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Some of the known changes in the new, seven-year contract include:

• A new two-year benefit (individuals can now buy them for three years, five years, or lifetime coverage).

• A higher daily benefit available in $50 increments, from $100 to $450 per day.

• Payment for informal care to family members (who did not normally live with the insured person at the time of the claim.) In that instance, informal care could be paid for up to 500 days.

Triple play

Bills that would make it easier for federal employees to retire, telework and return to government after retirement are on the Senate fast track, cleared by the committee that controls civil service legislation last week.

One proposal would require federal agencies to open up more teleworking opportunities for employees. A little more than 100,000 of the about 1.5 million nonpostal federal workers telecommute on a regular basis.

Sponsor Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat, says having more people telecommute is critical to the government’s plan to keep key services up and running during emergencies ranging from swine flu to a terrorist attack.

A second bill would change retirement computation rules so that workers under the old Civil Service Retirement System could switch to part time at the end of their careers without taking a pension hit. Most of the government’s workers are under the newer Federal Employees Retirement System. But the majority of people who are within 10 years of retirement are under the old program.

Finally, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee has given the green light to a bill that would remove a major barrier preventing some retired federal workers from returning to government. At present, in many instances, retirees must take a lower salary than called for by their civil-service grade. That salary is offset by the amount of the employee’s federal annuity.

The bill would give retired feds the same break as private-sector retirees who can be hired by the government and allowed to keep both their private pension and their full federal salary.