A Cautionary Tale: Divorce, Death and Survivor Benefits

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Via Beckstead v. Office of Personnel Management, 2020-1884 (Fed. Cir. Jan. 7, 2021) (MSPB Docket No. DE-0831-20-0119-I-1):
The court affirmed the administrative judge’s affirmance of OPM’s final decision denying the petitioner former spouse survivor annuity benefits. The court found that the survivor annuity election made during the petitioner’s marriage with the decedent terminated upon their post-retirement divorce and, despite the decedent’s receiving notice as required by statute of the election rights and obligations, no valid election was made or valid court order was issued granting the petitioner a former spouse survivor annuity.
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Background: Mrs. Beckstead was married to Lynn Beckstead (“Mr. Beckstead”) on February 4, 1965.
In 1971, Mr. Beckstead became a federal employee covered under the Civil Service Retirement System.
In 2007, he applied for retirement and elected a survivor annuity for his spouse, Mrs. Beckstead. Each year after Mr. Beckstead’s retirement, the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) sent him an Annual Notice of Survivor Annuity Election Rights (“Annual Notice”).
On December 3, 2009, Mr. and Mrs. Beckstead divorced. A state court in New Mexico issued a Default Decree of Dissolution of Marriage (“Divorce Decree”), which stated in relevant part that Mrs. Beckstead was entitled to:
Exactly one half (1/2) of any and all retirement benefits, 401(k) or other retirement account of [Lynn]. Such account(s) to be divided by Qualified Domestic Relations Order (QDRO). 
SAppx. 10. The Divorce Decree did not specifically provide for a survivor annuity, and no QDRO was issued while Mr. Beckstead was alive. Following the divorce, Mr. Beckstead did not notify OPM of the divorce and he never made a new election of a survivor annuity for Mrs. Beckstead.
Mr. Beckstead died on July 9, 2018, and Mrs. Beckstead applied for survivor annuity benefits thereafter. OPM informed Mrs. Beckstead that her application could not be processed because her Divorce Decree did not include the referenced QDRO.
On January 18, 2019, more than seven months after Mr. Beckstead’s death, the New Mexico state court issued a QDRO. SAppx. 24–26.
On March 19, 2019, OPM informed Mrs. Beckstead that she was not entitled to survivor annuity benefits because the QDRO was issued after Mr. Beckstead’s death. OPM then reconsidered and reversed its decision on the basis that the agency had failed to properly notify Mr. Beckstead of his rights to preserve the survivor annuity benefit after a divorce. SAppx. 32. Upon further review, however, OPM concluded that Mr. Beckstead had received notices informing him of his rights, but he did not elect a survivor annuity for Mrs. Beckstead after their divorce. Thus, on December 6, 2019, OPM confirmed its initial finding that Mrs. Beckstead was not entitled to former spouse survivor annuity benefits. SAppx. 35–36.
Read in full here (pdf).

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Do you know the statutory definition of “widow” for benefit purposes?

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Gibson v. Office of Personnel Management, No. 2020-1651 (Fed. Cir. September 9, 2020) (MSPB Docket No. PH-0831-20-0011-I-1): The appellant sought survivor annuity benefits under the Civil Service Retirement System, contending that she is a “widow” of a retired Federal employee. OPM denied the appellant’s application for benefits, finding that she did not meet the statutory definition of “widow” for benefit purposes under 5 U.S.C. § 8341(a)(1)(A), because the marriage to her husband lasted from May 21, 2018, until his death on February 15, 2019 (270 days). This was short of the “at least 9 months” requirement. On appeal, the Board affirmed OPM’s determination. Before the Federal Circuit, the appellant contested the application of the term “months” and argued that each month should be counted as having 30 days, meaning her 270-day marriage was 9 months in duration. The court rejected this argument and affirmed the Board’s final decision. Citing Supreme Court precedent as support, the court concluded that the phrase “9 months” has an “ordinary public meaning” that counts time as calendar months. The court further explained that Congress often uses, including in the statute at issue, “days” as a unit of measurement and could have done so in 5U.S.C. § 8341(a)(1)(A) if that were its intention. The appellant presented no grounds for “erasing the clear distinction between familiar counting methods.”

