LaRC Human Capital News 1
Your Source for Current HR Information
Information contained in this newsletter is applicable to civil service employees covered by Title 5, Office of Personnel
Management Code of Federal Regulations.
The Office of Personnel Management will
be offering HSAs and HRAs this year as
part of the 2004 Federal Health Benefits
Program. An HSA is a trust account that
you own for the purpose of paying qualified
medical expenses for yourself, your spouse,
and your dependents. An HRA is an
account to reimburse allowable medical
The transformation is progressing as
expenses. In order to be eligible for a HSA
scheduled. Employees have been cross-
or HRA, you must participate in a High
walked to the new organizations, the
Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). An HDHP
business systems have been updated with the
is a new health plan product that, when
new organization data, and the new leaders
combined with a Health Savings, provides
of Langley Research Center have been
insurance coverage and a tax-advantaged
selected. All this is a good start; however,
way to help save for future medical
there is more to be done to ensure the
expenses. The goal is to give you greater
success of the transformation. OHR has
flexibility and discretion over how you use
begun developing the plan for the GS-15
your health care dollars. General features of
an HDHP include:
We have been working with the new
leadership to refine their organizations. In - A higher annual deductible than
addition, we are providing position traditional health plans.
management training to our leaders and are - A minimum annual deductible of
developing standards for common positions $1,500 for Self and $2,100 for Self and
within the Center. In addition to these Family coverage.
initiatives, we are putting in place a - Annual out-of-pocket limits not to
workforce restructuring board to review exceed $5,000 for Self and $10,000 for
personnel actions that affect our Family coverage.
transformation goals. All this will help - Service delivery may be offered with a
move us close to our transformation goals. Preferred Provider Organization (PPO),
Health Maintenance Organization
(HMO), or Point of Service (POS).
- The health plan determines eligibility
for a HSA or a HRA.
- With the exception of preventive care,
the annual deductible must be met 2004 Federal Employees
before the plan benefits are paid. Health Benefits Program
General features of an HSA include:
- Your own HSA contributions are tax The 2004 Federal Employees Health
deductible. Benefits (FEHB) Open Season will be held
- Interest earned on your account is tax from November 8 through December 13,
- Tax-free withdrawals may be made for
qualified medical expenses. All 2005 FEHB Guides, health plan
- Unused funds and interest are carried brochures, and the 2005 premium rates will
over, without limit, from year to year. be available on the OPM Web site at
- You own the HSA and it is yours to www.opm.gov/insure/health. The guides,
keep, even when you change plans or brochures, and text versions suitable for
retire. visually impaired will be available in PDF
- Your HSA is administered by a format for downloading and printing.
You may be ineligible for an HSA if you “Use or Lose”
have a flexible spending account (FSA), a Annual Leave
spouse’s FSA, a spouse’s HMO, other non-
high deductible health insurance coverage,
TRICARE, Medicare, or are in receipt of
VA benefits within the previous 3 months. It’s getting close to the end of the leave year
You can still have other disability, dental, (January 8, 2005) and federal employees are
vision, and long-term care insurance only entitled to carry over a maximum of
policies. If you are ineligible for an HSA, 30 days (240 hours) of annual leave into the
you may be eligible for an HRA. next leave year. Annual leave in excess of
this amount is subject to forfeiture and
General features of an HRA include: becomes “use or lose” leave. Therefore, if
you haven’t scheduled your “use or lose”
- Tax-free withdrawals for qualified leave, now is a good time to do so.
medical expenses. In order for leave to be eligible for
- Carryover of unused credits from year restoration, an employee must have
to year. requested annual leave and had the leave
- Credits in an HRA do not earn interest. approved in writing at least three pay
- Credits in an HRA are forfeited if you periods before the end of the leave year (i.e.
leave the federal employment or switch by November 28, 2004).
health insurance plans.
- Your HRA is administered by the If you are trying to figure out how to use up
health plan. all of your use-or-lose leave, an option to
consider is donating some of that leave to
one or more of your co-workers who are in
For more information on HDCP, HSA, and
the leave transfer program. These are
HRA, visit http://www.opm.gov/hsa.
employees who have been ill, or are caring Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi
for a family member who is ill, and have Freedom.
exhausted all of their leave.
