restrictive than traditional fee for service plans, but don’t rule out an HMO as an option. Many have qualities that make them more flexible and operate more like fee for service plans than you might imagine.

Point-of-Service Benefits: This refers to covered services you can receive from an out-of-network provider. But beware: You might have higher out-of-pocket costs than you would from in-network providers.

Consumer Driven Health Plan: These plans offer a savings account to pay your initial health care costs before you incur out of pocket expenses. They have a higher deductible than a typical FFS or HMO plan. These plans allow you to establish separate flexible spending accounts to cover your deductibles, copayments and coinsurance costs once you have exhausted the money in your health fund. They generally have lower premiums and can be a wise choice for those in good health.

High Deductible Health Plan: This is a type of a CDHP that has a high deductible and includes either a health savings account or a health reimbursement account to help cover your out of pocket expenses. HDHPs in FEHBP provide a “premium pass through,” meaning the plan will contribute a portion of the premium to your HSA or credit your HRA account. This is similar to the health fund or medical account associated with CDHPs, but if you choose not to use the money in the account, it can stay there for use in future years.

Health Savings Account: This is a place to put away money for health care expenses under an HDHP. You can contribute tax-free dollars to your HSA in addition to receiving contributions from your health plan through a premium pass through.

Health Reimbursement Arrangement: Like an HSA, an HRA is an employer-funded tax-sheltered fund to reimburse allowable medical expenses for those enrolled in an HDHP. But you can’t contribute additional tax-free dollars to an HRA. OPM has additional information on how HRAs work.

Flexible Spending Account: A Health Care FSA is used to pay for eligible medical, dental, and vision care expenses that aren’t covered by your health plan or elsewhere. A Dependent Care FSA is used to pay for eligible dependent care services. The money you contribute to an FSA is not subject to payroll taxes. Retirees are not eligible for FSAs.

Limited Expense Flexible Spending Account: If you’re enrolled in a high-deductible health plan and have an HSA, you’re eligible for this type of account, which can be used to cover eligible out of pocket dental and vision expenses.

Dental and Vision Plans: If you think you are paying to much for your Dental and Vision plan, you probably are.  On the average most will spend anywhere from $450-$600 per month for a dental/vision plan, but did you know their are some plans out there that would cost you $185-$229 per year for some really great benefits?

To request more information about any of the topics we talked about or to help you plan for retirement, please Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.

CSRS Offset and Social Security Calculating Your Pension

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Over the last few years, I have been getting more and more questions about CSRS Offset and its relationship to certain Social Security rules, such as the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO). This uptick in questions is likely because those who fall under CSRS Offset are at the cusp of retirement.

This article is written for those who fall under the CSRS Offset system. Others may find it interesting, if not applicable to their specific situation.

A person is covered under CSRS Offset if they:

  • Had five or more years of creditable civilian service as of 12/31/1986 (the day before FERS).
  • Had a break in service of over 365 days.
  • Were rehired following a break in service at any time after 12/31/1983 (the day before all newly hired federal employees must have been covered by Social Security).

Individuals under CSRS who fit the above definition should have been given a choice of electing FERS or choosing CSRS Offset upon their return to federal service. CSRS Offset employees, like FERS employees, must have Social Security taken out of their federal salary. When a CSRS Offset person retires, they get a regular CSRS pension until they reach the age of 62. At age 62, their CSRS pension is reduced (offset) by the value of the Social Security that they earned while covered under CSRS Offset. If they retire at age 62 or over, the offset takes place immediately upon their retirement.

The offset will take place even if they choose not to apply for their Social Security.

The reduction is determined in all but a few situations by dividing the number of years of CSRS Offset service by 40 and applying the resulting fraction to one’s age 62 Social Security benefit.

