Category Archives: Legislative actions

April 26, 2017 Update from NASCOE President

Please see the NASCOE update on several important issues from our NASCOE consultant, Hunter Moorhead below. I know many of you are concerned about a possible government shutdown and I want you to know that NASCOE is staying on top of all the hot issues and wants to keep you informed. Help us do that by subscribing to our email database (if you haven’t already). It is easy to do just follow the link below.

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We will be updating membership through the database as important events unfold. We will also use the NASCOE website and encourage you to click on the follow button on the NASCOE.Org site, this will also trigger an email when important information is posted. For those of you on Facebook please like the NASCOE news page.

Respectfully submitted by,

Wes Daniels
NASCOE President


Good morning – We want to provide an update regarding Washington’s hottest topics.

As expected, Governor Perdue is now Secretary Perdue. He is officially the Secretary of Agriculture. A total of 11 (highest ever) Senators voted no on the nomination.

Senators voting NO:

Blumenthal (D-CT)
Booker (D-NJ)
Gillibrand (D-NY)
Harris (D-CA)
Markey (D-MA)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Reed (D-RI)
Sanders (I-VT)
Warren (D-MA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)
Wyden (D-OR)

With the Secretary now official, he and his team will soon announce specific candidates for political positions. This will be a lengthy process with many folks requiring Senate confirmation. At this point, we are unaware of any decisions regarding treatment of FSA employees or county offices.  If that changes, you all will be the first to receive any confirmed information/documents.

House and Senate negotiators are working to finalize the fiscal year 2017 appropriations bills. Remember, the current continuing resolution expires on April 28. The Administration has stated that wall funding is not required for any final agreement. We believe that statement clears the way for negotiators to finalize the package and avoid any government shutdown.

On Tuesday, the White House announced the agricultural/rural America Executive Order. Please see the fact sheet below. We will make sure our NASCOE priorities get before the appropriate White House officials.

 Executive Order Promoting Agriculture and Rural Prosperity in America

  • Our farmers deserve a government that serves their interests, and empowers them to do the hard work they love so much. That is what today’s executive order is about.
  • With this order, the President is directing Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue to work with other members of my Cabinet to identify and eliminate unnecessary regulations that hurt our nation’s farmers and rural communities
  • This order also establishes the Interagency Task Force on Agriculture and Rural Prosperity, to be led by Secretary Purdue.
  • With this order, we continue our relentless effort to make life better for hardworking Americans—including our farmers, ranchers and rural communities.

Background

  • Over the last two decades, the rural portions of the United States have fallen behind economically. Rural residents often lack access to the educational and technological opportunities available in more urbanized areas. Overregulation of rural industries, such as agriculture, is also a significant problem.
  • Executive Order 13575, issued by President Obama in 2011, established the “White House Rural Council” to examine ways to improve conditions in rural America. But, the Council largely focused on work the administration was already doing and promoted initiatives already underway. Most of the work of the Council was informal, and we have not been able to locate any records of its meetings.
  • This executive order revokes executive order 13575 and replaces President Obama’s Rural Council with a new multi-agency task force with a new mandate.
  • The new task force will be headed by Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Purdue and will examine issues related education, overregulation, taxation of family businesses and farms, approval of crop protection tools, such as pesticides, export opportunities for American agricultural goods, permitting for the use of public lands, and other matters important to agriculture and economic development in the rural United States.
  • In 180 days, the task force will submit a report to you through the Domestic Policy and National Economic councils proposing specific legislative, regulatory, and policy changes based on its findings.

NASCOE News Flash: Creditable Service for Retirement

NASCOE Logo

NASCOE News Flash

Please take time to read this important email update. This is one of the most important legislative/management issues we have faced during the current Administration. To begin, NASCOE leadership has been working to reverse the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) decision and will continue until this decision is reversed. The information below has been obtained through multiple channels and provides the most updated information. In summary, a certain lawyer at OPM has declared that Public Law 85-568 (enacted July 1960) no longer applies to FSA’s county office workers. In effect, this means temporary time no longer counts toward retirement benefits. In addition, it appears that the Department of Agriculture is moving forward with OPM’s interpretation based on information obtained from FSA State offices. Please see the related documents below.

As recently as this morning, NASCOE President Wes Daniels visited with Administrator Dolcini about the impact of OPM’s decision. Administrator Dolcini and other USDA officials are working to rectify this situation. We are now significantly expanding our outreach and will work toward reversing this unjustified decision.

Creditable Service for Retirement Eligibility and Annuity Computation Purposes

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has recently reviewed and re-interpreted Chapter 20 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook to exclude temporary/non-deduction time with the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) as creditable service for retirement eligibility and annuity calculation purposes, even if a deposit application has been submitted and the deposit paid in full.

Chapter 20 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook states the following with regard to Creditable service:

“Public Law 85-568, enacted July 1, 1960, declared employees of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation (ASC) county committees to be Federal employees as of July 10, 1960, for retirement purposes. This law covered all ASC county committee employees except those specifically excluded by law or regulations (such as temporary and intermittent employees). However, an employee who separated before July 10, 1960, cannot receive credit for that service.”