Initial award of the Global War on
Terrorism Service Medal will be limited to
domestic airport security operations and
service members who support Operations
Enduring Freedom, Noble Eagle, and Iraqi
Veteran’s Service Resolutions
When Congress cannot or does not pass a
Two new medals have been authorized by budget and the end of the fiscal year runs
President Bush, the Global War on out, we aren’t authorized to spend any
Terrorism Expeditionary Medal and the money. The money must be appropriated
Global War on Terrorism Service Medal. and when it isn’t, Congress passes a
Each medal carries with it separate and continuing resolution, which keeps the
unique benefits for veterans. Receipt of the budget running at the same level as before.
Expeditionary medal qualifies veterans for This, of course, puts new work on hold and
veterans’ preference, provided the individual means no pay raise until we get a formal
is otherwise eligible. Receipt of the Service budget. This has happened for the past 2
medal qualifies veterans for a Veterans’ years so don’t be surprised if the pay
Recruitment Appointment (VRA). Veterans adjustments are retroactive again this year.
with a service connected disability or those
who have received a Purple Heart are
entitled to 10 point veterans’ preference
regardless of eligibility for the service of Flu Shots?? Yes! We have a
expeditionary medals. limited supply.
NASA is following the recommendations
The Defense Department announced final from the Centers for Disease Control and
approval for the award criteria of the Global Prevention (CDC) regarding distribution.
War on Terrorism Expeditionary and Priority will be given to those age 65 and
Service Medals. The Global War on older, pregnant women, and those with
Terrorism Expeditionary Medal will be underlying chronic medical conditions.
awarded to those service members who Please monitor @LaRC for specific
deployed overseas for service in the Global information from the Clinic regarding
War on Terrorism operations on or after distribution.
September 11, 2001, and up to a future date
to be determined by the Secretary of
Defense. Initial award of this medal is
limited to personnel deployed abroad in
- Drink plenty of fluids and eat nutritious
Is It a Cold
or The Flu?
Excused Absence for Voting
Colds and influenza (the flu) are often
confused with one another. Both are caused The Federal Government has a longstanding
by viruses, and both occur most often in the policy of granting employees limited time
winter months. But there are some off from work (i.e., excused absence) to vote
important differences. in Federal, state, county, or municipal
elections or in referendums on any civic
Colds are minor infections of the nose and matter in their community. Agencies have
throat caused by many different viruses. discretionary authority to grant excused
Colds usually last for about a week; absence to the extent that such time off does
however, some can last longer, especially in not seriously interfere with agency
children, elderly people, and those in poor operations. Typically, polling places
health. Cold symptoms develop over a few throughout the United States are open for
days and include: runny nose, congestion, extended periods of time. Therefore,
sneezing, weakened senses of taste and excused absence should rarely be needed.
smell, scratchy throat, and cough.
We normally receive a number of questions
The flu is caused by the influenza virus and about excused absence for the purpose of
is more serious than a cold because it can be voting in a Presidential election, held this
fatal for the elderly, people with a chronic year on November 2, 2004. In anticipation
condition, or those with a weak immune of these questions, we offer the following
system. Symptoms come on very quickly, guidelines when considering excused
can be severe, and include: temperature of absence for voting in unusual situations:
101 degrees or above, cough, muscle aches,
headache, sore throat, chills, and tiredness. Generally, where the polls are not open at
Most people recover from the flu within least 3 hours either before or after an
2 weeks, but others may feel weak for a long employee's regular work hours, supervisors
time, even after symptoms go away. may grant a limited amount of excused
absence that will permit the employee to
To reduce the spread of germs, you should: report for work 3 hours after the polls open
- Cover your mouth and nose when you or leave from work 3 hours before the polls
sneeze or cough. close, whichever requires the lesser amount
- Wash your hands with soap and hot of time off. An employee's "regular work
water for at least 20 seconds. hours" should be determined by reference to
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or the time of day the employee normally
mouth. arrives at and departs from work.
