Last Week in Washington
Last week was a particularly big week for federal employee issues on Capitol Hill, with lawmakers rushing to finish up legislative work ahead of the August recess. Below are the legislative stories are NFFE-IAM members should be following:
SENATE INTRODUCES BILL FOR LIFELONG IDENTITY PROTECTION: Earlier this month, NFFE, alongside our allies in the Senate from Virginia and Maryland, introduced the RECOVER Act (S. 1746). The bill calls for expanded identity theft coverage for federal workers, contractors, and other individuals affected by the OPM Data breaches, including lifetime identity theft coverage and a minimum of $5 million of identity theft insurance. NFFE has been vocal in voicing our concerns about the data breach, demanding more transparency and responsiveness from the administration and demanding greater steps be taken to alleviate the problem and protect those affected. It has been encouraging then to see members of Congress seeking fair solutions despite OPM’s underwhelming response. We remain completely committed to ensuring that all those affected receive adequate protections at no cost.
SENATE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE ADOPTS MEASURE TO INCREASE CREDIT MONITORING SERVICES: On Thursday, a Senate panel approved a measure spearheaded by Committee Ranking Member Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) to give current and former federal employees, and contractors affected by the hack of data housed at OPM increased protection services. The amendment, which was attached to the fiscal 2016 financial services and general government spending bill, provides victims with 10 years of credit monitoring services and offers $5 million in liability protection to hack victims. Such protections are a significant increase over what OPM is currently providing and is a step in the right direction towards fully protecting the federal employees and families who have been affected by this hack. NFFE has been active and vocal in our efforts to get greater protections for hack victims, including lifetime identity theft protections. The adoption of this amendment is a good start and a serious statement of intent from Congress that action needs to be taken. Read more here.
TSP G-FUND AT RISK TO FUND HIGHWAY TRUST FUND EXTENSION? NOT REALLY: Last week a tentative package of spending cuts and program changes floated by Senate Republicans surfaced including a controversial change to the Thrift Saving Program’s popular G-Fund option. The proposed plan aimed to cut returns of the G-Fund option from the current 2.25% annually to 0.02%. While the plan rang a number of alarm bells initially, the plan was quickly shot down by labor unions — including NFFE. Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) put it bluntly last week, stating simply that “it’s not gonna happen.” NFFE is committed to protecting federal employees’ pay and benefits from arbitrary cuts in congress such as this proposed one. Read more here.
VA EMPLOYEES’ DUE PROCESS RIGHTS UNDER ATTACK: Last week, the Senate VA Committee in a markup decided to move forwards with the Department of Veterans Affairs Accountability Act of 2015 (S. 1082). This bill, proposed by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), would effectively make all VA employees at-will employees by severely decreasing MSPB appeal times and would also extend the probationary period for new hires. Similarly, in the House a vote is expected early next week for an identical bill (H.R. 1994) proposed by Representative Jeff Miller (R-FL). NFFE strongly opposes both of these measures, and has been active in petitioning Congress to fight against them. They would accomplish nothing but to deteriorate morale and spread the culture of fear plaguing the VA. We will continue to fight for VA employees’ due-process rights as both of these measures move forwards.