Electronic copies  of our newsletters are available from the links to the left. Our newsletters are published monthly, except for July and August.

NEWS:

NARFE Headquarters, September 23, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“This week, while Congress still works toward passing a continuing resolution to keep the federal government open, our staff has been meeting with legislators and pushing the NARFE legislative agenda. I also had the terrific opportunity to attend the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medals -- or ‘Sammies’ -- awards ceremony. NARFE is proud to be part of this wonderful event honoring the best of the federal workforce. The Sammies illustrate the excellence that is present throughout the civil service.”

Congress Working To Pass a Continuing Resolution

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, unveiled a continuing resolution that would fund the government through December 9. It included spending for battling Zika; for veterans’ affairs; and for flood relief in Louisiana, West Virginia and Maryland. McConnell said the Senate will have four days to review the resolution before it votes early next week.

Senate Democrats have spoken out against the resolution, particularly because it does not include funding for the water crisis in Flint, MI. Negotiations are expected to take place over the weekend. The House is expected to take up the resolution next week, after the Senate votes.

Neither chamber is set to return to Capitol Hill until Tuesday, so it’s likely the funding debate will stretch late into next week, brushing up against the September 30 deadline.

Long-Term Care Insurance Decision Date Coming Soon

Don’t forget! Enrollees have until September 30 to make a decision about their Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) policies. Don’t be faced with a steep premium increase you may not be able to afford. If you do not confirm your decision by September 30, you will be subject to the increased premium, and your coverage will remain the same.

NARFE is continuing to push for a congressional hearing on the premium increases. A hearing has been tentatively scheduled by the Oversight and Government Reform Committee for November or December. The latest information on the increases is available here. Members are encouraged to write their legislators about the significant increases. A template letter is available here.

2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey Results

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) released the results of the 2016 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (FEVS) this week. The survey results covered two major indices – Employee Engagement and Global Job Satisfaction across the federal government – both of which are used to improve overall engagement and employee satisfaction at federal agencies.

The 2016 FEVS was administered to 407,789 employees representing 80 federal agencies of varying sizes. For the second year in a row, there was a 1 percent improvement in both of the indices. This broke the previous four-year decline. The results also show increases at agencies that previously scored high, as well as increases at other agencies that are working to improve their employee engagement scores.

The news release by OPM can be found here

OPM plans to release detailed results of the survey in early October.

Medicare Part B ‘Hold Harmless’ Reminder

The cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) for 2017 is set to be released on October 18. A small COLA could have significant implications for those who pay their Medicare Part B premiums from something other than their Social Security benefits, such as their Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuities. Please send an action letter to your members of Congress, alerting them to this possibility and asking them to prevent a sharp increase in your Medicare premiums simply because you are not held harmless.

Planning for Down Ballot Elections and Policy Impact

Unlike Congress, there is significant turnover in state legislatures. Voluntary retirement, term limits and primary defeats create openings for NARFE members to have substantial impact. NARFE’s Legislative Action Center can show you the incumbents and Ballotpedia can show you everything that will be on your ballot and allow you to easily search for rich detail on every candidate. A candidate forum conducted by one or more chapters could pay dividends as immediately as the 2017 legislative session as well as in the future as you build relationships with your representatives.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the Legislative Action Center to easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues. Members also can track NARFE-related bills and votes and see how their legislators voted.

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NARFE Headquarters, September 16, 2016

Message from NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“The NARFE Legislative Department has been hard at work meeting with legislators this week, and while congressional leadership works out a deal to pass a continuing resolution, our legislative team is continuing to work for the NARFE membership. More than 1,700 members registered for last week’s engaging and helpful Long Term Care Insurance webinar. This represents just one of the many actions that NARFE has undertaken to help our members with the sharp premium increases. While we have a lot of work to do in the coming weeks, we will continue to fight on this issue.”

Navigating the Long Term Care Premium Increases: Making an Informed Decision Webinar

NARFE's Legislative Department hosted a special webinar in response to the sharp premium increases in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). Representatives from Long Term Care Partners went over the premium increases and reviewed factors that should be taken into account before the September 30 decision date. An archived version of the webinar, along with a Q&A, can be found here. You will be asked to log in before viewing the webinar, as this is a members-only benefit.

An update page on the premiums, available here, contains the latest dealings with the FLTCIP premium increases. Members are encouraged to write their legislators about the sharp increases. A template letter is available here.

Don’t forget! The deadline to make a decision is September 30, and it’s unlikely to change. Don’t be faced with a sharp premium increase you may not be able to afford.

Consumer Prices Increase in August

Relevant to the cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) to civil service annuities for 2017, the August 2016 Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is 234.909, a one-month increase of 0.05 percent. The August figure is 0.28 percent higher than the average CPI-W for the third quarter of 2014, which, because there was no COLA in 2016, is the reference figure for determining the 2017 COLA. The 2017 COLA will not be determined until October 18, when the July, August and September CPI-W numbers are all available.

