December 17 2008 FEA Pacific Update

DECEMBER 17, 2008
Debra Degalis, FEA Pacific Area Director

Area Director Activities: Can you believe it? The winter break is already upon us, and have you had time to breathe? Please do it now, take a moment for a deep cleansing breath. You deserve it.

Administrators' Conference: After returning from the Okinawa visit with Dr. Bresell and the schools, your district presidents and I shortened our Thanksgiving break to attend the Principals' Conference (November 30-December 5) at the New Sanno. Dr. Miles, new DoDEA Director addressed the conference to reveal her direction for DoDEA. We were all saddened when Dr. Miles announced that Dr. Bresell would be leaving the Pacific in August 2009 for Europe. On the bright side, we are receiving an experienced DoDDS Area Director, Diane Ohman. A video will be released soon by Dr. Miles on her vision for DoDEA for all employees.

Pacific Area Leaders (PAL) Council -- The PAL members with Michael Tate, Okinawa HCRC PAL representative, met in Tokyo following the conference. Your issues were brought forth by your leaders such as Gradespeed, EXCENT, Human Resources issues, observations, EPAS, medical and others. A summary of the October PAL meeting will be published in January. Your leaders are working hard on your behalf. When you have time, please thank them. As always, we ask that you keep us informed of ‘happenings' at your school. You are on the front line for the students.

AD Break: I depart for break late Thursday and will return to Japan, 31 December. I have found that New Year's Eve is one of the best times to be on a plane. There are so many open seats and it so calm. If there is an emergency, please contact our Uniserv, Michael Bauernfeind: 415-485-6001. I will check my email. Remember, contact information is in the handy dandy FEA pocket calendar!

AD Wishes: I wish for you a wonderful and reenergizing break and hope that no matter how you celebrate the holidays, that you take the time to enjoy, embrace, and express yourself with loved ones or on your trips abroad. ‘Til next year!

Two from the Pacific's Legal Eagle

Correction and repeat: I was notified that I had omitted some of the information regarding LQA Reimbursement.

LQA Reimbursement Options: In 2003 the Association was able to confirm for its members that agent and landlord fees could be reimbursed in three different ways. The reimbursement can be amortized over a one calendar year period in equal payments every pay period. The educator can borrow an amount of money equal to the agent and landlord fees from an American bank and then claim the total amount of interest paid on the loan or the educator can request that the Government advance the entire amount upfront for payment to the real estate agent of his finders fees an to the landlord as an appreciation fee or "thank you" money.

If you want the fees to be paid to you in a lump sum, then here is how it is done according to DODDS Human Resources:
The employee needs to complete the Start LQA SF 1190 and leave the blocks for agent/appreciation fees blank. The employee will also need to complete the memorandum titled, Request for Advance Payment of Agent's/Appreciations Fee. This memorandum must accompany the SF 1190 for review by the Pacific Team at DODEA. During the review, the employee will be notified if the request for lump sum payment of Agent/Appreciation fees and the estimated LQA expenses exceed the LQA maximum amount authorized.

The lump sum payment will not be paid if estimated amounts for utilities, rent, and Agent/Appreciation fees exceed the maximum LQA amount authorized. If authorized, the PMT B personnelist will forward the completed memorandum to DFAS to pay the fees as a lump sum payment.

The Joint Travel Regulations are promulgated by the Per Diem Travel and Transportation Committee at the Pentagon. The FEA has national consultation rights with this DOD activity. We work to make improvements in travel regulations whenever possible.

Here's a question. Your home of record is in Iowa. Your Permanent Duty Station is in Okinawa. When you take Renewal Agreement Travel you just want to spend the summer with in-laws in the Philippines. Is this possible under the JTR?

According a former official at DODEA, it is not authorized, but there are other options. The official travel destination for RAT must be within the United States or its authorized territories. Educators must spend a majority of their summer leave without pay recess time at the home of record or at a U.S. alternate destination. This location would be referred to as the "official travel destination." So, there is no requirement at this point to spend a majority of time during RAT at your Home of Record. You must spend a majority of your RAT at an official travel destination, which must be within the United States.

However, the first or final stop in the RAT journey for the summer can be to the Philippines or other overseas destination. When the travel is complete, the educator will only be reimbursed for the constructive cost of travel between the PDS and the home of record. It is not necessary to list the foreign country on the travel orders.

Other Information:

Future Secretary of Education: In case you have time, below are links to two articles about President Elect Obama's choice for Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan: release article

Extended Date for Early Notification Incentive: Dr. Miles has announced DoDEA will once again provide a $500 award, certificate and paperweight if you notify DoDEA by January 9, 2009. Please consider this offer as it also helps your colleagues in the transfer program and the continued effects of the drawdown.

Belated Enrollment for FEHB, FEDVIP and FSAFEDS: You will have an extended opportunity to make any enrollment changes in these programs through January 2009. Belated FEHB changes will take effect on or after January 1, 2009. Belated FSAFEDS changes will take effect on January 1, 2009, or the day after the change is received.

Summer Course Offering: The National Endowment for the Humanities is an independent grant-making agency of the Federal Government. Each year the NEH's Division of Education Programs offers teachers opportunities to study humanities topics in a variety of Summer Seminars and Institutes. The dates and duration of each project are listed under each title. The application deadline is March 2, 2009 (postmark). Get application information here.

Yen and Won Rates: To check the rates go to this Web site. Thanks to Xavier Flores, NEATA President for this website. Also attached is a daily yen rates chart.

Thrift Savings Plan Election -- TSP Web site. IRS contribution limits for 2009 -- For 2009, the IRS permits you to contribute up to $16,500 in tax-deferred money to the TSP. If you will be age 50 or older during 2009, you may also contribute up to $5,500 in additional "catch-up" contributions if your regular contributions for the year reach the $16,500 limit.

NEA's Read Across America: It's never too early to begin planning for this event. Visit NEA's Read Across America Web site. NEA launched the Read Across America program in 1997. The nationwide reading celebration takes place each year on or near March 2, the birthday of beloved children's author Dr. Seuss, who epitomizes a love of learning. Dr. Seuss's use of rhyme makes his books an effective tool for teaching young children the basic skills they need to be successful.

Debra S. Degalis
FEA Pacific Area Director
DSN 315-267-6159