Debbie is a CSRS Offset retiree who, when she retired, had 20 years of CSRS Offset service. She is receiving a CSRS pension of $60,000 per year. Her Social Security benefit at age 62 will be $12,000 per year. Here is how the offset to her pension will be calculated:

  • The 20 years of CSRS Offset service is divided by 40, giving a fraction of ½ (50%).
  • The reduction to Debbie’s CSRS pension is 50% of her Social Security benefit, or $6,000 per year. This reduces her pension to $54,000 per year.
  • Assuming Debbie applies for her Social Security at age 62, she will receive the entire $12,000 per year Social Security benefit.
  • Debbie’s benefit will consist of her reduced CSRS pension ($54,000 per year) and her Social Security ($12,000 per year) for a total of $66,000 per year.
  • Debbie, like most CSRS Offset retirees will receive more money at age 62 if she applies for her Social Security

In the example above, Debbie had 20 years of CSRS Offset service where Social Security was being taken out of her federal salary. This fact may result in her Social Security being subject to a reduction from the Windfall Elimination Provision.

The Social Security System has a need-related twist in the computation formula that is designed to replace a much greater portion of a low wage earner’s income than that of the high wage earner.

CSRS employees, and others who have earned a retirement benefit based on work that was not covered by Social Security, are likely to have many years in their Social Security earnings record where they had little or no employment covered by Social Security. They would look like a low wage earner to the Social Security system, even though they had been working at a good job and earning a pension the entire time.

Debbie, in our previous example, had at least ten years of CSRS coverage where she was not having Social Security taken from her federal salary. Unless she has at least 30 years of “substantial earnings” in Social Security covered employment, her Social Security benefit will be reduced by the WEP.

Social Security benefits are based on your lifetime earnings. The following is how they are computed in 2016.

  • Your lifetime earnings are indexed for inflation.
  • The highest 35 inflation indexed years are added together.
  • The total is divided by 420 (the number of months in 35 years) to arrive at average indexed monthly earnings (AIME)
  • AIME is multiplied by:
    • 90% x the first $856
    • 32% x $857 to $5157
    • 15% of the amount over $5157

If you are affected by the WEP, the multiplication factor for the first “bend point” above will be less than 90%. How much it is reduced depends on how many years of substantial earnings you have under Social Security. If you have 20 or fewer years of substantial earnings (like Karen) your benefit will be computed using a 40% factor. For years over 20, the factor increases by 5% a year until it reaches the full 90% after 30 years. This Social Security Factsheet on the WEP has a chart on what constitutes substantial earnings.

At the time this article was written, Social Security had not updated the publication for 2016. Due to the fact that there was no COLA on Social Security benefits for 2016, there was no increase in the amount that is considered substantial earnings.

Your Social Security Statement does not take the WEP into account. There is a WEP calculator on the Social Security website that can be used to determine how (or if) the WEP affects your Social Security.

Back to Debbie and her situation. We’ll assume that the 20 years of CSRS Offset service she has are her only years of substantial earnings under Social Security and that she is fully affected by the WEP. The $12,000 per year estimated age 62 benefit from her Social Security Statement will not be what she is entitled to receive because of the effect of the WEP. The maximum reduction that the WEP can cause is $5,136 per year. As Debbie will, unfortunately, be subject to the maximum reduction, her annual Social Security benefit will be reduced to $6,864 per year. In calculating her Offset (under the CSRS Offset retirement system) the WEP is applied first and then the Offset is applied. Here’s a re-calculation of her benefits using a Social Security benefit that is reduced by the application of the WEP.

  • The 20 years of CSRS Offset service is divided by 40, giving a fraction of ½ (50%).
  • The reduction to Debbie’s CSRS pension is 50% of her Social Security benefit, or $3,432 per year. This reduces her pension to $56,568 per year.
  • Assuming Debbie applies for her Social Security at age 62, she will receive the entire $6,864 per year Social Security benefit.
  • Debbie’s benefit will consist of her reduced CSRS pension ($56,568 per year) and her Social Security ($6,864 per year) for a total of $63,432 per year.
  • She still comes out ahead.

It is unlikely that the Government Pension Offset will affect Debbie (or most CSRS Offset employees for that matter). The GPO reduces (usually eliminates) any Social Security benefits to which you would be entitled based on the earnings of another (i. e., spousal or survivor benefits). CSRS Offset retirees are exempt from the GPO once they have spent five years covered by CSRS Offset.

