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Federal Employees News Digest : April 29, 2013
Phil Piemonte, Managing Editor E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org What's Inside44 April 29, 2013 • Vol. 62, No. 39 Unions support OPM call to insure domestic partners The Office of Personnel Management recent- ly announced a plan---earlier proposed by the White House---to extend Federal Employees Health Benefits Program benefits to domestic partners of federal employees. The plan to extend FEHB benefits to domes- tic partners would require action by Congress. President Obama---who has backed the change from the beginning of his tenure---included it in his budget proposal for fiscal 2014, while OPM offered its perspectives on implementing the plan in testimony before the House Oversight Subcommittee on the Federal Workforce earlier this month. "This proposal would align the FEHB pro- gram with best practices in the private sector as larger employers competing for talent are increasingly offering domestic partner benefits," OPM said in its budget "factsheet" on the proposal. "The administration also continues to support the Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act [the proposed legislation], which provides the same benefits to same-sex domestic partners of federal employees as those provided to married heterosexual partners of federal employees..." The factsheet notes that the bill would extend to domestic partners of feds benefits "includ- ing not only health insurance, but also survivor annuities, compensation for work-related inju- ries, travel and relocation benefits, life insurance, and vision and dental benefits." Bill has flaws The Domestic Partnership Benefits and Obligations Act was introduced in 2012 by former Rep. (and now Sen.) Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.) and Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) in the House, and by Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and former Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) in the Senate. That legislation has been reintroduced in the current Congress. "I don't know how many people would be affected by this," Jacque Simon, public policy direc- tor for the American Federation of Government Employees, told FEND. "Remember, it would cover heterosexual couples as well as same-sex couples. But, unfortunately, as it is written, same- sex couples would have to pay income tax on the value of the coverage of their partner." Simon explained that this flaw exists because under existing law, only "dependents" as defined by current tax law---for example, minor children under an employee's care---can be added without leading to such a tax liability. AFGE is advocating that the problem be remedied, but nonetheless backs the existing bill. "We support the legislation," Simons told FEND. Another federal employee union, the National Treasury Employees Union, like AFGE also supports the push to permit FEHB coverage of domestic partners of feds. NTEU President Colleen Kelley recently slammed the current situation. "This is a discriminatory denial of benefits to one group of federal families," Kelley said, "and must be ended." Simon told FEND that a major cause of the unfavorable tax treatment, ultimately, is the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA, which cur- rently prohibits federal recognition of same-sex marriage. That law, enacted in the 1990s, is cur- rently under review by the Supreme Court. Unless DOMA is rolled back, Simon said, any fix is really bound to be a "partial step---it doesn't solve the general inequality issue." Other government employee organization Betting on the good guys Federal workers are on the job, aka taken for granted, most of the time. But they become key players anytime there is a nat- ural disaster or a ter- rorist attack, or when war clouds gather or the nation faces economic peril. We found this out (again) following the bombings at the Boston Marathon, and in the wake of the horrific fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. The Texas explo- sion, which killed and maimed even more people than the Boston bombs, was treated for a time as a possible anti-government bombing, perhaps timed near the anniver- sary of the Oklahoma City bombing or the siege of the Branch Davidian compound in nearby Waco, Texas. As favorite targets of politicians and the news media, federal government workers had (and continue to have) a major stake in addressing the Boston Marathon bomb- ings. Federal employees will be involved in determining the outcome of the investiga- tion itself, as well as gathering, interpreting and disseminating additional information about how the suspects were killed or cap- tured, and investigating what the suspects' future plans may have been and whether they have confederates out there. In the case of the Boston terrorist attacks, it is clear to most---even in this short-atten- tion-span age of the 24/7 news cycle---that INSIGHT BY MIKE CAUSEY continued on page 2 For more news...see Federal Daily at www.FederalDaily.com • Groups urge end to furloughs 3 • PMG calls for reform 4 • In Brief 5 • Informed Investor 7 • Federal Benefits Q&A 8 continued on page 3
April 22, 2013
May 6, 2013