- Get plenty of sleep.
If an employee's voting place is beyond
normal commuting distance and vote by
absentee ballot is not permitted, the Recreational
employing agency may grant excused News
absence (not to exceed 1 day) to allow the
employee to make the trip to the voting
place to cast a ballot. If more than 1 day is Employee fitness is very important to
needed, the employee may request annual individuals and LaRC Leadership. Fitness is
leave or leave without pay for the additional consistent with our NASA Values and
period of absence. contributes to the success of each individual
and NASA. Some benefits to the individual
Thrift Savings - Lower levels of employee’s stress.
Plan (TSP) Open - Improves stamina while promoting
Season potential weight reduction.
- Increases employee’s well-being, self-
image, and self-esteem.
The TSP Open Season began October 15
and runs through December 31, 2004. Benefits to NASA include:
During this time, you will be able to - Enhanced recruitment and retention of
increase the maximum amount you can healthy employees.
contribute to your TSP account. Civil - Improved health care costs.
Service Retirement System (CSRS) - Decreased rates of illness and injuries.
maximum will be 10%; Federal Employee - Reduces employee absenteeism and
Retirement System (FERS) will be 15%. enhances productivity.
The overall maximum allowable
contributions are $13,000 for 2004. Recently, many of the LaRC workforce have
expressed concerned about the availability
the Langley Air Force Base (LAFB) Fitness
Facilities. There has been high demand for
Flexible Spending Account for use of the new state-of-the-art Air Force
Federal Employees Fitness Facilities and equipment by DoD
(FSAFEDS) Open Season eligible military and civilian personnel and
their families. The two fitness centers
average use is approximately 3,350
individuals per day. This high usage rate
Open season for FSAFEDS is November 8 coupled with the increased emphasis on
through December 13, 2004, for the 2005 physical fitness by the Air Force for military
plan year. personnel resulted in the NASA civil service
and contractors becoming ineligible to use
If you were enrolled in the FSA program the Air Force Fitness Center. However,
during the 2004 plan year, you must enroll NASA personnel with DoD identification
during the upcoming open season in order to may use the facility.
continue coverage. Deductions are
terminated automatically at the end of each In an effort to regain access to the Air Force
plan year. Fitness Centers, a letter was sent on July 30,
2004, to the Commander of 1st Services
Squadron. This letter requested recon- Skills Development Center, Outdoor
sideration of their decision to deny the Recreation, Bowling Center, Officers Club for
NASA workforce the use of the LAFB those that meet civil service grade level
Fitness Centers. The Office of Human restrictions for membership, Community
Resources has followed up on the letter Center, Outdoor Pools, Information, Ticketing
status twice with the latest follow up on & Travel, and Special Events. Information on
October 1, 2004, and LAFB Services service programs is available at
indicated that they are still staffing the issue http://www.langley1stservices.com/index.htm
for the Commanders final decision. A
decision is expected in a few weeks. It
would be premature at this time to announce
or determine the final decision by the LAFB Main Cafeteria and
Commanding Officer on the use of the Exchange Shop News
LAFB Fitness Facilities.
The Main Cafeteria and Exchange Shop will
The Air Force decision has place increased undergo a facelift beginning on November
emphasis on the need to modernize the 11, 2004, with a completion date of mid-
NASA LaRC Fitness Center. A LaRC March. The project will be completed in
Employee Fitness Focus Group was held on two phases allowing for continued customer
October 12, 2004. The group’s primary goal dining for breakfast and lunch. The
was to provide customer desired needs and cafeteria lunch hours of operations are being
interest in development of a time-phased expanded from 10:30 a.m. until 2 p.m. to
Fitness Center Modernization Plan. The allow employees additional flexibility in
group identified improvements for major planning their lunch period. Some
areas to include equipment, facilities, temporary closures will occur with the first
classes, usage, patrons, and staff. Current one-day closing occurring on November 12
conditions and prioritized solutions were as well as additional closures during the
developed based on current industry holiday season. The Aerodyner will be
standards and trends as related to customer opened for customers on days that the Main
desires. This plan will be released in the Cafeteria closes. Catered events will also be
near future. at the Aerodyner since the NACA Room
will be used for general dining. Information
In addition, the Morale, Welfare, and on Main Cafeteria closures and opening of
Recreation Branch (MWRB), OHR, has had the Aerodyner will be announced in @LaRC
various meetings and discussions with the in advance. The Exchange Shop will be
Services Deputy Director and Marketing temporarily relocated within the Main
Manager since July on defining and Cafeteria from Room 129A to Room 140 for
formalizing the eligibility for use of services your continued customer shopping during
by the NASA LaRC workforce. In these the renovation.
