FEHB enrollees will soon be empowered to amass a bigger nest egg for health care expenses

In today's Federal Newscast: The Homeland Security IG's deleted texts continue to vex Democrats in congress. A GOP-controlled House committee votes to fully fun...

  • The State Department’s diversity chief is preparing to leave the agency. In a survey of nearly 9,000 State Department employees, respondents asked leadership to remove barriers to merit-based promotion. Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley said the survey results show too many employees reported discrimination, harassment or bullying, and expressed “little confidence" that the department would address it. Abercrombie-Winstanley said her office is also requesting funds to build out its data analytics capabilities. “We intend to attract, hire, promote and retain talent, and remove barriers that might keep some from rising as far as their abilities can take them,” Abercrombie-Winstanley said.
  • House Republicans are advancing a fiscal 2024 spending bill that fully funds the Department of Veteran Affairs at levels requested by the Biden administration. The bill provides the VA with nearly $300 billion next year, and includes nearly $2 billion for the VA to continue with its rollout of a new Electronic Health Record. The bill also includes amendments that would prohibit abortions, gender-affirming care and the flying of certain flags at VA facilities. Lawmakers have specifically targeted the flying of rainbow pride flags at VA facilities this month. The House Appropriations Committee voted along party lines to approve the bill.
  • Federal employees can now donate their unused paid time off to feds impacted by Typhoon Mawar, which hit Guam last month. The Office of Personnel Management has added the disaster area to its Emergency Leave Transfer Program. The program lets feds offer their time-off hours to those who may need additional time off, allowing them to avoid dipping into their own paid leave. Federal employees interested in either donating or receiving paid time off through the program can apply within their own agencies. OPM can give agencies additional leave, if the agencies don't receive enough donated annual leave on their own.
  • House Democrats are calling on the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) to investigate the Department of Homeland Security inspector general over deleted texts. In a Monday letter to the National Archivist Colleen Shogan, Oversight Committee Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D-Md.), and several of his colleagues, urged NARA to review whether DHS IG Joseph Cuffari destroyed federal records. During a hearing last week, Cuffari acknowledged that he did delete texts from his government-issued phone, saying that, "It's my normal practice to delete text messages."
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is directing agencies to take new steps to secure their networks. Agencies are working to address the risks of internet-connected networked management interfaces under a binding operational directive issued by CISA yesterday. Those devices, such as firewall systems and routers, have been at the center of recent cyber exploits, including by alleged China state-sponsored hackers. CISA will scan federal networks for any internet-connected devices and notify agencies if and when they find any. Agencies then have two weeks to either take those devices off the internet, or apply zero trust access control capabilities.
  • Enrollees in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) will soon be able to amass a bigger nest egg for health care expenses. Starting in 2024, FEHB participants will be able to save about 7% more toward their health savings accounts. That is after the IRS announced a big increase in the annual contribution limit. Kevin Moss, editor of Consumers' Checkbook and a federal health plan expert, said, "For self only enrollments, health savings accounts are going up $300. Self plus one or self and family, $7,750 to $8,300. These are bigger increases than what we typically see. The value of having a health savings account [is] even greater going forward starting in plan year 2024."
    (FedLife - Federal News Network)
  • A decision by the Environmental Protection Agency sparked a push by Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) to change how agencies open funding opportunities to Washington, D.C. Holmes Norton wrote to the Office of Management and Budget asking for the administration to direct all agencies to treat D.C. as a state, city and county for purposes of federal funding, unless an applicable statute precludes such funding. The letter comes after the EPA made D.C. eligible for state funding, but not municipal funding, under its Solid Waste Infrastructure for Recycling grant program. Holmes Norton asked for a response from OMB by June 26. She also introduced a bill to correct the EPA's interpretation of the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act.

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