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 Legislative Hotline, June 19, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“I understand and share the frustration of NARFE members regarding the data breaches at OPM. We are working hard to get answers to your questions, but information isn’t as forthcoming as we’d like. We are continuing to push for answers, even if that push isn’t public. We are updating the NARFE website with information as it becomes available to us.”

OPM Security Breach Update

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) issued a press release on June 12, stating that a second security breach occurred that could put even more federal employee information at risk. It is believed that databases hacked contained information on security clearances, background checks and more personal data of current and former federal employees. The number of people affected in this second breach is unknown, although OPM says the number of people affected by the first breach, announced June 4, remains 4.2 million. OPM is continuing to contact those individuals. Today, OPM updated its Frequently Asked Questions webpage regarding the two security incidents.

OPM Director Katherine Archuleta and OPM’s Chief Information Officer Donna Seymour appeared at a hearing before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. It was revealed during the hearing on Tuesday, June 16, that OPM chose not to shut down a number of major systems that failed to meet basic security standards, going against the recommendation of the agency’s inspector general. Archuleta failed to answer the committee’s questions regarding what and whose information was hacked, saying she could not release that information to the public because it was part of an ongoing investigation. Some lawmakers are calling for Archuleta to resign from her position.

While NARFE continues to be in contact with OPM officials, they have failed to respond to crucial questions. On June 17, NARFE President Richard G. Thissen sent a letter to OPM Director Archuleta asking for answers. In his letter, he also asks OPM to increase the credit monitoring and fraud insurance assistance for all individuals affected by the security breach. The letter can be read here.

 NARFE continues to update the OPM Security Breach webpage on the NARFE website as more information becomes available.

House Panel Holds Hearing on DOL Conflict of Interests Rule Proposal

On June 17, the House Education and Workforce Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on a rule proposed by the Department of Labor to help protect individuals, including federal employees and retirees, from getting bad retirement investment advice. The proposal would amend the definition of “fiduciary investment advice” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) to ensure individuals saving for retirement are protected by a “best interest standard” when receiving investment advice. Under the current rule, the best interest standard does not apply to advice given on a one-time basis, advice regarding rollovers, or any advice on investing in an Individual Retirement Account (IRA).

 NARFE President Richard G. Thissen sent a letter to members of the committee in support of the rule. He noted: “NARFE is particularly concerned that federal employees and retirees invested in low-fee Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) funds – the federal employee version of a 401(k) – are not adequately protected from bad financial advice regarding their TSP holdings. Because rollovers are not covered by the current rule, financial advisors may legally recommend that TSP account holders roll over their TSP holdings into an IRA where the money could be invested in a mutual fund providing the same, or essentially similar, product, such as an S&P 500 index fund, for as much as 50 times the cost.”

Competitive Service Act Introduced in the Senate

On June 16, Sens. Jon Tester, D-MT, and Rob Portman, R-OH, introduced S. 1580, the Competitive Service Act. The measure aims to streamline the hiring process for prospective federal employees. The bill would allow federal agencies to review and select job candidates from other federal agencies’ lists of “best qualified” applicants, cutting down on duplication for applicants who have already undergone a competitive assessment process and are certified as eligible for selection. Currently, agencies that have similar hiring needs cannot share such information.

NARFE, along with several other federal employee and good-government organizations, supports the bipartisan efforts of the Competitive Service Act to modernize and simplify the hiring process for federal employees.

Reps. Gerald E. Connolly, D-VA, and Rob Wittman, R-VA, introduced the companion bill, H.R. 2827, in the House.

Consumer Prices Increase in May

Relevant to the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to civil service annuities for 2016, the May Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is 232.908, a one-month increase of 0.60 percent. With four months remaining in the measurement year, the CPI-W has decreased 0.57 percent from the 2014 third-quarter average base index. If the third-quarter average of 2015 remains below the 2014 third-quarter average, retirees would not receive a COLA in 2016. Of interest to individuals receiving benefits under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), the May CPI-W figure is 1.30 percent higher than the December 2014 CPI-W figure.

The June CPI-W figure will be released July 17. For NARFE’s full COLA update, click here.

 Accessing the Legislative Action Center

NARFE members can use the Legislative Action Center (LAC) as the hub to send letters to your members of Congress and track NARFE-related bills and votes. NARFE frequently updates the LAC, so check back often.

Return to June 19, 2015

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NARFE Legislative Hotline, June 12, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

“NARFE continues to stay in communication with the Office of Personnel Management regarding the cybersecurity incident at OPM. We are updating the NARFE website with any new information we learn. Should you have any questions, please contact NARFE’s Federal Benefits Service Department at mailto:fedbenefits@narfe.org or 703-838-7760. More information is below.”