meetings, the LAFB Service Staff have
indicated that the NASA badged workforce
can currently use all other MWR services and
programs with the exception of the Fitness
Center and the Child Development Center.
The programs that NASA badged workforce
can use includes the Golf Course, Auto Shop,
- Monitor Center critical WF competency
usage and gaps.
- Ensure project (task) level requirements
for WF, milestones, and facilities are
kept current and WF planning is current.
- Recommend and ensure implementation
WORKFORCE PLANNING, of WF planning process changes.
ANALYSIS, and MANAGEMENT - Review and approve OUP changes
pertaining to org structure changes.
Workforce, Planning, Analysis, and
Management is an issue that requires a lot of The board will become the single focal point
attention with a strong focus on a fair and for discussion and resolution of workforce
consistent application of personnel laws, related issues and will allow for a corporate
rules, regulations, and policies to achieve a understanding of funding, staffing issues,
workforce that is aligned with the mission, and consequences associated with solutions.
strategy focused, cost effective, and strong The board will ensure the organizations buy
in the desired workforce competencies. To in and ownership of solutions which will
this end, a 14 member Workforce allow for balanced assessments, sounding
Requirements Board (WRB) consisting of board opportunities, and coordination
OHR, Office of Chief Financial Officer, activities that support the Center’s mission
Directorates, Shared Services Units, and goals. It will also work to balance
Strategic Planning Representative, and the budget and workforce issues.
Associate Director for Operations will be
A recent report by
- Resolve FTE complement issues and OHR on the the Partnership
establish Perm and Term guidelines. CUTTING EDGE for Public Service
- Resolve workforce (WF) imbalances stated that federal
between Project demand and managers use outdated and ineffective tools
organization allocations. to assess the talent of job applicants, giving
- Ensure budget changes that impact WF rise to the widespread hiring of workers
are communicated to all organizations. whose skills are poorly matched to their
- Monitor, resolve, and manage transition duties.
- Coordinate across the entire Center to Max Stier's group advocates revamping the
effectively respond to WF planning, hiring processes by identifying the skills
analysis, and management actions. needed to perform specific jobs,
- Provide periodic updates to the SLC on testing applicants on those skills through
decisions, actions, status, etc. written exams and role-playing, and
- Communicate and coordinate plans to conducting "structured interviews" in
support POP planning with SLC. which all job seekers are asked a set of
- Review and approve New Position and questions that target certain skills.
Accretion of Duty requests.
- Evaluate changes to organization The process we are using at LaRC to assess
baselines from reorganization. leadership competencies incorporates some
of the recommended practices of the
Partnership for Public Service.
Here is the link to the Washington Post
QUESTION OF THE MONTH
Q: If a person is eligible for a Discontinued
Service Retirement (DSR) will they receive
severance pay if they are involuntarily
separate from Federal Service?
A: No. Severance Pay will only be given to
employees who are not eligible to retire.
According to 5 CFR 550.704 (b) (5), If an
employee is eligible upon separation for an
immediate annuity from a Federal civilian
retirement system or from the uniformed
services. Such an employee is ineligible
even if all or part of the annuity is offset
by payments from a non-Federal retirement
system the employee elected instead of
Federal civilian retirement benefits or
disability benefits received from the
Department of Veterans Affairs.