November 2011 - Benefits Newsletter
Topics Of Interest:
Where Do I Go If I Have Questions About My Benefits?
1. Benefits Calendar of Events
2. The 2012 Limit Increases For The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)!
The 2012 IRS annual limit for regular TSP contributions will increase to $17,000. If you are covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), you could lose valuable matching Agency TSP contributions by reaching the limit before the end of the calendar year. If you want equal payments deducted over the calendar year for 26 pay periods, you should contribute $654 each pay period. If you are currently contributing a lesser or higher amount, but want equal payments withheld over the course of the year that will equate to $17,000, you must enter your election of $654 in myPay (DFAS). If you expect to enter your myPay (DFAS) election for 2012 between December 4- 17*, 2011, your election will be effective on December 18, the first pay period for 2012. If your election is entered after December 17, you will need to adjust your election amount. To determine the adjusted amount, use the Elective Deferral Calculator on the TSP website . If you have additional questions, refer them to your Benefits Contact. (*It is recommended that you enter your election by December 16, if you want to ensure an effective date of December 18.)
The 2012 IRS limit for TSP Catch-up contributions remains at $5,500. Check out our December newsletter next month for information on making TSP Catch-up contributions.
3. The Federal Benefits Open Season Begins On November 14!
The following three programs will be participating in this year's Open Season for the 2012 plan year: 1) Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program; 2) Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP); and 3) Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) Program. The open season will run November 14, 2011, through December 12, 2011. You should read the Open Season Announcement thoroughly for important information pertaining to each program.
The new 2012 rates and the 2012 plan brochures for the FEHB Program are now available on the Office of Personnel Management website. Also available are the FEDVIP dental and vision rates as well as the plan brochures for dental and vision .
Please remember that there are no longer open seasons for the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). You may start, stop, or change your TSP contributions at any time via myPay (DFAS), provided you are eligible to participate in the TSP.
4. Open Season Webcasts
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will be hosting five informational webcasts for the 2011 Federal Benefits Open Season. In these webcasts, they explain the basics of Open Season and the benefit programs involved. For information on times, dates, and accessing the webcasts, visit the OPM website .
5. Annual Leave – Use It Or Donate It
The 2011 leave year ends on December 31, 2011. Use or lose annual leave must be officially scheduled with your supervisor no later than November 19, 2011, and used no later than December 31, 2011. For most employees, a maximum of 240 hours may be carried over from one leave year to the next; however, those employees in the Senior Executive Service have a maximum of 720 hours that may be carried over from one leave year to the next.
NIH employees lose thousands of use or lose hours each year. Don't let your leave disappear! If you don't plan to use it, donate it to recipients in the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP) or the NIH Leave Bank to help your fellow NIHers continue to receive paychecks while experiencing a medical emergency. Donations can be made quickly through the Integrated Time and Attendance System (ITAS) and limitations can be waived if the leave will be lost. Please contact your IC or the Leave Bank Office for more information. Remember to use it or donate it...but don't lose it!
6. What Is The Difference Between A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) And A Health Savings Account (HSA)?
A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) is an employee benefit that allows you to set aside money, on a pre-tax basis, for certain health care and dependent care expenses. There are three types of FSA accounts: 1) Health Care FSA (HCFSA) ; 2) Limited Expense Health Care FSA (LEX HCFSA) ; and 3) Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA) . If you wish to enroll in an FSA for the 2012 plan year, you must make your annual election during the open season on the FSAFEDS website . You may also enroll by calling 877-372-3337 (TTY: 1-800-952-0450). Your election amount is divided into allotments based on the number of pay dates in the plan year. Every pay date, an allotment is deposited directly into your FSA account. Expenses on your account for the 2012 plan year must be incurred by March 15, 2013, and your claims must be faxed or postmarked no later than April 30, 2013; otherwise, your unused balance is forfeited.
A Health Savings Account (HSA) (OPM) is an investment account available only to members who enroll in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program (OPM). Your HDHP credits a portion of your premium to the HSA. You also have the option to make pre-tax contributions to the account. The funds in your HSA can be used to pay for your plan deductible and/or qualified medical expenses that do not count towards your deductible. These accounts earn interest and roll over any remaining balance from year to year. The funds are yours to keep whether you change plans, leave Federal service, or retire. Withdrawals can also be used for non-medical expenses. However, if you are under age 65, you will be subject to a 20% penalty in addition to any other income taxes you may owe on the withdrawn funds.
Important Note: You cannot have both a HCFSA and an HSA.
7. Why Do I Need A myPay PIN And How Can I Get One?
It is very important to have access to your myPay (DFAS) account so that you can view your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) each pay day to verify that the correct deductions are being withheld and that your leave balances on your LES match the balances in ITAS. You must also use myPay to make changes to your home address, TSP contributions, direct deposit of pay, allotments, Federal tax withholdings, and Open Season health benefits elections. Additionally, some state tax withholdings must be made via myPay (DFAS). If you move to or from Maryland, you must complete a state tax form for your new state and submit it to the Payroll Liaison Team (Bldg 31/Rm B3C23) for processing. However, for movement between other states and/or the District, you must use myPay (DFAS). Additionally, all open season health insurance elections must be accomplished using myPay (DFAS).
To access the system, you will need your Login and Password. If you have forgotten your Login or Password, click the "Forgot Your Login ID?" or "Forgot or Need a Password?" link on the left side of the myPay (DFAS) screen. Using this method, your Password can be e-mailed to you if you pre-registered your e-mail address, or it can be mailed to your current home address of record within 7 to 10 business days
A second option for requesting a Password is to send a fax to 216-367-3549. You will need to include in your request your name, SSN, a daytime phone number, a copy of your NIH ID Card, and you must sign the fax. Upon receiving your fax, the Defense Finance & Accounting Service (DFAS) will reset your Password using a temporary Password. Your temporary Password will be 8 numbers, the last 4 numbers of your SSN twice. You will not receive a notice from DFAS that your Password has been reset. Simply wait at least two business days before logging into myPay (DFAS) to use your temporary Password. Upon logging in, you will be prompted to reset your Password. Information pertaining to establishing an acceptable Login and Password can be obtained at myPay FAQs (DFAS).
If you encounter problems with your Login and/or Password or technical issues using myPay (DFAS), contact the DFAS Centralized Customer Support Unit toll-free at 1-888-332-7411. This support line is available Monday through Friday, 7:00 A.M. to 6:30 P.M. Eastern Standard Time. They can provide assistance on how to use the options available to you in myPay. They will also provide support for establishing and changing your Login and/or Password.
8. Where Can I Find Information On Pay And Leave?
9. How Can I Get In Touch With My Benefits Contact?
Your contact in the Benefits and Payroll Liaison Branch will be able to help you with a variety of issues pertaining to the health and life insurance programs, designating beneficiaries, the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), calculating your retirement annuity estimate, working with you to pay a redeposit for prior civilian service if you previously withdrew your retirement funds, paying a deposit for prior civilian or military service for which retirement deductions were not withheld, etc. To find your benefits contact, review our list of contacts. In addition, the Benefits and Payroll Liaison Branch (BPLB) website has a wealth of information regarding your Federal benefits. Don’t forget to check out the Benefits FAQs section.
Human resource topics not related to your benefits are normally handled by your Client Services Division HR Representative.