OPM Sample Letters to Creditors During Furlough Have Been Around At Least Since 2013

The sample letters to creditors issued by OPM is available here.
Or click Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [85.5 KB]

We understand that the OPM sample letters to creditors during the furlough are actually driving some of our readers “insane.” This blogpost is for you. The first Wayback Machine capture of opm.gov was January 23, 2013. You will note that the website does not include sample letters to creditors. But there was a shutdown on Tuesday, October 1, 2013, which lasted for 16 days. A December 31, 2013 capture of opm.gov includes a longer Furlough Guidance including Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [49.87 KB]. The four-page document includes a cover page titled, “Sample Letters”, and three temple template letters to creditor, mortgage company, and landlord.

In December 2016, OPM similarly had undated issued a Sample Letters for Creditors, Mortgage Companies and Landlords (Word file) [85.5 KB] online. This document includes basically identical sample letters from 2013. The sample letters issued by OPM on December 27, right to that note about consulting “your personal attorney” is identical to the 2013 and 2016 versions. There were other government shutdowns prior to 2013, but the Wayback Machine does not include any opm.gov archive before 2013. It is possible that these letters existed prior to 2013 and they were just not archived online or they may have been created first in 2013 during the October 2013 shutdown to assist federal employees who encountered problems with creditors, mortgage companies, and landlords during a two-week shutdown. If you were at OPM or OMB and was nerdy enough to follow this in 2013, let us know.

OPM’s current version of the sample letters, although not marked as an update in the OPM website, removed the reference to a “personal attorney” and now just says “Following are sample letters that you may use as a guide when working with your creditors.  OPM is not able to provide legal advice to individual employees.”  This version is still four pages long but, it appears that OPM had also removed the last letter, the “Sample Letter to Landlord” and page 4 is now just an empty page. The Landlord sample letter includes the item about “the possibility of trading my services to perform maintenance (e.g. painting, carpentry work) in exchange for partial rent payments” which garnered a lot of attention on social media.

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Foreign Service Grievance Board: Out With The Old, In With The New — Website

— By Domani Spero

This is a topic almost as old as this blog. In 2008, we wrote that the Foreign Service Grievance Board website was like a relic from an Internet cold war. All the documents were still posted in MS Word, the search function was not terribly helpful and there was no option to search/browse its pending or resolved cases.

Related posts:

Last week, one of our readers gave us a heads-up that fsgb.gov website has gone missing and the web search is returning an error message. It was.  We found the one below from the Wayback Machine:

Screen Shot 2013-09-27

Screen grab of fsgb.gov from the Internet Archive’s Wayback Machine

About 48 hours later when we look again, we found this!

Screen Shot 2013-09-27

The new website is certainly an improvement from its ancient version.  Some of the more apparent changes:

  • “Browse Grievances” is now available by year. By far, 1996 was a banner year for grievances with 175 cases listed.
  • The posted cases from 2012 are available mostly in pdf files, making it accessible to read even without MS Word installed.
  • New decisions issued by the FSGB now include the names/signatures of the panel members hearing the cases.  Previous cases did not always have the names of the FSGB members or their signatures.
  • The Annual Reports have been updated to include the 2012 report which was submitted to Congress in March 2013, but did not make it online till now (2012 report will be in a separate post)
  • The contact page includes two email addresses and the Executive Secretary’s telephone number.  Have yet to test if either or both respond to inquiries.

The FSGB told Congress on its 2012 report that the Board was “not able to advance to an acceptable stage in the refurbishing of our outdated and overburdened website, but we have managed to continue to post grievance decisions and other essential information both for the public and for use by the members.”  Apparently, at the beginning of 2013, the FSGB finally entered into an agreement with State Department’s IRM which made the website changes possible. Not sure why it took so long but —

Bravo!

The one thing that still needs attention on the FSGB website is the “Search Grievance” function which does not appear to work as well as it should. You can search by year and by specific Record of Proceeding (ROP) and it will return the appropriate records. But if you do the “Document Search” field for instance, on records pertaining to “EER,” “discipline,” “financial,” or “separation” — the top cases filed within the Board, the new website returns a “no match” result.  We’ve used “OR”, “AND”, double quotes, and a wildcard “*” with the same “no match” results.

We suspect that providing a better end-user search experience was among the top justifications for migrating the old website to this new Sharepoint site.  But the FSGB cases do not use meaningful file names and titles, so while browsing the cases is available, it does not make locating the files any more easier or quicker.   It also does not look like the cases have been tagged or use metadata; both if used would help tremendously in improving the “findability” of the cases in the new website.

*(^O^)*