- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 23, 2002

The Office of Personnel Management has ordered the Labor Department to give top priority consideration for jobs to two military veterans whose applications were sidetracked to make room for Clinton administration appointees who sought jobs in the career civil service.
The practice of "burrowing" takes place every four to eight years when political appointees who have come to like government salaries, services, perks and retirement benefits seek "career" civil service status. That way, if their political godfather loses his job, or the White House, they can continue to pay the rent.
The General Accounting Office recently concluded that a couple of dozen Clinton appointees did manage to "convert" to the career service and to cover their trails (although not so well that GAO didn't find them). In the process, qualified career civil servants and outside candidates didn't get jobs that were carved out, tailor-made and then held for political appointees.
OPM Director Kay Coles James got the word to Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao, who is no doubt eager to correct the wrong. Miss James has repeatedly said she won't let veterans' preference rules which many Clinton officials consider archaic and unfair be violated.

Military investors
When the federal 401(k) plan was opened to the military, some officials wondered if many of the country's warriors would sign up. The answer is yes: In the few months since the Thrift Savings Plan opened up, 227,000 active and reserve members of the uniformed services have enrolled.
The TSP is now worth more than $100 billion.
More than 40,000 of the newest members of the federal Thrift Savings Plan are members of the National Guard or Reserve units.
Navy personnel led the way with nearly 77,000 sailors (including about 26,000 reservists) joining Uncle Sam's 401(k) plan during the most recent open enrollment period. More than 50,000 members of the Air Force and 41,000 Army personnel (including 21,000) reservists signed up for the TSP.
Others who joined the TSP came from the Coast Guard (4,900), the Public Health Service (2800) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency, with 131 new TSP recruits.
Like federal workers under the old Civil Service Retirement system, military personnel can contribute up to 7 percent of pay (tax-deferred) into any of the TSP's 5-funds. Military personnel also can contribute up to 100 percent of special pay and bonuses.
Government workers hired since 1983 mostly are under the Federal Employees Retirement System. About 88 percent of all FERS employees are contributing to the TSP, which could provide as much as 50 percent of their after-retirement income.

Long-term care
The new federal family long-term care insurance program is off and running. After the current early enrollment period, there will be an expanded open season later this year. In theory, nearly 20 million current and retired feds, military personnel and select family members are eligible. Some of them the young and healthy will be able to get coverage at less cost from a reputable outside private insurance company.
But older and retired federal and military personnel who need the coverage and the group rate premiums most are among the last to know. Those who belong to retiree groups like the Alexandria-based Retired Officers Association and the National Association of Retired Federal Employees are getting information and help.
Since most retirees don't belong to TROA or NARFE, however, and since many retirees don't have access to or understand computers, all of the information posted on the Internet (https://www.ltcfeds.com/) is hard for them to access. A good start for these retirees would be calling 800/582-3337.

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