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October 2014 Benefits Newsletter

What's New?

  1. Benefits Calendar Of Events
  2. The Open Enrollment For The NIH Voluntary Leave Bank Is Coming!
  3. The Federal Benefits Open Season Is Coming!
  4. Annual Leave:  Use It Or Donate It!

Topics Of Interest:

  1. Is Your State Tax Withholding Correct?
  2. Employment And Income Verification – Use TALX – The Work Number ®
  3. Why Do I Need A myPay PIN And How Can I Get One?
  4. Where Can I Find Information On Pay And Leave?

Where Do I Go If I Have Questions About My Benefits?

  1. How Can I Get In Touch With My Benefits Contact?
  2. Previous NIH Benefits Information – Did You Know? E-mails

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What's New?

1. Benefits Calendar of Events

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2. The Open Enrollment For The NIH Voluntary Leave Bank Is Coming!

The fall Open Enrollment for the NIH Voluntary Leave Bank will run November 10 – December 8, 2014, and the membership period will begin on January 11, 2015.  Enrollment in the Leave Bank is open to all NIH Federal employees.

The Leave Bank is a pooled bank of donated annual and restored leave available to eligible members.  It offers income protection and amounts to paid leave for members who have exhausted all of their leave and are affected by a personal or family medical emergency/condition.  The Leave Bank has provided leave to NIH employees to cover time out of the office due to personal or family medical emergencies such as surgery, cancer, stroke, childbirth, etc.

The Leave Bank is distinguished from the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP) in that the bank is a depository of leave, and leave is distributed to members who are approved to be leave recipients; whereas, the VLTP, requires a direct donation from a donor to a recipient.  An advantage of the Leave Bank is that eligible members may receive leave from the bank to cover time out of the office without soliciting donations.  In some cases, a solicitation under the VLTP may go unanswered, especially if a recipient is new to the Agency and has not established acquaintances.

To elect to become a 2015 member, access the Integrated Time and Attendance System (ITAS) during the Open Enrollment and enroll under “Leave Bank Membership.” If you are currently a 2014 Leave Bank member, your membership will automatically continue into 2015, unless you take action in ITAS during Open Enrollment to elect to opt-out.  If you are currently a 2014 member, the 2014 option in ITAS will be grayed out.  For each membership year, there is a membership contribution requirement.  The annual membership contribution is one pay period’s worth of annual leave accrual (i.e. 4, 6 or 8 hours).  For example, if you earn 8 hours of annual leave each pay period, your membership contribution will be 8 hours.

To be eligible to receive leave from the Leave Bank, the following requirements apply: 

  • Be a current Leave Bank member;  and
  • Experience a qualifying medical emergency, which is projected to result in at least 24 hours of non-pay status

To view a list of upcoming Leave Bank events, check out our calendar.  The events are free and no registration is required.  Make plans to join us!

Frequently Asked Questions and additional information about this exciting benefit can be found on the NIH Leave Bank website.  

Questions may be directed to the NIH Leave Bank Office at 301-443-8393 or LeaveBank@od.nih.gov

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3. The Federal Benefits Open Season Is Coming!

Did you know that the Open Season happens only once a year?  Unless you experience a Qualifying Life Event during the year, the Open Season is your only opportunity to enroll, cancel your enrollment, or make a change to your enrollment for the participating programs.  Now is the time to review and update your benefits, if needed.  Don’t miss out on this important opportunity! 

The following three programs are participating in this year’s Open Season for the 2015 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 begins on November 10, 2014, and runs through December 8, 2014.  You should read the Open Season Announcement thoroughly for important information pertaining to each program. 

The new 2015 FEHB plan rates external link icon are now available on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website, and the 2015 plan brochures will soon be available.  Additionally, the 2015 dental external link iconand vision external link icon rates for FEDVIP are available, and the plan brochures soon will be.  FEHB and FEDVIP enrollments will automatically continue into 2015, if no action is taken.  However, FSA enrollments do not automatically continue into the new year.

For a list of the Open Season Benefits Fairs refer to the Benefits Calendar of Events

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4. Annual Leave:  Use It Or Donate It!

Employees are encouraged to review their annual leave balances in preparation for the end of the 2014 leave year on January 10, 2015.  Annual leave in excess of the carryover limitation must be officially scheduled with your supervisor no later than November 29, 2014, and used no later than January 10, 2015.  For most employees, a maximum of 240 hours may be carried over from one leave year to the next; however, employees in the Senior Executive Service have a maximum of 720 hours that may be carried over from one leave year to the next.