http://www.cafc.uscourts.gov/sites/default/files/opinions-orders/20-1651.OPINION.9-9-2020_1649543.pdf

 


 

 

Snapshot: Qualifying Injury Under 3 FAM 3660 – Compensation For Certain Injuries

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A section in the Foreign Affairs Manual was added on May 28, 2020 (see 3 FAM 3660 Compensation for Certain Injuries). It is based on Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, where:
“Congress allows the Secretary of State to pay benefits to certain Department of State personnel under chief of mission authority who incurred a qualifying injury and are receiving benefits under section 8105 or 8106 of Title 5, United States Code.  It further authorizes the Secretary of State to pay for the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered employee, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by chapter 81 of Title 5, United States Code (the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA)) or other provision of Federal law; and to pay the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered individual or covered dependent, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by Federal law.”
3 FAM 3660 also includes definitions on who are covered employees, or covered individuals, what’s a “qualifying injury”, and the description of recognized and eligible qualifying injuries as of June 26, 2018.

3 FAM 3662  DEFINITIONS
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

Qualifying injury:  The term “qualifying injury” means the following:

(1)  With respect to a covered dependent, an injury listed in (3) below incurred

(a)  during a period in which a covered dependent is accompanying an employee to an assigned duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666;

(b)  in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State; and

(c)  that was not the result of the willful misconduct of the covered dependent.

(2)  With respect to a covered employee or a covered individual, an injury listed in (3) below incurred

(a)  during a period of assignment to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666;

(b)  in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State; and

(c)  that was not the result of the willful misconduct of the covered employee or covered individual.

(3)  Recognized and eligible qualifying injuries, as of 26 June 2018, based on the University of Pennsylvania-identified criteria, include the following:

        • sharp localized ear pain;
        • dull unilateral headache;
        • tinnitus in one ear;
        • vertigo,
        • visual focusing issues;
        • disorientation;
        • nausea;
        • extreme fatigue;
        • cognitive problems, including difficulty with concentration, working memory, and attention;
        • recurrent headache;
        • high-frequency unilateral hearing loss;
        • sleep disturbance;
        • and imbalance walking.

3 FAM 3666  SECRETARY OF STATE COUNTRY DESIGNATION
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

a. Under Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, the Secretary of State may designate another foreign country for the purposes of this section, provided that the Secretary reports such designation to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and includes in such report a rationale for each such designation.

b. The Secretary of State may not designate an added foreign country or duty station for the purposes of providing additional monetary benefit pursuant to 3 FAM 3663 or 3 FAM 3664 for a qualifying injury to covered employees, covered dependents, or covered individuals under this section unless the Secretary of State

(1)  provides to the Committees on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives 30 days’ notice of the designation of a particular additional country or duty station and the rationale for such an addition; and

(2)  provides no such additional monetary benefit pursuant to 3 FAM 3663 or 3 FAM 3664  to covered employees, covered dependents, or covered individuals for a qualifying injury until the 30-day notice period expires, unless there is written agreement by both the Chair and Ranking Members of both the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives that there is no objection to proceeding with provision of such monetary benefit compensation in less than 30 days.


 

 

Federal Employees’ Compensation Act Due to COVID-19

Via DOL/Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs:

DOL has created new procedures to specifically address COVID-19 claims. Employees filing a claim for workers’ compensation coverage as a result of COVID-19 should file Form CA-1, Notice of Traumatic Injury through your employer using the Employees’ Compensation Operations & Management Portal. The new procedures will also call the adjudicator’s attention to the type of employment held by the employee, rather than burdening the employee with identifying the exact day or time they contracted the novel coronavirus.

    • If a COVID-19 claim is filed by a person in high-risk employment, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) DFEC will accept that the exposure to COVID-19 was proximately caused by the nature of the employment. If the employer supports the claim and that the exposure occurred, and the CA-1 is filed within 30 days, the employee is eligible to receive Continuation of Pay for up to 45 days.
    • If a COVID-19 claim is filed by a person whose position is not considered high-risk, OWCP DFEC will require the claimant to provide a factual statement and any available evidence concerning exposure. The employing agency will also be expected to provide OWCP DFEC with any information they have regarding the alleged exposure, and to indicate whether they are supporting or controverting the claim. If the employer supports the claim and that the exposure occurred, and the CA-1 is filed within 30 days, the employee is eligible to receive Continuation of Pay for up to 45 days.

