Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB)
The FEHB program is a voluntary health insurance program offered to permanent Federal employees and employees with appointments of more than one year. The program offers coverage under fee-for-service plans and health maintenance organization (HMO) plans, as well as consumer-driven and high-deductible options. Coverage is extended to retirees and dependents.
A summary of available plans and detailed brochures about each option are available on OPM's Federal Employees Health Benefits Program page. Individuals may enroll in an FEHB plan within 60 calendar days of appointment, during the Federal Benefits Open Season from November through December, or after a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) such as marriage or birth of a child. Additional information about what qualifies as a life event may be found online.
Premium conversion is a “pre-tax” arrangement under which the part of your salary that pays for health insurance premiums is not taxed. If you enroll in health insurance, you will be automatically enrolled in premium conversion, although you may waive this option. You can also use your health care flexible spending account or limited expense health care flexible spending account with FEHB. Premiums for enrollment are shared with the NIH or your retirement system.
Federal Employees' Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)
FEDVIP is a voluntary program that provides you with supplemental dental and/or vision insurance coverage if your FEHB plan does not already include dental or vision insurance. Although separate from FEHB, FEDVIP is similar to FEHB in that it is subject to the same enrollment times, employee eligibility, connection with flexible spending accounts, and coverage for most dependents. FEDVIP is always secondary to FEHB, and coordination of benefits with FEHB is required. Unlike FEHB, there is no government contribution to FEDVIP: you pay the entire premium.
Federal Flexible Spending Accounts Program (FSAFEDS)
The Federal Flexible Spending Accounts Program (FSAFEDS) allows you to pay for certain health and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars, incur eligible expenses, and get reimbursed. You may choose to make a voluntary allotment from your salary to your FSAFEDS account. FSAFEDS is subject to Federal Benefits Open Season requirements, but unlike FEHB and FEDVIP enrollment is not continuous – you need to re-enroll every year. If you do not incur eligible expenses or file timely claims, you will lose your contribution to the account. All three FSAs have a minimum election of $250 and a maximum election of $5,000.
- Health Care FSA (HCFSA) allows pre-tax reimbursement of eligible medical costs not covered or reimbursed by insurance, such as co-payments and over-the-counter medicines. Federal employees eligible for FEHB may enroll in the HCFSA. However, if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account, you cannot enroll in a HCFSA. You do have the option of electing a LEX HCFSA, however.
- Limited Expense Health Care FSA (LEX HCFSA) is used in place of HCFSA if you are enrolled in a high-deductible health plan with a health savings account. LEX HCFSA allows you to submit eligible dental and vision expenses only. LEX HCSFA accounts can be used in conjunction with a HCFSA.
- Dependent Care FSA (DCFSA) allows pre-tax reimbursement for eligible dependent care expenses that are necessary to allow you or your spouse to work, look for work, or attend school full-time.
Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance Program (FEGLI)
The FEGLI program is a voluntary term life insurance program offered to permanent employees and employees with appointments of more than one year. The program offers basic life insurance, standard (Option A), additional (Option B) and family (Option C). It is not part of Federal Benefits Open Season. As a new employee, you are automatically covered for basic life insurance, and the cost of this coverage will be deducted from your pay beginning with your first paycheck unless you waive coverage. If you wish to waive coverage, you must do so before the end of your first pay period. You must have basic coverage if you wish to elect optional coverage. The Government pays one-third of the cost of basic coverage, but none of the cost of optional coverage.
- Basic life insurance is equal to the value of your annual salary rounded up to the nearest $1,000, plus $2,000.
- Standard is $10,000 of insurance.
- Additional is 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 times your annual rate of basic pay rounded up to the nearest $1,000.
- Family is coverage for your spouse and all dependent children, with 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 multiples. Each multiple is equal to $5,000 for your spouse and $2,500 for each dependent child.
Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP)
The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) provides long-term care services such as home care, adult day care, and facility care. FLTCIP is not subject to Federal Benefits Open Season requirements, and an application is required to enroll. New employees can complete an abbreviated application within 60 days of their appointment date, while individuals applying at other times require a longer application with a review of medical information. FLTCIP extends to spouses and other family members. Employees pay the full cost of their premiums, and can continue FLTCIP coverage even if they are no longer in an eligible group.
Annual leave may be used for vacations or personal time. New employees earn four hours of annual leave bi-weekly for a total of 13 days per year. Annual leave accrual increases to six hours bi-weekly after three years of Federal service, and eight hours bi-weekly after 15 years of Federal service. Part-time employees earn annual leave on a pro-rated basis. In addition, all employees receive ten paid holidays per year.
Sick leave is available for personal medical needs, care of a family member, and adoption-related purposes. Federal employees earn four hours of sick leave bi-weekly for a total of 13 days per year. Part-time employees earn sick leave on a pro-rated basis.
Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP)
One of the many work and family/life services available to NIH employees is the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP). It allows participating Federal employees to share their accrued annual leave with other employees who are faced with economic hardship because of insufficient leave to cover a medical or family medical emergency.
Federal Government Retirement System (FERS)
FERS is a three-tiered retirement plan that includes Social Security benefits , the Basic Benefit Plan, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). As an NIH employee, you pay full Social Security taxes and a small contribution to the Basic Benefit Plan. In addition, NIH puts an amount equal to 1% of your basic pay each pay period into your TSP account. You may also make tax-deferred contributions to the TSP, which is matched by the government. If you are being rehired and worked in the federal government prior to December 31, 1983, you may be covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or CSRS Offset and you should consult a benefits specialist regarding your retirement coverage.
Social Security Benefits
Social Security is a national system of benefit payments to those who qualify under the Old Age Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) programs of the Social Security Act. During working years, all employed individuals pay Social Security taxes. When their earnings stop, or are reduced due to retirement, disability, or death, monthly cash benefits are paid to replace part of the earnings the employee and the family have lost.
Basic Benefit Plan
The Basic Benefit Plan is a monthly annuity benefit, which is calculated as: the value of 1% of the average of your highest basic pay over three years (“high-3 average pay”), multiplied by your years of federal service. The plan includes survivor and disability benefits. Basic benefits can apply under the following conditions: immediately after retirement, postponed after retirement, early retirement, and deferred retirement. All conditions are subject to age and years of service qualifications. That is, if you retire before meeting age and years of service qualifications, your benefits will be reduced. To receive any benefits from the Basic Benefit Plan upon retirement, you must have at least five years of creditable civilian service. Survivor and disability benefits are available after 18 months of service. Your contribution to the Basic Benefit Plan is equal to the difference between 7% of your basic pay and Social Security’s OASDI tax rate (0.80%). You can be refunded for your contributions if you leave Federal employment; however, you will no longer be eligible for benefits and you cannot redeposit your refund.
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
TSP is a tax-deferred retirement savings plan that resembles the private sector’s 401(k) plans. There are three types of contributions to TSP: an automatic 1% agency contribution, employee contributions, and agency matching contributions. Your contributions to TSP are under your control and are optional, but they are a major component of the retirement system. It should be noted that TSP contributions are made before Federal and most state income taxes are calculated, and that you are not taxed on earnings from TSP.