Q and A:

What is non-deduction service?
Non-deduction service is service performed for which retirement deductions were not taken from your pay.

Who should I contact with questions about my temporary/non-deduction service?
Employees should feel comfortable contacting either their employee association or John Palmer with questions or concerns related to their temporary/non-deduction service.

Who has been made aware of OPM’s interpretation?
It is our understanding that the USDA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC), FSA’s Human Resource Division (HRD), FSA Administrator and Deputy Administrator Offices, as well as the employee associations (WASCOE/NASCOE) are aware of OPM’s interpretation. Further, we understand that OGC is actively pursuing a favorable re-interpretation of the law to include temporary/non-deduction time as creditable for retirement eligibility and annuity calculation purposes.

Who is affected by OPM’s interpretation of the CSRS/FERS Handbook?
OPM’s interpretation, as stated above, applies to individuals under the FERS retirement system with ASCS temporary/non-deduction service performed prior to January 1, 1989 (FERS employees were not previously allowed to pay a deposit for temporary/non- deduction service performed after 01/01/1989 – this period of service remains ineligible for a deposit). OPM’s interpretation would also apply to individuals under the CSRS/CSRS-Offset retirement system with temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS (pre or post 01/01/1989).

What do I do if I am planning to retire in the near future or think I might have temporary/non-deduction time with ASCS?
At this time, the Wisconsin FSA Human Resource Team is asking that you review your service history for such periods of temporary/non-deduction time that were previously considered creditable (pre 01/01/1989 for FERS employees and all non-deduction service for CSRS/CSRS-Offset employees). If you have these types of service you can contact John Palmer, Administrative Specialist, to review your service history with/for you in an effort to help you understand the full impact of OPM’s determination. If an employee does not meet retirement eligibility without including temporary/non-deduction service, HR is advising that you do not retire until such time that an official determination (re-determination) is issued by OPM or retirement eligibility thresholds are met without including temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS.

What if I paid a deposit and OPM has accepted the deposit and issued a “Paid-in- Full” invoice?
At this time, it is our understanding that OPM accepting your re-deposit does not entitle you to service credit for the non-deduction time. This determination would be made by OPM when finalizing your retirement annuity. If OPM upholds their current interpretation, it is HR’s understanding that you would be allowed an opportunity to request a refund of your service credit deposit. OPM would refund your deposit paid with annually compounded interest from the date of deposit. At this time we are not recommending that you request a refund of your paid deposit in case OPM’s interpretation would be reversed.

What will happen to those individuals who have already retired and who have temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS?
We are not sure yet how the pension will be affected for those individuals who have already retired and who have temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS.

What happens if I retire and it is later determined that the temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS is creditable for retirement purposes?
Upon retirement OPM becomes your servicing personnel office. We encourage you to track this issue via employee associations, news outlets, OPM website, etc. Contact OPM when/if any development occurs. In addition, your Wisconsin FSA HR Specialist will be manually tracking the names and Civil Service Annuity numbers for all individuals who retire who have temporary/non-deduction service. If OPM’s determination is reversed the HR Specialist will provide this information to OPM in an effort to have the annuity re-calculated.

 

Action Request RE: Federal Benefit Cuts

From Midwest Area Exec, Curt Houk:

House and Senate conferees continue to negotiate a final congressional budget agreement that could ask for as much as $318 billion in pay and federal benefit cuts from federal employees and retirees.  The NASCOE Legislative team has been busy educating members of Congress on why this proposal is not good.  In addition, NASCOE has been working in concert with other Federal Employee Groups to send a uniform message in opposition to any negative changes.

The NASCOE Legislative team offered the following statement this morning:

Good morning – We have worked the Budget Conferees regarding the federal pension issue. The budget agreement has been reached and will soon be available for viewing. The opposition has been strong and Members of Congress understand our concern. I will send information as soon as possible.”

NASCOE is providing in this action request access to the National Active & Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Legislative Hotline.  NASCOE members can call this hotline to find out exactly how Federal insurance, pay and retirement benefits will be reduced.  Most importantly, the hotline gives you instructions on how to call your representative and what information you need to know to chat with your representative.  NASCOE members are encouraged to visit the NARFE website to learn more about the organization and consider joining their membership ranks.  The website can be found at:  http://www.narfe.org/departments/home/index.cfm.

NASCOE response to the 2015 USDA Budget

An image of a sample pie chart, similar to one used when visualizing budget documents

An image of a sample pie chart, similar to one used when visualizing budget documentsNASCOE worked hard this past year to educate and ensure members of Congress knew what FSA does on a daily basis and what it takes from a financial standpoint to deliver services to FSA customers.  At times it seemed like NASCOE was alone in the process of educating decision makers about USDA resource needs.

The budget process for the current year is complete. NASCOE is pleased to announce that Congress passed a budget that recognized the need for a higher level of FSA funding.  Although the appropriation is less than what is needed, the Congressional budget provided $60 million more than the Department requested for the current year.

Attached you will find two documents: