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FMA Washington Report: December 8, 2023

This report provides an update on issues affecting federal managers. As always, I encourage you to visit www.fedmanagers.org on a regular basis for more information on these and other matters.

Also, be sure to look for the monthly FMA Grassroots Update, where we offer links to action letters and FMA-PAC matters we do not address in the Washington Report. The grassroots newsletter is sent exclusively to non-governmental email addresses to avoid any Hatch Act violations. If you are not receiving it, contact the national office to provide your non-governmental email address.

Please feel free to provide feedback any time by emailing Greg Stanford at gstanford@fedmanagers.org or by calling the National Office at (703) 683-8700. Thank you for your membership in FMA. It’s an honor to represent your interests before Congress and the administration.

Legislative Outreach
Continuing Resolution Funds Agencies Into 2024, Averts Government Shutdown – For Now

Congress passed, and President Biden signed, a laddered continuing resolution (CR), the Further Continuing Appropriations and Other Extensions Act, 2024 (H.R. 6363) to avert a government shutdown and keep the federal government funded into 2024. It is a two-tiered CR that funds the departments of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, Energy, Veterans Affairs and Agriculture through January 19, 2024. All other federal agencies, including the Department of Defense, are funded through February 2, 2024.

“The Federal Managers Association is relieved the House acted in a bipartisan manner to keep the government funded and prevent a shutdown as we approach the holiday season,” FMA National President Craig Carter said in a statement. “It will keep America’s hard working federal employees on the job, ensuring Americans will continue to receive the vital services they provide.”

NDAA Conference Report Ready for Final Vote in House and Senate

On December 7, conferees from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees released the Conference Report for the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024. The NDAA has successfully passed 62 consecutive years, but faced significant challenges this year.

U.S. Senators Jack Reed (D-RI) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and U.S. Representatives Mike Rogers (R-AL) and Adam Smith (D-WA), Chairman and Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, issued the following statement upon release:

Committee Advances O’Malley’s Nomination to Lead the Social Security Administration

The Social Security Administration (SSA) is one step closer to having its first permanent commissioner in more than two years. On November 28, the Senate Finance Committee favorably advanced the nomination of former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley as SSA Commissioner by a 17-10 vote. O’Malley was nominated in July for the post.

The SSA administers retirement, disability, survivor, and family benefits, and enrolls individuals in Medicare. Established in 1925, SSA is headquartered in Woodlawn, Maryland, outside of Baltimore. The Commissioner oversees a staff of nearly 60,000 employees. The field organization includes 10 regional offices, 6 processing centers, and approximately 1,230 field offices.

House Committee Holds Hearing on Post-Pandemic Telework Policy for the Federal Government

On Wednesday, November 29, the House Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Government Operations held a hearing about telework in the federal government titled, “Oversight of Federal Agencies’ Post-Pandemic Telework Policies: Part II.” Subcommittee Chairman Pete Sessions (R-TX) oversaw the hearing, which featured a panel including: Oren “Hank” McKnelly, Executive Counselor, Social Security Administration; Jeremy Pelter, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Administration, Department of Commerce; Kathryn Stevens, Acting Chief Human Capital Officer, Agency for International Development; and, Bob Leavitt, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Human Resources and Chief Human Capital Officer, Department of Health and Human Services.

Members of Congress expressed concerns about customer service, backlogs, and other challenges affecting agencies, assigning blame for these issues to continued telework policies. In one notable exchange, McKnelly described how the Social Security Administration monitors teleworking employees: “We have systems to schedule, assign and track workloads, including for individual employees in many cases,” McKnelly said. “Additionally, our employees are required to be accessible to their supervisors, clients, colleagues, and external parties for a variety of meetings. They are connected to the workplace whether they are in the office or at home.”

FMA Working For You!
FMA Submits Testimony for the Record for House Subcommittee Hearing on GPO and WEP Repeal

On November 20, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Social Security held a field hearing titled “Social Security’s Disservice to Public Servants: How the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and Government Pension Offset (GPO) Mistreat Government Workers.” Repealing both the GPO and WEP has long been an FMA legislative priority, and FMA National President Craig Carter submitted testimony for the official hearing record.

The hearing focused on the Social Security Fairness Act (H.R. 82) as a solution to the issue, a longstanding FMA issue brief. Introduced on January 9, 2023, H.R. 82 eliminates both the government pension offset and the windfall elimination provision. Sponsored by Representatives Garret Graves (R-LA) and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), the legislation has 300 cosponsors, including 201 Democrats and 99 Republicans. The Senate companion bill, S. 597, offered by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Susan Collins (R-ME) enjoys similar strong bipartisan support with 49 cosponsors.

What's Affecting Feds?
Open Enrollment Season for 2024 Closes December 11, 2023

We wanted to give you a reminder that the open enrollment season for health benefits, dental and vision insurance, and flexible spending accounts is closing soon. You can make changes affecting the 2024 plan year through Monday, December 11, 2023.

The average enrollee share increase for 2024 is 7.7 percent. The overall average Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) premium increase is 5.8 percent. The new health premiums go into effect January 1, 2024.

The average premium increase for dental plans for 2024 is 1.4 percent, and the average premium increase for vision plans is 1.1 percent.

OPM Provides a Retirement Quick Guide

In March, OPM launched a Retirement Quick Guide that shares what feds can expect through the retirement application process, how benefits are determined, and guidelines related to their interim and annuity payments. You can also view a three-page printable PDF version of the quick guide here: https://www.opm.gov/retirement-center/retirement-quick-guide/opm-retirement-quick-guide.pdf.

Lori Amos, Deputy Associate Director for OPM’s Retirement Services, commented on the progress made in 2023 on reducing the total number of outstanding retirement claims and new tools OPM has for prospective retirees. “This guide is our attempt to improve customer experience. We have put a lot of work, time, and effort based on feedback that we have received from our retiree community. Our goal is to be able to give [federal employees and retirees] information about the voluntary retirement process.”

Agency Outreach
OPM Unveils Talent Pool Tool on USAJOBS to Improve Hiring

On December 1, Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Associate Director, Workforce Policy and Innovation, Veronica Hinton sent a memo titled “New Talent Pools (Shared Certs) Feature for USAJOBS’ Agency Talent Portal.” The memo outlines a new tool via USAJOBS to assist the hiring process, allowing HR specialists at agencies to find candidates for jobs more easily. You can view the full memo here.

The new tool, the Talent Pools feature, can be found on USAJOBS’ Agency Talent Portal (ATP). According to an OPM flyer, a talent pool is “a list of qualified candidates who are already on an approved shared hiring certificate and ready to be hired. These candidates have opted-in to share their federal application with other federal agencies who are hiring for similar positions. You can use talent pools to find candidates that fit your hiring need.” Talent pools give your agency access to qualified candidates who are already on a hiring certificate and interested in similar jobs at any agency. You can quickly review their resumes and speed up the hiring process if the hiring certificate matches your positions.”

President’s Management Agenda Celebrates Two Years of Progress

On December 7, the Biden Administration announced progress on the President’s Management Agenda (PMA) and the most recent progress updates.

The PMA includes the core priorities of: strengthening and empowering the federal workforce; delivering excellent, equitable, and secure federal services and customer experience; and, managing the business of government. You can view updates in these three core areas at Performance.gov. You can also view quarterly Agency Priority Goal updates at that site, including the announced objectives of demonstrating progress in enhancing customer experiences, expanding access to broadband, and increasing recruitment efforts.


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