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By Judith Welles

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Talking federal benefits

This could be an interesting year for federal benefits judging from the talk and proposals coming from the Bush administration and Congress. Not all the proposals are the same, naturally, but the fact that attention is turning to benefits again is promising.

Congress held a hearing last week that brought all of the new ideas into focus.

Office of Personnel Management Director Linda Springer boasted that enrollments in the new Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP) had exceeded expectations. Some 400,000 feds enrolled in the dental program and 300,000 in the vision program.

She said OPM would continue to try to keep premiums down. National Treasury Employees Union President Colleen Kelley called for a government contribution to the FEDVIP premiums to keep costs down for employees.

Both saw the need for some sort of maternity benefit.Younger workers who came from the private sector to a government job know the disparity in this important benefit. When they start a family, they have to juggle annual, sick and donated leave to manage the time with a new baby.

OPM's approach would be short-term disability insurance. Other bills have already been introduced to provide paid parental leave comparable to what the private sector offers. With a priority on recruiting younger workers and staying competitive with private industry, this one should be a no-brainer.

Bills have also been introduced to enable federal employees to retire and return to work part-time without affecting their retirement benefits.

Other possible changes could be stricter requirements on agencies to provide telework opportunities and extend health care premium conversion to federal retirees, who do not have the tax benefit given to employees.

It now remains to be seen whether all of the talk about federal benefits will translate into action. If so, 2007 could be a very good year.

Posted by Judith Welles on Aug 08, 2007 at 12:13 PM


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