TSP Funds Took a Nosedive in October

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Nearly all of the funds in the federal government’s 401(k)-style retirement savings program tumbled last month, mirroring a month of volatility in the financial markets.

The Thrift Savings Plan’s G Fund, which is made up of government securities, was the only portfolio in the black in October, gaining 0.26 percent. That brings its total 2018 earnings to 2.38 percent.

The S Fund, composed of small- and mid-size businesses, lost the most value last month, falling 10.06 percent. That brought the portfolio 0.30 percent into the negative since January. The international stocks of the I Fund fell 7.94 percent in October, bringing its 2018 losses to 8.92 percent.

The common stocks of the C Fund lost 6.84 percent last month, although the fund remains 2.98 percent in the black for 2018. And the fixed income (F) Fund fell 0.78 percent in October, bringing its losses so far this year to 2.26 percent.

All of the lifecycle (L) funds, which shift investments into more stable portfolios as participants get closer to retirement, lost value last month. The L Income Fund, for those who have already started withdrawing money, lost 1.40 percent; L 2020, 2.24 percent; L 2030, 4.60 percent; L 2040, 5.54 percent; and L 2050, 6.35 percent.

Since January, the L Income Fund has grown 1.52 percent; L 2020, 1.21 percent; and L 2030, 0.12 percent. The L 2040 Fund has fallen 0.35 percent this year, and the L 2050 is down 0.74 percent.

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Federal Officers Association Asks OPM to Roll Back 2016 Annuity Change

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A group representing the federal law enforcement community last week sent a letter to acting OPM Director Margaret Weichert asking her to roll back an Obama administration decision to change how payments to divorced retirees are distributed to them and their former spouses.

The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association, which represents more than 27,000 federal law enforcement professionals across 65 agencies, blasted a 2016 OPM decision to grant a “marital share” of the Federal Employees Retirement System Retiree Annuity Supplement to a retiree’s ex-spouse if the retiree is subject to a state divorce decree. Before that decision, the agency would only grant that share based on the basic annuity.

The retiree annuity supplement is the money that is paid to retirees who are not yet eligible for Social Security, which kicks in at age 62. Many law enforcement positions force officers to retire at 57. For decades, the supplement was not subject to a court-ordered marital share because OPM considered it to be a Social Security-type benefit, and thus not part of a divorce agreement.

“This policy change constituted an unwarranted reinterpretation of a 30-year old provision of the FERS statute and, more importantly, has caused real financial harm to federal law enforcement and other retirees for the more than two years that it has been enforced by the agency,” wrote association National President Nathan Catura.

In addition, the association said that OPM has applied the policy retroactively, leading to many officers suddenly owing money to the government to send to former spouses.

“[In] the more than two years since it implemented this revised policy, OPM has applied its reinterpretation retroactively and with little to no regard for the financial harm it has inflicted on retirees,” Catura wrote. “It has created individual retiree debts due to the federal government of as much as $28,389.96 (that we are aware of)—debts for which OPM has sought repayment in the form of prospective and retrospective assessments from annuitants’ retirement benefits.”

The decision to apply marital share to the annuity supplement has drawn criticism from both Congress and an agency watchdog. Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., wrote in May that the policy change could constitute a violation of the Administrative Procedures Act, and the OPM Inspector General issued a report in February questioning the manner in which the policy was changed outside of the traditional rule-making process.

“OPM did not provide any public notice that it now considers the annuity supplement to be allocable and that, as a result, OPM will now apply the state court-ordered marital share to the annuity supplement, even when the state court order refers to the basic annuity only,” the IG wrote. “[OPM’s] new policy has been causing immediate financial disruption to annuitants. Moreover, OPM’s new policy improperly changes previously litigated final state court orders without notice to annuitants.”

OPM did not respond to a request for comment, but it disagreed with each of the findings of the IG report and suggested the report could jeopardize pending cases before the Merit Systems Protections Board. In April, the MSPB overturned a decision in which OPM sought to collect $24,000 in debt from a retired air traffic controller related to the policy change.

