Members of Congress are looking to offer better benefits to families of civilian federal workers who are killed while on official duty. A bill, introduced in the House and Senate last week, would offer 10 times the current benefit amounts to families of those civilian feds. The legislation would also offer more money to these families to cover funeral expenses. The lawmakers say the bill would bring the benefits of the civilian federal workforce in line with what military members and Foreign Service employees currently receive.
Not every federal retiree will get the entire 3.2% cost-of-living adjustment in 2024. Next year, FERS retirees will get just a 2.2% cost-of-living adjustment (COLA). That's because decades ago, Congress opted to reduce Social Security benefits for newer retirees when the government switched to a new retirement system. The idea was to make overall retirement benefits equal with those for retirees in the previous retirement system. Retirees on the older system, for example, don’t receive matching government contributions through the Thrift Savings Plan. But more recently, advocacy groups and lawmakers have called for a full COLA for all federal retirees. They say the COLA reduction is unfair to those newer retirees, and that the negative effects compound as inflation climbs over time.
Federal agencies may get tools to hire military and law enforcement spouses as well as veterans quickly for remote positions, which could help agencies operate without disruptions. Senators James Lankford and Kyrsten Sinema introduced the Telework Reform Act yesterday to help agencies recruit candidates for remote positions and to enable the management, accountability and transparency of federal telework. Specifically, agencies must identify job classifications that could benefit from remote work as well as cost savings, productivity outcomes and cybersecurity or technology changes to implement. The bill would let military and law enforcement spouses support their serving spouse, while having a career of their own regardless of location. The senators stated this could also help diversify the federal workforce.
Uniformed service members, retirees and their families will see changes coming to TRICARE next year. Cost sharing will be removed for female tubal sterilization as preventative care. TRICARE will also cover preconception and prenatal carrier screening for certain conditions and will increase the number of milk bags it will cost share post birth. U.S. Family Health Plan will be an additional TRICARE Prime option in several areas of the United States. Additionally, TRICARE Managed Care Support members in six states will move from the east to west regions. It is also ending its three-year demonstration for low back pain physical therapy. Open enrollment for health, dental and vision runs from mid-November to mid-December. Changes will take effect in 2024.
The IRS is seeing a bigger gap between what taxpayers owe, and what they voluntarily pay. The IRS estimates the tax gap has grown to about 688 billion dollars each year. The agency says that’s a significant increase from previous years. But it’s still likely an undercount. Melanie Krause is the IRS’ Chief Data and Analytics Officer. She says the latest tax gap estimate doesn’t include tax avoidance through offshore finances and cryptocurrency. “We’re working actively on updating our methods to be able to detect some of these issues more quickly...”
Large businesses have new rules for how they can earn credit for lower tiered subcontracting. The Small Business Administration's final rule lays out three new approaches to letting prime contractors count lower-tier subcontracting awards toward meeting its subcontracting-plan goals. The changes include prohibiting agencies from setting tier-specific goals, and subcontracting plans are required to recite the records that contractors will maintain to substantiate lower-tier credit. The rule updates a 2016 regulation based on new requirements in the 2020 Defense authorization bill.
The General Services Administration is putting a major focus on software security this year. GSA will establish a centralized application security solution over the next year. That’s according to GSA chief information security officer Bo Berlas. “To truly be able to achieve synergy and value and be able to integrate that into a security strategy, it has to effectively be developed and delivered as an enterprise shared service.” The federal zero trust strategy directs agencies to set up application security testing programs.
In a blow to the Biden administration’s cybersecurity efforts, the Environmental Protection Agency is pulling back proposed cyber regulations for public water systems. The EPA had issued a memo earlier this year requiring states to evaluate the cybersecurity of water systems as part of their periodic sanitary surveys. But a federal court halted that action over the summer as part of an ongoing lawsuit. The EPA, in a new memo issued this week, rescinded the previous directive. The agency is still encouraging states to set up voluntary water system cybersecurity programs.
GAO puts three decades of cybersecurity oversight in a new guide. Federal auditors and analysts have a revised set of methodologies, techniques, and audit procedures to evaluate agency cybersecurity programs and systems. The Government Accountability Office's updated Cybersecurity Program Audit Guide brings together the feedback from 18 federal office of inspectors general, five public accounting firms and four state audit offices. GAO also conducted 14 focus group sessions with federal and private sector experts. The guide outlines six focus areas, each with four to seven key practices. Among the six focus areas are asset and risk management, continuous monitoring and incident response.
The Postal Service’s regulator is bringing on a new member, and keeping one of its longtime leaders. The Postal Regulatory Commission swears in former USPS executive Thomas Day to serve a six-year term. He will take over for Vice Chairman Mark Acton, whose tenure on the board expired this month. Commissioner Robert Taub is also starting his third term at the PRC following his Senate confirmation. The PRC is focused on how the Postal Service implements its 10-year reform plan, which includes a major shakeup of USPS facilities nationwide.