The key evidence needed for a COVID-19 FECA CLAIM as required by the law are the following:

Exposure – Federal employees who are required to interact with the public or front-line medical and public health personnel are considered to be in high-risk employment, thus triggering the application of Chapter 2-0805-6 of the FECA Procedure Manual. In such cases, there is an implicit recognition of a higher likelihood of infection; OWCP will confirm the nature of your employment based on your position title and after confirming with your employer that your position is indeed considered high risk. If your position has not been identified as a high-risk position, you will be asked to provide any evidence of the duration and length of your occupational exposure. This evidence may include information such as a description of job duties, which federal agency you worked for, and the location of the work. OWCP will ask your employing agency to provide information about occupational exposure including relevant agency records.

Medical – You will need to provide medical evidence establishing a diagnosis of COVID-19. You will also need to provide medical evidence establishing that the diagnosed COVID-19 was aggravated, accelerated, precipitated, or directly caused by your work-related activities. Please submit the results of any COVID-19 testing, if available. If you have encountered difficulty in obtaining such testing, OWCP will authorize such testing if you are working in high-risk employment or otherwise have a confirmed COVID-19 employment exposure.

Establishing causal relationship generally requires a qualified physician’s opinion, based on a reasonable degree of medical certainty, that the diagnosed condition is causally related to your employment conditions. This opinion must be based on a complete factual and medical background.

For your health and safety as well as the health of those around you, consider an appointment with your physician by videoconference or teleconference. A medical report generated as the result of such an appointment is compensable as long as it is signed by a physician.

OWCP will also assist by asking your employing agency for any pertinent medical information in their records.

Source:
DOL: Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation (DFEC)

 

@StateDept Updates Regulations to Include New Compensation For Certain Injuries #MysteryIllness #TheThing

 

On May 28, 2020, the State Department updated the Foreign Affairs Manual to include Compensation for Certain Injuries for State, USAID, USAGM, Commerce, Foreign Service Corps-USDA Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees who becomes injured “by reason of a qualifying injury and was assigned to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country as designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666.”

3 FAM 3660 COMPENSATION FOR CERTAIN INJURIES
(CT:PER-994;   05-28-2020)
(Uniform State/USAID/USAGM/Commerce/Foreign Service Corps-USDA)
(Applies to Foreign Service and Civil Service Employees)

a. Pursuant to Public Law 116-94, Division J, Title IX, section 901, Congress allows the Secretary of State to pay benefits to certain Department of State personnel under chief of mission authority who incurred a qualifying injury and are receiving benefits under section 8105 or 8106 of Title 5, United States Code.  It further authorizes the Secretary of State to pay for the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered employee, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by chapter 81 of Title 5, United States Code (the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA)) or other provision of Federal law; and to pay the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury of a covered individual or covered dependent, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, that are not otherwise covered by Federal law.

b. The Bureau of Global Talent Management (GTM) administers this program.

c.  Under this program, covered employees, as defined in 3 FAM 3662, may qualify for a monthly monetary benefit if they are receiving benefits under section 8105 or 8106 of Title 5, United States Code.

d. Under this program, a covered employee, covered individual, or covered dependent, as defined below, may qualify for reimbursement for the costs of diagnosing and treating a qualifying injury which are not otherwise covered.

e. Payments made under this provision are not considered workers’ compensation payments.

[…]

Covered employee:  An employee of the Department of State who, on or after January 1, 2016, becomes injured by reason of a qualifying injury and was assigned to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country as designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666.

(1)  For purposes of 3 FAM 3663, the following career-type employees are considered “employees of the Department of State” to whom this benefit may apply:  Department of State Foreign Service Officers, Department of State Foreign Service Specialists, and career Department of State Civil Service employees working overseas on detail or a Limited Non-Career Appointment (LNA).

