“NARFE officers and Headquarters staff wish you and your family happy holidays. I look forward to working with you in the New Year to continue to grow NARFE and its legislative strength.”
The 113th Congress quietly ended this week, marking a successful Congress for NARFE’s legislative activities. Faced with unprecedented assaults on the federal community, NARFE prevented reductions in current retirees’ annuities (through a switch to the Chained CPI), passage of legislation adverse to the federal workforce (increased retirement contributions and reductions in federal workers’ benefits) and various damaging alterations to federal employees’ and retirees’ health benefits. NARFE also successfully prevented a misguided postal reform bill, which included cuts that could have had an impact on the entire federal workforce, from getting consideration in the Senate.
During this Congress, NARFE also successfully supported positive bills for the federal community, including an end to the three-year pay freeze; the addition of self plus one coverage in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP), which will begin in 2016; and extending re-employed annuitant authority.
The new 114th Congress convenes January 6.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) declined in November to an index level of 231.551. The index decreased 0.72 percent compared to October’s index and decreased 1.15 percent compared to the 2014 third-quarter average base index. As previously announced, most federal retirees will receive a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) beginning in January.
With one month remaining in the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) measurement year, the November index is 1.04 percent higher than the December 2013 index. The December CPI-W will determine the FECA COLA for 2015, which will begin in March.
The Office of Personnel Management issued a new closure policy this week. Federal employees using pre-approved paid leave during a government closure will no longer be given an excused absence. Previously, a federal closure day was counted as a non-workday. This change reflects the increasing ability to work from home and telework.
“As the 113th Congress draws to a close, I am thankful it appears we will end it more quietly and less painfully than previous years with regard to federal employee and retiree issues. In the next few days, Congress is expected to pass a defense bill, in which NARFE was successful in including a provision extending agency authority to rehire annuitants without a salary offset. I am also hopeful that Congress will avoid a government shutdown by passing a spending bill that does not include any cuts to benefits for federal employees or retirees. However, we know our fights will resume in the 114th Congress and are readying ourselves for the battles ahead.”K
House and Senate negotiators released a compromise National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2015, H.R. 3979, which includes a five-year extension of agency authority to rehire annuitants without a salary offset. The bill passed the House this week and it is expected to pass the Senate next week. The dual compensation waiver originally passed as part of the FY10 NDAA, but had a five-year sunset clause. It has been a top NARFE priority to extend the authority.
NARFE President Thissen applauded the bill’s passage in the House in a statement to the press. Thissen also thanked Rep. Gerald E. Connolly, D-VA, and Sen. Susan Collins, R-ME, for spearheading the extension in their respective chambers.
NARFE President Thissen will testify before Congress Wednesday, December 10, on the progress the Office of Personnel Management is making in decreasing its backlog of retirement annuity claims. Thissen will appear before the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce. Next week’s Hotline will include a recap of the hearing and Thissen’s testimony.
Individuals interested in updating their health care, dental and vision insurance coverage have only until Monday, December 8, to make changes. The average Federal Employee Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) premium increase for 2015 is 3.2 percent, the fourth year in a row the increase has remained below 4 percent. You can view FEHBP premiums by plan for 2015 on OPM's website.
An appropriations deal has emerged to fund the government and avoid a government shutdown. Current congressional spending authorizations for government operations end on December 11, so Congress must pass another short-term continuing resolution or an omnibus appropriations package before then to avoid a shutdown. The deal emerging is a combination of the two and is being called a “cromnibus.” As reported to date, the deal would provide funding for most of the government through September 2015, with the exception of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) budget, which would only be extended until early next year. This would give Republicans more authority early in the 114th Congress to influence DHS spending, the agency responsible for implementing the majority of the President’s recent executive actions on immigration.
The appropriations package will be released next week, where it will need to be quickly voted on to avoid the government shutdown deadline.
“This Thanksgiving, I am especially thankful to all NARFE members for giving me the honor of serving as your National President. I look forward to working together over the next two years to strengthen NARFE and promote our advocacy efforts, especially in light of the continued threats expected when the 114th Congress convenes in January. For now, however, I hope you all enjoy this Thanksgiving holiday with your friends and family.”
Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-UT, will succeed Rep. Darrell Issa, R-CA, next Congress as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. Chaffetz campaigned for the position with a pledge to strike a more conciliatory tone than the current chair. He presently heads the oversight panel’s subcommittee on national security. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, D-MD, will remain the committee’s ranking member.
Senate committee chairs will be determined in December. NARFE is especially interested in who will lead the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, which has jurisdiction over many of our issues.
Individuals interested in updating their health care, dental and vision coverage have until December 8 to make changes. The average Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHBP) premium increase for 2015 is 3.2 percent, the fourth year in a row the increase has remained below 4 percent. You can view FEHBP premiums by plan for 2015 on OPM’s website.
Although it remains unlikely, the President’s executive actions on immigration have sparked some discussion about a renewed attempt to shut down the federal government. The current continuing resolution ends December 11, so Congress must pass another short-term funding measure or an omnibus appropriations bill before then. Some individual members of Congress and outside groups are encouraging Republican leaders to threaten a government shutdown over the new executive actions, which they believe go beyond the President’s constitutional powers. However, at this point, leadership in both parties has been very clear that they would like to avoid another government shutdown.
The Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) declined in October to an index level of 233.229. The index decreased 0.4 percent compared to September’s index and decreased 0.43 percent compared to the 2014 third-quarter average base index. As previously announced, most federal retirees will receive a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) beginning in January. With two months remaining in the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act measurement year, the October index is 1.77 percent higher than the December 2013 index.