November 2015 Benefits Newsletter
- Benefits Calendar Of Events
- The Federal Benefits Open Season Is Currently Underway!
- Fall Open Enrollment For The NIH Leave Bank Is Here – Become A 2016 Member!
- New “Self Plus One” Health Benefits Enrollment Option Is Now Available!
- Annual Leave: Use It Or Donate It!
- The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Annual Contributions Limit Remains The Same For 2016!
- Can I Make Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Catch-Up Contributions?
- What Is The Difference Between A Flexible Spending Account (FSA) And A Health Savings Account (HSA)?
- Employment And Income Verification – Use TALX – The Work Number®
- 1Why Do I Need A myPay PIN And How Can I Get One?
- Where Can I Find Information On Pay And Leave?
- How Can I Get In Touch With My Benefits Contact?
- Previous NIH Benefits Information – Did You Know? E-mails?
2. The Federal Benefits Open Season Is Currently Underway!
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 2016 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. You should read the Open Season Announcement thoroughly for important information pertaining to each program.
The new 2016 FEHB plan rates are now available on the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website, and the 2016 plan brochures will soon be available. Additionally, the 2016 dental and vision rates for FEDVIP are also available. FEHB and FEDVIP enrollments will automatically continue into 2016, 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
3. Fall Open Enrollment For The NIH Leave Bank Is Here – Become A 2016 Member!
Fall Open Enrollment for the NIH Leave Bank runs November 9 – December 14, 2015, and the membership period will begin on January 10, 2016. Enrollment in the Leave Bank is open to all NIH Federal employees.
The Leave Bank is a pooled bank of donated annual and restored annual leave available to eligible members. It offers income protection and amounts to paid leave for members who have exhausted all of their own leave and are affected by a personal or family medical emergency. An advantage of the Leave Bank over the Voluntary Leave Transfer Program (VLTP) is that eligible members may receive leave from the bank to cover time out of the office without soliciting donations from co-workers.
Interested in becoming a 2016 member? Access the Integrated Time and Attendance System (ITAS) during Open Enrollment and enroll under “Leave Bank Membership” tab. If you are currently a 2015 Leave Bank member, your membership will automatically continue into 2016, unless you take action in ITAS to opt-out during Open Enrollment. 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). Please note, if you do not have the accrued annual leave to become a member, you will automatically be granted a waiver.
Last year, NIH employees lost over 93,000 hours of annual leave. Don’t let your leave disappear! Please donate your unused “use or lose” annual leave to the NIH Leave Bank by January 9, 2016! Leave donations to the NIH Leave Bank reinforce the charitable and giving spirit of the NIH community and help to insure the Leave Bank will have leave available for NIH employees who are experiencing a personal or family medical emergency and have exhausted all of their own leave.
Don’t lose it – donate it! Donating leave only takes a few minutes. It’s as easy as 1-2-3!
How to donate:
- Donations are made in ITAS at https://itas.nih.gov
- After you log in, select “Donate to Leave Bank” in the tool bar
- Then enter the type of leave (annual or restored annual), the amount of hours you wish to donate, and select “Ok.”
4. New “Self Plus One” Health Benefits Enrollment Option Is Now Available!
The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program now offers a new “Self Plus One” insurance type. You may elect the new type during the current Federal Benefits Open Season, which runs November 9 – December 14, 2015. The Self Plus One type allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member. Elections made during the Open Season will be effective on January 10, 2016. Rates for the new Self Plus One type can be found on the OPM website. Some key points about the new enrollment type are:
- Agencies will not automatically change enrollments for individuals with only one family member who are enrolled in the “Self and Family” enrollment type.
- Employees must make their election in myPay during the Open Season.
For 2016 only!
- Because the new enrollment type is a change of unprecedented proportion in the FEHB Program, OPM has announced an additional limited enrollment period in 2016. The limited enrollment period will run February 1-29, 2016, and is only to allow individuals who missed the Open Season an opportunity to change their enrollment from Self and Family to Self Plus One. No other changes will be permitted. That includes no changes in plans and no option changes.
- Elections made during the limited enrollment period will be effective the first day of the pay period following the submission of the election form.
5. Annual Leave: Use It Or Donate It!
Employees are encouraged to review their annual leave balances in preparation for the end of the 2015 leave year on January 9, 2016. Annual leave in excess of the carryover limitation must be officially scheduled in ITAS with your supervisor no later than November 28, 2015, and used no later than January 9, 2016, or it will be forfeited. 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 in ITAS no later than Saturday, November 28, 2015.
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. 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 webpage or the NIH Leave Bank webpage.
Remember to use it or donate it…but don’t lose it!
6. The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Annual Contributions Limit Remains The Same For 2016!
The 2016 IRS annual limit for regular TSP contributions will remain at $18,000. 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 $693 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 $18,000, you must enter your election of $693 in myPay .
If you enter your myPay election for 2016 between December 13 – December 26*, 2015, your election will be effective on December 27, the first pay period for 2016. If your election is entered after December 26, 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 24, if you want to ensure an effective date of December 27.)
The 2016 IRS limit for TSP Catch-up contributions remains at $6,000. Please see topic# 7 below for additional information.
7. Can I Make A Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Catch-Up Contributions?
In addition to regular TSP contributions, you may also make TSP Catch-up contributions , if you meet the following criteria: 1) you are age 50 or over (or will be age 50 during 2016); 2) you are in pay status; AND 3) you are contributing an amount towards your regular TSP which will cause you to reach the $18,000 IRS limit by the end of the 2016 calendar year. The 2016 IRS limit for Catch-up contributions is $6,000. Unlike regular TSP elections, a Catch-up election is only valid for one year. Therefore, if you want to make Catch-up contributions each year, you must make a new election each year. To make a Catch-up election for 2016, you may make your election at any time on/after December 13 by using myPay . Be certain to enter the amount you want withheld from your pay each pay period. If you have questions, please notify your Benefits Contact.
8. 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 make an FSA election for the 2016 plan year during the current Federal Benefits Open Season (November 9 – December 14, 2015), your election amount will be 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.
A Health Savings Account (HSA) is an investment account available only to members who are enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) under the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program. 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, it will be subject to income tax, and if you are under age 65, an additional 10% tax penalty.
You cannot have both a HCFSA and an HSA. For additional information, view the comparison chart on the OPM website.
9. 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:
- 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.
- Provide the verifier with:
- Workforce Solutions –The Work Number® access options - www.theworknumber.com or 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)
10. 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 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 (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.
11. Where Can I Find Information On Pay And Leave?
12. 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 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 .