Note that per FAM: The following are NOT considered “employees of the Department of State” for purposes of 3 FAM 3663:  retired employees and employees of other agencies; employees on limited appointments including LNAs (except as discussed above), Family Member Appointments (FMA), Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC), Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP), and Consular Affairs – Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) Adjudicator positions. Employees hired on a Personal Services Agreement (PSA) or Personal Services Contract (PSC) are also not employees under this section.     

 (2)  For purposes of 3 FAM 3664, the following employees are considered “employees of the Department of State” to whom this benefit may apply: Department of State Foreign Service Officers; Department of State Foreign Service Specialists; Department of State Civil Service employees; employees on Limited Non-Career Appointments (LNA), Family Member Appointments (FMA), Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC), Expanded Professional Associates Program (EPAP), and Consular Affairs – Appointment Eligible Family Member (CA-AEFM) Adjudicator positions.

Note that the following are not considered “employees of the Department of State” for purposes of 3 FAM 3664:  employees hired on a Personal Services Agreement (PSA) or Personal Services Contract (PSC); retired employees, and employees of other agencies.

Covered individual:  An individual who, on or after January 1, 2016, becomes injured by reason of a qualifying injury and is

(1)  detailed to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666; or

(2)  affiliated with the Department of State, as determined by the Secretary of State.

(3)  Per Memorandum signed 24 April 2020, the Under Secretary for Management has determined that other agency employees under chief of mission authority are “affiliated with the Department of State.”

Covered dependent:  A family member of a Federal employee who, on or after January 1, 2016,

(1)  accompanies the employee to an assigned duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State under 3 FAM 3666; and

(2)  becomes injured by reason of a qualifying injury.

Family member:  An individual who is an “Eligible Family Member” as defined in 14 FAM 511.3.

Continue reading

Spending Bill Includes Benefits For USG Employees & Dependents Injured While Serving in China and Cuba

 

On December 16, 2019, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) announced that she has secured long-term, emergency care for U.S. Government employees & dependents who were injured while serving in China & Cuba: 

Long-term Emergency Care for U.S. Government Employees & Dependents Injured while Serving in China and Cuba

Shaheen successfully secured language to provide long-term, emergency care benefits for injured U.S. Government employees—and their dependents—who served overseas. Currently, a group of over 40 employees have been designated by the U.S. Government as suffering injuries as a result of a hostile action or health incident while serving in China and Cuba. This provision would provide for their prescribed care, as well as the care of their injured dependents, if their insurance or worker’s compensation benefits fall short.

In March, CBS 60 Minutes reported on the first-hand accounts of the diplomats serving in China who have experienced these alarming health conditions and the disturbing lack of care and support from the U.S. government, despite the fact that their symptoms appear to match those of U.S. diplomats who were working in Havana, Cuba. The 60 Minutes report featured a letter from Senator Shaheen to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting that the State Department “re-examine the cases from China … and provide all injured personnel with equal access to treatment, leave and benefits.”

Senator Shaheen’s provision would authorize the State Department to provide the following:

    • Long-term, emergency care benefits to federal employees that were injured as a part of their duties in China and Cuba;
    • Allow dependents of these employees to receive benefits if their primary insurance denies their claims; and
    • Would also allow USG employees to receive compensation if their injuries preclude them from working a full work schedule.
Per Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020
Under TITLE IX—OTHER MATTERS | SEC. 901. SPECIAL RULES FOR CERTAIN MONTHLY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION PAYMENTS AND OTHER PAYMENTS FOR DEPARTMENT OF STATE PERSONNEL UNDER CHIEF OF MISSION AUTHORITY:
Under ADJUSTMENT OF COMPENSATION FOR CERTAIN 21 INJURIES.— 

The Secretary of State may pay an additional monthly monetary benefit, provided that the covered employee is receiving benefits under section 8105 or 8106 of title 5, United States Code, and may determine the amount of each monthly monetary benefit amount by taking into account— (A) the severity of the qualifying injury; (B) the circumstances by which the covered employee became injured; and (C) the seniority of the covered employee, particularly for purposes of compensating for lost career growth.