Of interest to individuals receiving benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), the August CPI-W figure is 1.78 percent higher than the December 2015 CPI-W figure.

You can access NARFE’s full COLA update here.

A small COLA could have significant implications for those who pay their Medicare Part B premiums from something other than their Social Security benefits, such as their Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) annuities. Please send an action letter to your member of Congress alerting them to this possibility and ask them to prevent a sharp increase in your Medicare premiums simply because you are not “held harmless.”

VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016

The VA Accountability First and Appeals Modernization Act of 2016, H.R. 5620, passed the House this week. H.R. 5620 intends to ensure that veterans have access to the care, services and benefits that they have earned, and restructure the current process by which veterans can appeal their initial benefits. While the White House has commended the changes to the benefits appeal process, it is “very concerned” with the many provisions that would strip away due process for fired Veterans Affairs (VA) employees.

The bill drastically reduces the entire length of an appeal to a total of 77 days for a fired employee. Much like previous VA “reform” bills, the legislation contains a claw-back provision, in which the VA Secretary would have the discretion to recoup a previously awarded bonus or relocation expenses. Additionally, senior executives would not be able to appeal removals or demotions to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), but rather appeal to an internal Senior Executive Disciplinary Appeals Board.

This bill sets a terrible precedent for all federal employees. It denies federal employees’ rights they are currently afforded and limits due process. Like similar bills trying to expedite the firing of federal employees, it makes senior executives more susceptible to politically motivated reprisals. Those not working at the VA would be wise to pay attention, as the VA is often viewed as a test case for the rest of the federal workforce.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the Legislative Action Center to easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues. Members also can track NARFE-related bills and votes and see how their legislators voted.

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NARFE Headquarters, September 9, 2016

“After a successful National Convention, I have great faith in our organization moving forward. Of course, we have a lot of work to do, not only internally, but also with Congress back in session. NARFE will continue to fight for the 274,000 federal employees and annuitants and their spouses enrolled in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program. We also will continue to work proactively to mitigate the impact that a small COLA could have on Medicare premiums and keep the pressure on for WEP reform. The coming months hold a great deal of opportunity for NARFE members; it is up to us to make our influence known and to engage our legislators.”

NARFE Adopts the 115th Legislative Program

The 34th Biennial National Convention in Reno, NV, recently wrapped up, with members returning to their home states having approved NARFE’s Legislative Program for the 115th Congress. The Legislative Program is a detailed set of member-endorsed legislative positions that revolve around defending the earned pay, benefits and compensation of federal and postal civilian employees and retirees.

The convention delegates voted in favor of the adoption of the 115th Legislative Program, reflecting the six additional recommended resolutions by the Legislative Committee. This program will be a guideline for the NARFE Legislative Department over the course of the next Congress.

New language was added to the Legislative Program involving the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and the Medicare Part B “hold harmless” provision. Specifically, NARFE supports legislation that would allow TSP participants more flexible withdrawal options from their TSP accounts. NARFE also supports applying the effect of the hold harmless provision to all Medicare beneficiaries permanently. A breakdown of the legislative priorities for the 115th Congress will be made available in the January 2017 edition of narfe magazine.

House Committee Report on OPM Data Breach

On September 7, House Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, released a staff report titled “The OPM Data Breach: How the Government Jeopardized Our National Security for More than a Generation.” The report found that the data breach was a coordinated and preventable attack. The report also notes that the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) misled the public about the severity of the breach, and its leadership failed to heed the advice of its inspector general.

Several recommendations were made in the report, ranging from empowering chief information officers to reducing the use of Social Security numbers in government agencies. Other recommendations included modernizing existing legacy federal information technology assets; improving federal recruitment, training, and retention of federal cyber security specialists; and reprioritizing federal information security efforts toward zero trust.

Chairman Chaffetz sent a letter to the Government Accountability Office, requesting an opinion on whether OPM violated the Anti-Deficiency Act. More information about the yearlong investigation, including the full report, can be found here.

Hold Harmless and FLTCIP Action Letters Available

Are you affected by the increase in long-term care premiums? Will you pay more in Medicare Part B premiums if there’s a small cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) and you’re not held harmless? Now’s the time to act! You can send a letter to your legislators about the sharp premium increases in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) here. A letter on the disproportionate Medicare Part B premium increases for those not held harmless also is available here. Additional action letters are available on the Legislative Action Center. We know that silence equals acceptance. Now is not the time to be silent.

Long-Term Care Webinar

In response to the significant premium increases in the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP), NARFE's Legislative Department hosted a special webinar on Friday, September 9. NARFE Legislative Director Jessica Klement and representatives from Long Term Care Partners, which administers FLTCIP, spoke to NARFE members about the upcoming FLTCIP decision deadline, what caused the increases and how to choose the option that's best for them. The webinar will be archived on the NARFE website for those who were unable to view it live.

Make Your Voice Heard in Congress

NARFE members are encouraged to use the Legislative Action Center to easily send letters to members of Congress on a variety of NARFE issues. Members also can track NARFE-related bills and votes and see how their legislators voted.

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