OPM Security Breach Update

Information on the recent cybersecurity breach at the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) continues to be released both by the administration and by NARFE as it becomes available. Here is the latest:

 Recent claims made in a letter sent from the president of the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) to OPM Director Katherine Archuleta state all federal employee, retiree, military and veteran personnel data was compromised during the security breach. NARFE believes that AFGE’s evaluation of the incident is overstated, and OPM continues to say that it believes only 4.2 million individuals were affected. OPM also commented that it does not keep congressional or military employment data.

Since the announcement of the security breach last week, NARFE has been in close communication with OPM officials who say the employment data, which contain information such as Social Security numbers, job assignments and salary information, was the information most likely exposed in the breach. OPM is contacting all individuals whose information was compromised by email or U.S. mail. OPM has contracted with CSID to assist with the response effort and will be sending out the email or postal notifications from June 8 to June 19. Emails will come from mailto:opmcio@csid.com. More details will be provided in the notifications.

NARFE has set up an http://www.narfe.org/legislation/action.cfm?ID=3835 webpage on the NARFE website, which is updated as more information becomes available. The page provides more details about the breach and what steps are being taken to manage the incident. NARFE members should regularly check the page for updates.

Fiscal Year 2016 Appropriations Update

The House voted Tuesday on fiscal year (FY) 2016 funding for the Department of Transportation and the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The $55.3 billion spending bill includes funding for Amtrak and the Washington, DC, Metro system, and lifts the provisions restricting travel to Cuba. The bill also includes next-year funding levels for the Highway Trust Fund, whose authorization expires in July. The bill passed on a 216-210 vote.

On Thursday, the House passed a $579 billion appropriation for the Department of Defense on a 278-149 vote. The bill includes a 2.3 percent pay raise for military personnel. The bill drew opposition from Democrats because it uses war-fighting accounts to raise defense spending for FY 2016, avoiding congressional spending caps. The Senate companion bill has passed the Senate Appropriations Committee.

To date, the House has passed half of the 12 annual appropriations bills. While the Senate Appropriations Committee is making progress, the full Senate has not yet considered any of the funding bills.

 Accessing the Legislative Action Center

NARFE members can use the Legislative Action Center (LAC) as the hub to send letters to your members of Congress and track NARFE-related bills and votes. NARFE frequently updates the LAC, so check back often.

Return to June 12, 2015

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NARFE Legislative Hotline, May 22, 2015

Message From NARFE President Richard G. Thissen

On behalf of the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, I salute America's men and women in uniform in recognition of Memorial Day. Our nation’s federal employees long have had the privilege of serving alongside members of the armed forces at home and abroad. We stand in solidarity with them and honor the loss and sacrifice of our uniformed colleagues. To America’s servicemen and women, who continue to make the ultimate sacrifice, a grateful nation thanks you.

House Committee Discusses FECA Reform

The House Education and the Workforce Subcommittee on Workforce Protections held a hearing on May 20 to discuss ways of reforming the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). Enacted in 1916, FECA was established to provide federal employees compensation for medical expenses and wages lost due to job-related injuries or illnesses.

The hearing focused on reforms proposed by the Department of Labor, including noncontroversial modernizations and program integrity measures, which have received broad bipartisan support, and controversial benefit reductions for injured federal workers. Reform proposals discussed at the hearing may be included in budget reconciliation legislation reported out of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.

NARFE supports the proposed modernizations and program integrity measures, but strongly opposes the DOL proposals to reduce FECA benefits at retirement age. NARFE President Richard G. Thissen submitted written testimony for the record to that end, which you can read here.

Civil Service Reform Hearing Held in Senate

The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management held a hearing titled, “21st Century Ideas for the 20th Century Federal Civil Service.”

Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford, R-OK, led the May 20 hearing, joined by Ranking Member Heidi Heitkamp, D-ND. Recognizing the need for civil service reform, the senators solicited ideas on a variety of topics, including rewarding high performers, making it easier to remove poor performers and providing better managerial training.

In a letter to the subcommittee, NARFE President Richard G. Thissen provided general recommendations for modernizing the federal civil service system. The letter is available on the NARFE website, here.

Consumer Prices Increase in April

Relevant to the cost-of-living-adjustment (COLA) to civil service annuities for 2016, the April Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W) is 231.520, a one-month increase of 0.20 percent. With five months remaining in the measurement year, the CPI-W has decreased 1.16 percent from the 2014 third-quarter average base index. If the third-quarter average of 2015 remains below the 2014 third-quarter average, retirees would not receive a COLA for 2016. Of interest to FECA beneficiaries, the April CPI-W figure is 0.70 percent higher than the December 2014 CPI-W figure.

The May CPI-W figure will be released June 18. For NARFE’s full COLA update, click here.

No Legislative Hotline Next Week

The House and Senate will be in recess next week for the Memorial Day holiday, and therefore will be no Legislative Hotline on Friday, May 29. The Hotline will return June 5.

 Accessing the Legislative Action Center

NARFE members can use the Legislative Action Center (LAC) as the hub to send letters to your members of Congress and track NARFE-related bills and votes. NARFE frequently updates the LAC, so check back often.

Return to May 22, 2015

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