Under COSTS FOR TREATING QUALIFYING INJURIES.—

The Secretary of State may pay the costs of or reimburse for diagnosing and treating— (1) a qualifying injury of a covered employee for such costs, that are not otherwise covered by chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code, or other provision of Federal law; or (2) a covered individual, or a covered dependent, for such costs that are not otherwise covered by Federal law.

Under QUALIFYING INJURY.—

The term ‘‘qualifying injury’’ means the following: (A) With respect to a covered dependent, an injury incurred—  (i) during a period in which the covered dependent is accompanying an employee to an assigned duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another foreign country designated by the Secretary of State pursuant to subsection (f); (ii) in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State …

(B) With respect to a covered employee or a covered individual, an injury incurred—  (i) during a period of assignment to a duty station in the Republic of Cuba, the People’s Republic of China, or another country designated by the Secretary of State pursuant to subsection (f);  (ii) in connection with war, insurgency, hostile act, terrorist activity, or other incident designated by the Secretary of State; and…

Under APPLICATION.—

(1) IN GENERAL.—This section shall apply with respect to— (A) payments made to covered employees (as defined in such section) under section 8105 or 8106 of title 5, United States Code, beginning on or after January 1, 2016; and (B) diagnosis or treatment described in subsection (b) occurring on or after January 1, 23 2016.

Under REGULATIONS.—

Not later than 120 days after the date of the enactment of this Act, the Secretary of State shall— (1) prescribe regulations ensuring the fair and equitable implementation of this section; and (2) submit to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives such regulations.

Under this bill, the Secretary of State may also designate another foreign country for the purposes of this section, provided that the Secretary reports such designation to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the House of Representatives, and includes in such report a rationale for each such designation.

 

 

Decision Window For Federal Long Term Care Insurance With Shocking Premium Hike Closes 9/30/16

Posted: 3:01 am ET
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Excerpted from CRS Insight (PDF), September 2016 via Secrecy News:

On July 16, 2016, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) announced a premium rate increase for long-term care insurance policies purchased through the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP). The new rates were established following an open competitive bidding process. That process awarded a new seven-year contract to the prior insurer and sole bidder, John Hancock Life & Health Insurance Company, to continue providing coverage. According to OPM, the higher premiums are based on an analysis that used updated assumptions of industry trends and claims experience. The analysis determined that current FLTCIP premiums were not sufficient to meet projected costs and benefits. Most federal workers enrolled in FLTCIP are affected by the premium increase (an estimated 264,000 of the 274,000 enrollees).

During OPM’s 2016 Enrollee Decision Period, enrollees affected by the rate increase have until September 30, 2016, to decide whether to:

(1) keep their current coverage and pay the increase;
(2) reduce coverage in order to maintain their current premium; or
(3) allow their policies to lapse (i.e., drop coverage in the program).

Rate increases are scheduled to take effect November 1, 2016.
[…]
According to news sources, premiums are expected to increase by 83%, on average. Some Members of Congress have expressed their concerns to OPM leadership and John Hancock about such dramatic increases, calling for more time for enrollees to assess options as well as for congressional hearings on the issue.

Rate Stability and Long-Term Care Insurance

Federal workers are not the only policyholders to face LTCI premium increases. Over the past two decades, annual LTCI premiums have increased significantly overall for both current and new policyholders. Higher average premiums reflect increased demand for more comprehensive benefit packages (including inflation protection) and higher daily benefit amounts. Premium increases have also been driven by inadequate medical underwriting, premiums that were initially set too low, and insufficient growth in reserves to cover future claims. Thus, premium or rate stability depends largely on the ability of insurers to adequately predict future claims. Most policies issued before the mid-2000s have incorrectly predicted claims, necessitating changes to key pricing assumptions. For example, rising claims, lower mortality rates, lower-than-predicted voluntary termination (lapse) rates, and lower-than-predicted rates of return on investments have been cited as key reasons for LTCI premium increases. Nevertheless, large rate increases, such as those proposed by the FLTCIP, are likely to have a continued effect on consumer confidence in these products, possibly leading to further reductions in consumer demand.

