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Federal Employees News Digest : Aug 26, 2013
August 26, 2013 Vol. 63, No. 6 3 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com Congress has tasked them with, only to have Congress turn around and bash their work. They're retiring before Congress forces them to take more hits to their pay and benefits," Klement said. Klement then quoted a letter---a typical one, she said---from a former Department of Agriculture employee, as conveying the sense of abuse many feds perceive today, as well as related factors that drive employees to retire early. "I had been eligible for three years and was beginning to feel that my services were better appreciated else- where," wrote the recent USDA retiree, who was not named. "It is really tiring to work hard serving the public interest, doing the job that Congress created and budgeted, and then listening day after day to the attacks from Congress." "As a USDA employee, I wanted every client to feel that we had their interest at heart while representing the best interest of the American taxpay- ers. Customer service is important to me," he continued. "And yet I feel that Congress treats us as freeloaders. I am really concerned about the morale of federal employees, with all the efforts of outsourcing, federal budget cutbacks and attacks from Congress." "I feel that if Congress doesn't want us to perform certain jobs, then those activities should be eliminated or defunded---that is the prerogative of Congress," the employee wrote. "But I do not appreciate the backdoor approach to eliminating activities by carrying out initiatives that deplete the federal workforce and cause us to not be able to do our job." "As the seconds tick by, our country is losing invaluable knowledge," Klement told FEND. "Recent policies have left many positions unfilled, furloughed workers and frozen pay. However, the critical, life-saving work of federal employees will not take pause." "A loss of intellectual capital hurts us all," she said. "We must maintain a strong federal workforce. The clock is ticking." The NARFE lost experience clock is online at: http://www.narfe.org/info/ LostFedTicker.cfm. USPS health plan would rely heavily on Medicare, GAO says A Government Accountability Office review of a U.S. Postal Service proposal to create its own health care plan said the scheme would produce large finan- cial gains for USPS, but could result in less funding being available for future employee and retiree healthcare needs. GAO explored the potential financial and employee impacts of the USPS plan, under which the Postal Service would pull out of the Federal Employees Health Benefits system and create its own pro- gram. USPS has been pressing Congress to approve the move as part of its long- term plan to regain financial stability. To get a sense of how the plan might play out, GAO analyzed USPS and FEHB data and interviewed officials from USPS, the Office of Personnel Management, Office of Management and Budget, Treasury Department and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, as well as postal employee groups and rep- resentatives of FEHB plans. GAO found that USPS in fact like- ly would realize large financial gains from the proposed health care plan---in large part by increasing retirees' use of Medicare. GAO cited USPS projections that its plan would add about $1 billion the first year---and about $1.3 billion a year for first five years of its health plan—to the more than $550 billion the federal government already spends each year for Medicare. GAO stressed the importance of eval- uating the impact of these additional costs in light of the financial pressure already faced by Medicare, but noted that "GAO has previously reported that Medicare is on a fiscally unsustainable path over the long term." Overall, GAO noted, USPS estimates its plan would reduce the Postal Service's retiree health benefit liability by $54.6 billion, thereby eliminating it altogether. 'Uncertainies' But the study also listed some elements of the proposal GAO said "would add uncertainties that could reduce funds available for [USPS] employees' and retirees' future health care." Among those: Investment of health plan assets. One of the plan's proposed options for investing health plan assets "would increase the risk exposure of these assets by allowing investments in assets other than Treasury securities, such as stocks, as well as com- modities, foreign currency, and other investments." Any losses in a market downturn would reduce assets available for health care, GAO said. Transfer of surplus funds. A proposed option to transfer health fund assets to use for purposes other than health benefits when those assets exceed health care liabilities "is not fiscally prudent," GAO said. "If USPS were to consistently exercise this option to help maintain its financial solvency, it could result in an unfunded liability for retiree health benefits." Selection of assumptions. GAO said USPS's proposal may allow for the use of "overly optimistic assumptions" that over time could result in insufficient funding for the health plan. GAO said those risks could be lowered by having a third-party choose those assumptions. GAO also detailed some of the pro- posed plan's possible effects on postal employees and retirees. Some enrollees may need to change providers, GAO said. And employees and retirees would have "many but not all the same protections around benefits and costs under the USPS plan as in FEHBP." For example, the study said, as it stands under the new plan, postal continued from page 1 Don’t miss our discussion of weekly news topics. Discuss these stories and more with your fellow federal workers at www.FederalSoup.com. continued on page 4
Aug 19, 2013
Sep 2, 2013