If circumstances prevent an employee from taking previously approved leave due to sickness, an administrative error or an exigency of public business, the leave may be restored. In order for leave to be considered for restoration, the leave must be: 1) requested and approved in ITAS before the start of the third biweekly pay period prior to the end of the leave year; 2) cancelled by the supervisor; and 3) cannot be rescheduled prior to the end of the leave year.  Therefore, annual leave in excess of the carryover limitation must be scheduled no later than Saturday, November 29, 2014.

If you have excess annual leave that you don’t plan to use this year, please consider a donation to others in need of paid leave.  In 2013, over 95,000 “use or lose” annual leave hours were forfeited at the NIH.  Don’t let your leave disappear!  Donations to the NIH Leave Bank or a Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP) recipient help your fellow NIH employees continue to receive paychecks while experiencing a medical emergency. Donations for both programs can be made quickly through the Integrated Time and Attendance System (ITAS) through the “Donate Leave” function.  For more information, please visit the NIH Voluntary Leave Transfer Program NIH-only access webpage or the NIH Leave Bank webpage. 

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Topics Of Interest:

5. Is Your State Tax Withholding Correct?

When was the last time you checked the tax withholdings on your Leave and Earnings Statement (LES) for accuracy?  Confirming that state taxes are being withheld for the correct state is extremely important.  If you fail to make a state tax withholding election, the withholdings automatically default to the state of Maryland.  An address change from one state to another completed in myPay does not automatically change your state tax withholding.

If you move to or from Maryland, you must complete a state tax form for your new state and submit it to the Benefits and Payroll Liaison Branch (Bldg 31/Rm B3C23) for processing.  However, for movement between other states and/or the District, you must change your state tax information in myPay external link icon (DFAS) by selecting State Withholding.  After entering your updated information select Save. You can access your Leave and Earnings Statement in myPay external link icon (DFAS) to view your withholdings.  Should you discover taxes are being withheld for the wrong state, complete the appropriate state tax withholding form or use myPay as instructed above.  Additionally, you should immediately notify BPLB, 301-496-2404, of the problem.  With sufficient notification, withholding problems reported prior to the end of the calendar year can be corrected.

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6. Employment And Income Verification – Use TALX – The Work Number ®

The Work Number®, is an automated system that provides proof of employment and income to verifiers. Workforce Solutions is widely known and used by over 50,000 entities including most major financial institutions, mortgage lenders, leasing companies, and private corporations to verify employment and income status of employees. The system provides a secure way for verifiers to obtain your employment information and is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Before your information can be released to a verifier, you must give your authorization. NIH employees can use Workforce Solutions - The Work Number® in two easy steps:

  1. Authorize the verification by completing the verifier’s (lender, bank, etc.) authorization form. When you try to access the system as an employee, you will be asked to enter a User ID and a PIN.
    • Your user ID is your full SSN
    • Your initial PIN is the last four digits of your SSN + full birth year (Example: 12341953)

    Note: You will be prompted to enroll in the Enhanced Security or Risk Based Authentication. This is mandatory and must be completed in order to use the system.

  2. Provide the verifier with:
    • Workforce Solutions –The Work Number® access options - www.theworknumber.com external link iconor 1-800-367-5690
    • HHS Employer Code: 14775
    • Salary Key (if needed) (A salary key is a six digit electronic signature created by the employee that is good for a one time use by a verifier)

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7. Why Do I Need A myPay PIN And How Can I Get One?

It is very important to have access to your myPay external link icon (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 external link icon 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 external link icon (DFAS). If you move to or from Maryland, you must complete a state tax form for your new state and submit it to the Benefits and Payroll Liaison Branch (Bldg 31/Rm B3C23) for processing. However, for movement between other states and/or the District, you must use myPay external link icon (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 external link icon (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 external link icon (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 external link icon (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 external link icon. They will also provide support for establishing and changing your Login and/or Password.

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8. Where Can I Find Information On Pay And Leave?

You can find a wealth of pay and leave information on our website. Additionally, you can find information on the most frequently asked payroll questions.

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Where Do I Go If I Have Questions About My Benefits?

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 NIH-only access, 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 an abundance 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 NIH-only access.

10. Previous NIH Benefits Information - Did You Know E-mails

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