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@StateDept Updates Policy Guidance on Special Rest and Recuperation (SR&R) Travel

Posted: 12:12 am ET
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On August 10, 2016, the State Department updated its policy guidance on Special Rest and Recuperation (SR&R) for the Foreign Service at State, USAID, Commerce, Agriculture and BBG.  SR&R is discretionary R&R travel authorized by the Under Secretary for Management.  These are additional R&R trips for posts already designated for R&R trips as specified in 3 FAM 3725.2, or for a post that does not normally qualify for an R&R but experiences extraordinary circumstances that warrant a one-time R&R.  Note that due to their immediate proximity to the United States, Mexico border posts are not eligible for SR&R (or R&R) according to the Foreign Affairs Manual.

3 FAM 3727.1 Special Rest and Recuperation (SR&R)
(CT:PER-828; 08-10-2016)
(Uniform State/USAID/Commerce/Agriculture/BBG)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees only)

a. In extraordinary circumstances, the Under Secretary for Management (M), acting on behalf of the Secretary, may authorize additional R&R trips for posts already designated for R&R trips as specified in 3 FAM 3725.2, or for a post that does not normally qualify for an R&R but experiences extraordinary circumstances that warrant a one-time R&R. This discretionary R&R travel authorized by M is known as Special R&R travel (SR&R).

(1) With the exception of Mexico border posts, any post that is in unaccompanied status or has a combined Post Differential and Danger Pay rate of 35 percent will automatically qualify for one SR&R.

(2) If a post does not automatically qualify for one SR&R or the post automatically qualifies for one SR&R but would like to request additional SR&Rs, that post must seek authorization by having the appropriate regional bureau executive director send a memorandum to the Director of the Office of Allowances (A/OPR/ALS). The memorandum must include a clear justification (in 250 words or less) for any requested SR&R including specific extraordinary conditions of hardship which exist at post. The Director of A/OPR/ALS will convene a nine-member committeewhich shall include one representative from each regional bureau, HR, M/PRI, and Allowancesto review all SR&R requests and send recommendations to M for final approval. In order to recommend an SR&R to M, seven of the nine committee members must vote in favor of the SR&R. A/OPR/ALS will notify all requesting offices of Ms determination and update Special R&R information in the annual bidding tool. One-year Priority Staffing Posts (PSP) and posts with Service Recognition Packages (SRP) fall outside the purview of this process.

(3) Authorization for Special R&R expires annually. Requests for new, multiple, or continuation of Special R&R travel must be resubmitted to regional bureaus by memorandum no later than May 15 each year.

(4) The SR&R qualification process was changed in August 2016. For posts that will lose one or more SR&Rs under the new process, personnel who were serving at or paneled to those posts during the 2016-2017 winter cycle will be grandfathered in under the old system for the length of their tour. This means that those individuals will be awarded the SR&Rs that they would have been given under the system immediately prior to the change in August 2016.

c. The Under Secretary for Management may designate in writing a post for a SR&R where the tour of duty is not traditional. A Special R&R may be warranted because of extreme danger, unaccompanied post status, severely substandard living conditions, extreme isolation, or other unusual conditions. Because of their immediate proximity to the United States, Mexico border posts are not eligible for SR&R (or R&R).

d. Clearances for initiating and terminating a SR&R must be obtained by the requesting regional bureau from other foreign affairs agencies when such agencies have personnel at post. (For USAID, contact the regional bureau AMS staff.)

e. When approval for a SR&R is requested from M, the regional bureau executive director shall recommend whether all employees currently at post or employees arriving at post will be eligible for it. For example, employees on TDY; employees whose departure from post is imminent; or new employees who will not experience the same degree of hardship that current employees have experienced, might be excluded. If M approves the SR&R, the post shall be notified of any such limitations by the regional bureau.

3 FAM 3727.2 Eligibility and Tour of Duty
(CT:PER-828; 08-10-2016)
(Uniform State/USAID/Commerce/Agriculture/BBG)
(Applies to Foreign Service Employees only)

a. The Departments policy for time spent at post for Special R&Rs differs from that of regular R&Rs discussed in 3 FAM 3722, paragraph a. For example, SR&Rs may be authorized for posts with a tour of duty of less than 2 years. In addition, the employee is not required to complete the requirements for the regular R&R in order to be eligible for the Special R&R. For:

Tour of duty of less than 2 years: An employee must be able to complete a minimum of 12 months at post to be eligible for the Special R&R. Generally, a post with a tour of duty of less than 2 years will not be authorized more than one Special R&R.