“As Sen. Lankford, the OIG, and MSPB have concluded, this policy change was implemented in a clandestine fashion without any regard for the court-ordered and previously-litigated provisions of the specific divorce settlements of affected retirees,” Catura wrote. “Instead, retirees and their former spouses only learned of OPM’s actions when their annuity payments changed, in some cases years after the parties had divorced and a state court had ordered a former spouse’s marital share.”

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Federal Retirees to Receive BIGGEST COLA Boost in Years

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Federal retirees will receive a cost-of-living adjustment of 2.8 percent in their benefits next year, the largest increase in more than a decade.

The boost—which applies more broadly to recipients of Social Security benefits—comes on top of a 2 percent boost in 2018. That increase came after a couple of years of very low percentage COLAs. The 2017 increase was only 0.3 percent.

The annual COLA is based on the percentage increase in the average Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) for the third quarter of the current year over the average CPI-W for the third quarter of the last year in which a COLA became effective.

The 2.8 percent increase applies to retirees under the Civil Service Retirement System. Those under the Federal Employees Retirement System will receive 2 percent. FERS employees only receive the full percentage increase if it is less than 2 percent. If the change is 2 percent to 3 percent, FERS retirees get 2 percent. And if the increase is 3 percent or higher, FERS retirees receive 1 percentage point less than the full increase.

“CSRS retirees and Social Security recipients will be pleased to see their benefits increase by 2.8 percent in 2019, the largest increase since 2012,” said Richard Thissen, president of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. “Unfortunately, hundreds of thousands of FERS retirees will be wondering why they are only receiving a 2 percent COLA when the relevant measure of consumer prices increased by 2.8 percent.”

“It is past time for Congress to ensure FERS retirees receive a full COLA each year,” Thissen added.

Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, said, “As retired federal employees welcome the increase in their monthly pensions in 2019, it’s a good time to remind them and all future retirees that such routine cost-of-living adjustments cannot be taken for granted. The administration has not given up its plan to eliminate COLAs for federal employees who retire through the Federal Employee Retirement System, and severely cut them for those in the Civil Service Retirement System.”

The new COLAs will take effect starting with federal retirees’ December 2018 benefits.

Now for those wanting to retire soon and take advantage of this full COLA for 2019, must be retired by October 31, 2018.  Give us a call Today, or contact us and learn more about this and how we will help you.  You may still have time.

THE USPS Announces New Changes for 2019

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The Postal Service has just announced price changes to take effect next year.

The USPS governors approved the proposed changes, which will be reviewed by the Postal Regulatory Commission (PRC) before they take effect Jan. 27. The governors believe these new rates will keep the Postal Service competitive while providing the agency with needed revenue.

The changes, if approved by the PRC, include a 5-cent increase in the price of a First-Class Mail Forever stamp from 50 cents to 55 cents.

The single-piece additional ounce price will be reduced to 15 cents, so a 2-ounce stamped letter, such as a typical wedding invitation, will cost less to mail, decreasing from 71 cents to 70 cents.

The changes include adjustments to other Mailing Services products, as well as Shipping Services products.

Here are the current and proposed prices:

  • First-Class Mail letters (1 ounce): 50 cents (current), 55 cents (proposed)
  • First-Class Mail letters (additional ounces): 21 cents (current), 15 cents (proposed)
  • First-Class Mail letters (metered 1 ounce): 47 cents (current), 50 cents (proposed)
  • First-Class Mail outbound international letters (1 ounce): $1.15 (no change from current price)
  • First-Class Mail domestic postcard stamps: 35 cents (no change from current price)
  • Priority Mail small flat-rate box: $7.20 (current), $7.90 (proposed)
  • Priority Mail medium flat-rate box: $13.65 (current), $14.35 (proposed)
  • Priority Mail large flat-rate box: $18.90 (current), $19.95 (proposed)
  • Priority Mail Army/Air Post Office and Fleet Post Office large flat-rate box: $17.40 (current), $18.45 (proposed)
  • Priority Mail regular flat-rate envelope: $6.70 (current), $7.35 (proposed)
  • Priority Mail legal flat-rate envelope: $7 (current), $7.65 (proposed)
  • Priority Mail padded flat-rate envelope: $7.25 (current), $8 (proposed)

Overall, the proposed prices would raise Mailing Services product prices by approximately 2.5 percent.

