Don't forget to floss

t's midway through September and time to ask: What lies ahead in Congress for federal workers?

It could be thumbs up for improving vision and dental benefits — at some cost to federal employees. The Federal Employee Dental and Vision Benefits Enhancement Act of 2004 (S. 2657) authorizes the Office of Personnel Management to negotiate vision and dental coverage plans for federal employees and retirees. Current coverage is meager at best.

Under the act, employees would have to foot the cost of premiums for better coverage, but OPM would negotiate the lowest rates.

Meanwhile, the House has passed H.R. 3751, which requires OPM officials to study and recommend options for enhanced dental, vision and hearing benefits.

Officials at the National Association for Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) are cautiously optimistic about the passage of improved coverage this year.

"We would have preferred taking the value of the health benefit that currently goes to vision and dental care and using it for government's contribution to new vision and dental coverage," said Dan Adcock, NARFE's assistant legislative director. "But we understand budget realities, and while that may not be possible now, we hope it will be in the future."

If the new coverage is enacted, NARFE officials plan to weigh in on group premium rates before OPM officials begin negotiating with insurers. "It's our hope that the group discount that OPM negotiates will make it attractive to the federal community," Adcock said.

But whether improved benefits occur this year or next, the best medicine is to keep flossing.

Back to balance

Whatever happened to work life balance as a standard? OPM officials held a Federal Workforce Conference on performance and productivity in Baltimore last week. Workshops focused on the Human Capital Standards for Success and emphasized planning, learning, achieving results-oriented performance, closing talent gaps and ensuring accountability.

Although none of the sessions specifically addressed work life balance, some dealt with communication skills for tough situations and leadership in post-trauma environments to give human resources professionals new skills to help others in stressful times.

Still, it should be noted that work life balance — including issues such as telework, child care, elder care and, yes, stress reduction — also makes it possible to plan and perform better and can help close those talent gaps, too.

According to Abby Block, OPM's deputy associate director for employee and family support, work life programs are integrated with benefits and are a component of the Human Capital Standards for Success. "Work life balance contributes importantly to performance and productivity," she said, "and is woven into recruitment and retention of federal employees."

She points out that OPM's work life focus is on telework and employee health. "The decisions people make can affect their health status. Our goal is to give them information to help them make those decisions," she said.

For information on telework and other work life issues, go to www.opm.gov/wrkfam.

Welles is a retired federal employee who has also worked in the private sector. She lives in Bethesda, Md., and writes about work life topics for Federal Computer Week. She can be reached at judywelles@fcw.com.

The 2015 Federal 100

Meet 100 women and men who are doing great things in federal IT.

Featured

  • Shutterstock image (by venimo): e-learning concept image, digital content and online webinar icons.

    Can MOOCs make the grade for federal training?

    Massive open online courses can offer specialized IT instruction on a flexible schedule and on the cheap. That may not always mesh with government's preference for structure and certification, however.

  • Shutterstock image (by edel): graduation cap and diploma.

    Cybersecurity: 6 schools with the right stuff

    The federal government craves more cybersecurity professionals. These six schools are helping meet that demand.

  • Rick Holgate

    Holgate to depart ATF

    Former ACT president will take a job with Gartner, follow his spouse to Vienna, Austria.

  • Are VA techies slacking off on Yammer?

    A new IG report cites security and productivity concerns associated with employees' use of the popular online collaboration tool.

  • Shutterstock image: digital fingerprint, cyber crime.

    Exclusive: The OPM breach details you haven't seen

    An official timeline of the Office of Personnel Management breach obtained by FCW pinpoints the hackers’ calibrated extraction of data, and the government's step-by-step response.

  • Stephen Warren

    Deputy CIO Warren exits VA

    The onetime acting CIO at Veterans Affairs will be taking over CIO duties at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency.

  • Shutterstock image: monitoring factors of healthcare.

    DOD awards massive health records contract

    Leidos, Accenture and Cerner pull off an unexpected win of the multi-billion-dollar Defense Healthcare Management System Modernization contract, beating out the presumptive health-records leader.

  • Sweating the OPM data breach -- Illustration by Dragutin Cvijanovic

    Sweating the stolen data

    Millions of background-check records were compromised, OPM now says. Here's the jaw-dropping range of personal data that was exposed.

  • FCW magazine

    Let's talk about Alliant 2

    The General Services Administration is going to great lengths to gather feedback on its IT services GWAC. Will it make for a better acquisition vehicle?

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above