Tour of duty of 2 years: Employees at posts with 2-year tours of duty (including a split 4-year tour of duty) must be able to complete a minimum of 12 months at post to be eligible for a Special R&R. Generally, no more than two R&R trips (Special and/or regular) will be authorized for posts with a tour of duty of 2 years.

Tour of duty of 3 years: Employees, whose assignments are extended to 3 years at posts that have been granted both Special and regular R&Rs, may receive an additional R&R trip for the extra year of service. Generally, no more than three R&R (Special and regular) trips will be authorized for posts with a tour of duty of 3 years.

b. The Department policy for time spent at post for Special R&Rs differs further in the case of employees serving at certain posts specifically designated by the Director General for home leave after completion of 12 months of continuous service abroad. Employees in such a category should consult applicable service recognition packages and post policies to determine eligibility for R&R travel.

c. The Bureau of Human Resources, Office of Employee Relations, Employee Programs Division, is available for policy guidance.

Read in full:  3 FAM 3720 REST AND RECUPERATION (R&R) TRAVEL (changes are in magenta).

 

Related items:

3 FAH-1 H-3720  | REST AND RECUPERATION (R&R) TRAVEL

3 FAH-1 Exhibit H-3722(1)  Posts and Designated Relief Areas For R&R Travel

 

 

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Mr. Smith Writes to Washington, Goes to Bat For Local Staff in the Persian Gulf’s Unfair Labor Markets

Posted: 2:43 am ET
Updated: 10:17 am PT
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Via AFSA:

William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent by a Mid-Career Officer – Jefferson Smith, U.S. Embassy Kuwait

Jefferson Smith receives this year’s William R. Rivkin Award for Constructive Dissent by a Mid-Career Officer for his commitment to combatting unfair labor practices and his push for compensation reform for locally employed (LE) staff at posts in the Persian Gulf.

While posted to Kuwait, Management Counselor Smith observed that the nine embassies and consulates in the Persian Gulf region are staffed almost exclusively by third-country nationals (TCNs) who did not enjoy the rights of citizens and earned wages and benefits so low that they could not support their families. U.S. Embassy Kuwait employs more than 200 TCN men and women from 27 different nationalities—and employs no Kuwaitis because the U.S. government does not pay enough to attract them.

Mr. Smith gathered data, framed his arguments and then brought his views to a regional management officers’ conference, where he found allies and organized a regionwide approach. He then wrote a detailed, thoughtful cable to Washington, signed by the six regional ambassadors, proposing that the department should define a new standard for compensating its LE staff at posts employing a majority of TCNs in unfair labor markets.

In short, Mr. Smith challenged the department to lead—not just follow—local practice in these markets. All of his preparation and action had an effect: The under secretary for management approved a Public Interest Determination (a policy exception) to create housing and education allowances for LE staff, and moved U.S. Embassy Kuwait to the top of the list for the next tranche of wage increases. The result was an average 22-percent salary increase in addition to the new allowances.

Mr. Smith’s success in winning a more just compensation package for the LE staff of U.S. Embassy Kuwait was an important milestone that will serve as a model as he and others continue to fight for a more equitable way to compensate employees under these conditions.

Mr. Smith has served in Kuwait since 2014. As a management-coned Foreign Service officer, Mr. Smith has had opportunities to serve in consular, economic, political and management functions in four regional bureaus and six overseas assignments, including Kingston, Dar es Salaam (twice), Yaoundé, Dublin and Kuwait.

The annual award is named after Ambassador William R. Rivkin (1919–1967) who served as ambassador to Luxembourg, Senegal, and Gambia in the 1960s.  He is the father of Charles Rivkin, the current U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs, and the former U.S. Ambassador to France (2009-2013). Read A/S Rivkin’s Honoring Constructive Dissent: The William R. Rivkin Award on DipNote.