Shipping Services price increases vary by product. For example, Priority Mail Express prices will increase 3.9 percent, while Priority Mail prices will increase 5.9 percent.

Although Mailing Services price increases are based on the consumer price index, Shipping Services prices are primarily adjusted according to market conditions.

USPS filed the proposals with the PRC Oct. 10. The complete price filings are available on the PRC’s site under the Daily Listings section, and price change tables will be available on the Postal Explorer site.

The Postal Service’s news release has more information.

How Attempts at Fixing the Civil Service System Have Made It Worse Off

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Federal human resources officials on Wednesday said that congressional efforts to fix an outdated civil service system have complicated it as much as they have improved it.

Lawmakers have repeatedly taken a piecemeal approach to providing relief to laws governing the federal workforce that date back to the 19th century and were last updated on a wholesale basis in 1978, but federal officials said those agency-by-agency and job-by-job laws have created an overly layered and disparate series of special authorities. The HR professionals made their comments at a panel discussion in downtown Washington, D.C., hosted by Government Executive.

“Over the years we’ve seen special authorities, special regulations solve specific problems,” said Mary Pletcher, the Agriculture Department’s chief human capital officer. “But what it’s also done is create a very complicated system.”

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Col. Gregory Johnson, chief of the Army’s Functional Management Division, Integrated Personnel and Pay System, said the military maintains 300 different pay systems. Those have piled up over the course of several decades, he said, and are now posing problems for the Defense Department.

“How do you understand soldiers’ talent in the military, how do you manage 1.1 million people when you have that many systems that are disparate, where the data is fractured?” he asked. “How do you do that?”

Johnson said the Army is seeking to address that question by creating an Integrated Personnel and Pay System, a project he is spearheading. The goal is to centralize all the data from all the different systems into one place, clean it up and use it to evaluate the workforce. This will enable a whole new personnel management system, he explained, and allow the Army to better evaluate each soldier’s talents to better match them to the service’s needs.

The Army is unveiling the system in phases, starting with the National Guard next year. By 2020, it will fold all Reserve and active-duty personnel into the integrated system. Johnson said those initiatives will help change the overall ethos at the Army.

“We’ve been around for a long time and culture change is hard,” he said. “So as we take a look at our current personnel processes and try to drive a talent management process, the system will help us change.”

While the military is moving the ball forward on HR simplification and consolidation, Pletcher said the civil service laws and regulations applying to civilian employees have become so complicated that very few people in government actually understand all of them. Meanwhile, she explained, lengthy hiring times and career ladder climbing have remained rigid. That has all added up to agencies losing out on top talent.

“All of the special legislative authorities, the pilot authorities…the intent is to solve specific problems, but they create even more complexity because we still haven’t changed the underlying system,” Pletcher said.

Agencies do have flexibilities, she said, but they struggle to educate their managers on what they are, how they work and whether they are legally applicable in certain situations.

“The amount of knowledge that’s required to navigate all of those different flexibilities, all of the different ways to make the system work more, while they may exist, they add a lot of complexity,” Pletcher said. “And some human capital officers say they have too many authorities right now.”

That has complicated things not just for HR professionals but for hiring managers as well, some of whom only bring on a few employees each year and struggle to keep track of all the latest authorities. Pletcher estimated USDA will hire 8,000 permanent employees and 15,000 seasonal workers next year, and each job category will come with its own recruiting challenge.

Johnson explained in blunt terms the dichotomy between what soldiers currently face in their day-to-day jobs versus what they deal with when making broader career decisions.

“We ask soldiers to go in and make life and death decisions,” Johnson said, “but we don’t really tell them what their personnel actions are.”