December 3 2019 FEA President's Report
TO: FEA Members Worldwide
FROM: Brian Chance, FEA President
RE: FEA President's Report
DATE: December 3, 2019
PAY GRIEVANCE FILED
FEA's Washington DC office has filed an Association Grievance under the Overseas Negotiated Agreement over the ongoing pay problems that have been affecting employees this school year. The Federal Education Association-Stateside Region (FEA-SR) is also filing its own Association Grievance this week, covering Stateside employees, including Guam. Both the FEA DC office and FEA-SR have made management aware of numerous pay problems this school year. Most problems continue without resolution.
DoDEA has blamed the ongoing pay problems on the implementation of spread pay automation in the Defense Civilian Personnel System. The Association has informed DoDEA that promises the Agency has made to get pay fixed by the end of the school year are insufficient; the affected individuals need to have their pay fixed immediately and they need to have the improperly withheld funds restored to them by the end of the calendar year in order to avoid potential tax issues.
The Association would still prefer working directly with DoDEA to resolve these pay issues and we remain willing to do so. In order to make sure our members' rights are protected, however, we are filing an Association Grievance at this time.
CHECK YOUR LES
FEA advises all members to regularly check your Leave and Earnings Statements (LESs) for potential improprieties with your pay. In particular, we advise you to check all LESs since the start of the current school year.
You can view your LES online by going to the DFAS MyPay site
Check to make sure you are on the correct pay lane and step and that you recognize any deductions or withholdings. In particular, look under the "REMARKS" (wording would be similar to "X number of dollars were collected this pay period for a debt") and "RETROACTIVE EARNINGS" (if that section appears on your LES, located under "CURRENT EARNINGS") sections for any inconsistencies with the amounts paid to you.
If you believe you have been paid incorrectly, you should contact your Association Representative immediately for assistance.
The Association has posted a salary organizer, created by SHAPE ES member Larry Tjelveit, that members can use to help keep track of their pay.
If you have waited more than 3 pay periods for a response to your RAT/PCS/EdT/TDY voucher please email me with the information (date submitted, correspondence, etc.) I will follow up with DoDEA HQ and get back to you! email@example.com
The funding uncertainty throughout the federal government (see item, below) is making it very hard to even begin discussions about the possibility of an Overseas Transfer Program this school year. DoDEA is not to blame for this uncertainty, since they do not control the funding process in Congress. I am scheduled to meet with Director Brady December 10 and will raise the transfer issue there. The Association will continue to push for a robust and true transfer program.
The government continues to operate under a series of continuing funding resolutions, the most recent one passed a week before Thanksgiving and only funds the government until December 20. If additional funding is not passed by then -- either in the form of full spending bills or more continuing resolutions -- we face another potential government shutdown just prior to Christmas.
PCS TAX RELIEF UNCERTAINTY
While the threat of another possible government shutdown is of high concern to all Association members, ongoing federal budget uncertainty is also putting at risk the possibility of tax relief for incoming or retiring/separating civilian employees who are moved between the U.S. and an overseas duty. Such employees are not currently eligible for RITA (Reimbursable Income Tax Allowance) on the taxes assessed for government-provided moving services and allowances between the U.S. and the employee's first or last duty station.
NEA Government Relations, working closely with the FEA DC office, has worked with sympathetic members of Congress to have language inserted into the pending National Defense Authorization Act that would extend RITA reimbursements to such incoming/departing civilian feds. The RITA extension was included in both the Senate and House versions of the NDAA, making its inclusion in the final version of the bill very likely. However, that final version of the NDAA has been held up due to disputes about funding for a border wall, among other issues. This has resulted in the NDAA being replaced so far by continuing resolutions to keep the Pentagon funded at current levels. The current continuing resolution expires December 20.
One proposed solution to the funding conflict is the adoption of a so-called "Skinny NDAA", which would consist only of the most basic funding agreed to by both parties and the White House. It is not clear whether the RITA extension would be included in the Skinny NDAA but given the bare-bones nature of this possible bill, it seems doubtful. NEA and FEA will continue to urge inclusion of the PCS tax relief in whatever version of the NDAA is passed but, as with so much of the financial picture in DC these days, it remains impossible to predict the final outcome.
A reminder that Open Season for FEHB plans closes this coming Monday, December 9.
- FEHB enrollments/changes/terminations are made through the GRB Platform on the Army Benefits Center-Civilian (ABC-C) website at https://portal.chra.army.mil/abc. Benefit Specialists are available at DSN 520-2222, commercial 785-240-2222, or toll-free at 1-877-276-9287 Monday through Thursday from 7 am to 5 pm CT.
- The 2020 FEHB premium rates are currently available at this page.
- The 2019 FEHB plan information is available at this site.
- OPM recommends you view its Plan Comparison page to make an informed decision about your FEHB election.
A reminder that FSAFEDS also closes Monday, December 9.
- FSAFEDS enrollments are made through their website at fsafeds.com. Benefit Specialists are available at 1-877-FSAFEDS (372-3337) Monday through Friday from 9 am to 9 pm ET. FSA enrollments do NOT continue from year to year. You must re-enroll each year!
- If you are enrolled in a Health Care Flexible Spending Account (FSA) or the Limited Expense Health Care FSA in 2019, you are allowed to carry over up to $500 of unspent funds from 2019 to 2020. You must re-enroll in FSAFEDS to be eligible for the carryover.
Finally, I want to thank the members and local leadership at the following schools for achieving 100 percent membership in the Association this school year:
- Osan Elementary School
- Yokota Middle School
We are so grateful for the support and trust you have placed in us. Your membership allows FEA to speak with a unified voice for employees' rights and for positive change in the working environment. The challenges we face right now are great and the immediate future promises to be even more challenging; thank you for reminding us all that we stand strongest when we stand together!