We should note that this is one of AFSA’s three dissent awards and is separate from the State Department “Dissent Channel.” The FAM precludes the use of the official Channel to address “non-policy issues (e.g., management or personnel issues that are not significantly related to substantive matters of policy).”

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$400K Life Insurance Supplemental to Eligible Employees Killed in Terrorist Attacks

Posted: 2:27 am EDT
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We’re working our way through the‘‘Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016’’ which became Public Law No: 114-113 on December 18, 2015. Under Special Provisions, SEC . 7034 modifies the life insurance supplemental granted to those employees killed in terrorist attacks  (see p.522 of a pdf file or search text here):

(d) DIRECTIVES AND  AUTHORITIES .—

(5) MODIFICATION OF LIFE INSURANCE SUPPLEMENTAL APPLICABLE TO THOSE KILLED IN TERRORIST ATTACKS .—

(A) Section 415(a)(1) of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3975(a)(1)) is amended by striking ‘‘a payment from the United States in an amount that, when added to the amount of the employee’s employer-provided group life insurance policy coverage (if any), equals $400,000’’ and inserting ‘‘a special payment of $400,000, which shall be in addition to any employer provided life insurance policy coverage’’.

(B) The insurance benefit under section 415 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (22 U.S.C. 3975), as amended by subparagraph (A), shall be applicable to eligible employees who die as a result of injuries sustained while on duty abroad because of an act of terrorism, as defined in section 140(d) of the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, Fiscal Years 1998 and 1999 (22 U.S.C. 2656f(d)), anytime on or after April 18, 1983.

Terrorism as defined under 22 U.S.C. 2656f(d)), read more here.

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan pay their respects and tribute to the 13 American civilian and 4 U.S. military personnel victims of the embassy bombing.

President Ronald Reagan and First Lady Nancy Reagan pay their respects and tribute to the 13 American civilian and 4 U.S. military personnel victims of the embassy bombing. (Photo via Wikipedia)

Here is 3 FAM 3653.1 last updated on February 26, 2015 (PDF) on the Life Insurance Supplement:

(1)  Foreign Service Employees. Section 415 of the Foreign Service Act of 1980 (“Section 415”) allows for payment of a life insurance supplement to any Foreign Service employee who dies from injuries sustained as a result of terrorism while on duty abroad; and

(2)  Other Employees and Unpaid Interns. The life insurance supplement provided under Section 415 is available to any other employee of the Department of State or other relevant agency (as “employee” is defined under 5 U.S.C. 8101, see 3 FAM 3652.1), including but not limited to an individual employed under a PSA or PSC pursuant to 22 U.S.C. 2669(c) or an individual serving in an uncompensated capacity, who dies from injuries sustained as a result of terrorism while on duty abroad and subject to the authority of the chief of mission pursuant to Section 207

Currently, per 3 FAM 3653.3 Amounts Payable (PDF)
(b) Life Insurance Supplement:

(1)  Eligible employees, as defined in 3 FAM 3653.1(b), other than those described in paragraph (2) below, will receive from the employing agency a life insurance supplement payment under Section 415 in an amount that, when added to the amount of the employee’s employer-provided or employer-supported life insurance policy coverage (e.g., Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program or other policy partially funded by the employing agency), if any, equals $400,000; and

(2)  Employees compensated under LCPs, or individuals hired locally and serving in an uncompensated capacity, will receive from the employing agency a life insurance supplement payment under Section 415 in an amount that, when added to the amount of the employee’s employer- provided or employer-supported life insurance policy coverage, if any, is equivalent to two and a half years’ basic salary at the highest step of the highest grade on the employee’s LCP at the time of death (or, for locally employed individuals serving in an uncompensated capacity, the LCP governing the post in which the individual served), not to exceed the equivalent of $400,000.

The modification does not mention retroactive payments but note that it says injuries sustained while on duty abroad due to an act of terrorism, “anytime on or after April 18, 1983.”   That’s the date of the U.S. Embassy Beirut, Lebanon suicide bombing that killed 63 people including 17 Americans.

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Related item:

3 FAM 3620 | FEDERAL EMPLOYEES GROUP LIFE INSURANCE (FEGLI) PROGRAM (PDF)