Fed Life — More updates ahead for TSP participants, but will it be enough to alleviate concerns?

In today’s episode of Fed Life, Drew Friedman and Tom Temin talk about two issues affecting federal employees, locality pay and developments in the Thrift Savings Plan and its website. The Office of Personnel Management announced plans to establish four new locality pay areas. Its proposed rule also included plenty of other pay recommendations from the Federal Salary Council.

Participants in the Thrift Savings Plan are still feeling repercussions from the major update last June to the 401K-type retirement savings plan for federal employees.

But with about 3.7 million online accounts in the new My Account platform, 813,000 mobile app downloads, over 1 million electronic signatures and 3.4 million electronic payments, Accenture Federal Services is touting major progress since the tumultuous transition. The TSP’s new recordkeeping contractor said more participants are starting to use the digital services now available, which was one of the larger goals of the Converge project.

Customer satisfaction with TSP is also climbing, according to a TSP survey that Accenture conducts quarterly. Most recently, by Accenture’s measurement, satisfaction with the new program has risen to 92%.

But even though Accenture said the services are gaining traction and many of the earlier problems have gone away, TSP participants have continued to share frustrations about the new platform and the online services available. Several participants even took legal action, filing a class-action lawsuit against Accenture and the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board, the agency that runs TSP. Accenture and board officials did not mention the lawsuit during the June 27 monthly board meeting.

Accenture, though, is promising more plans coming up over the next year or so — with what contractor officials said is a “participant-centric” approach. For one, Accenture said an upcoming “pizza tracker”-type service will let participants see their transactions, such as loans and withdrawals, in a more transparent, step-by-step format.

And an upcoming bank account verification tool from Accenture aims to help participants get money faster when they make online transfers, by cutting down or potentially eliminating the typical seven-day hold on bank transfers.

Legal and death claims are another area Accenture has its eye on; the contractor is aiming to “refine” this process and speed it up.

Despite the planned changes, Accenture did not provide a timeline for implementing any of the upcoming features at the TSP board meeting last week.

And there are other desirable features, too, that participants are still missing from the “old TSP.” The previously popular annuity calculator helped participants determine projected monthly payments after retirement. Prior to the update, there was an annuity calculator on the public side of TSP’s main website. Currently, a retirement income modeler to help with general annuity estimates is only accessible once logged in to My Account.

Based on participant feedback, FRTIB Director of External Affairs Kim Weaver said the board is looking to return an annuity calculator to the public side of TSP’s website, but did not share a timeline with Federal News Network for when that update would occur.

Changes coming for locality pay

Aside from the latest TSP changes, several tweaks to the federal pay system will likely bring a nice surprise to about 33,000 federal employees when they open their first paychecks of 2024 — that’s after the Office of Personnel Management published a proposal to establish four new locality pay areas for General Schedule employees starting in January 2024.

OPM’s proposed rule comes after the President’s Pay Agent in December approved recommendations from the Federal Salary Council to establish four new locality pay areas:

• Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California

• Reno-Fernley, Nevada

• Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls, New York

• Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, Washington-Idaho

Once OPM’s proposal is finalized, federal employees working in those four regions will see an increase in their locality pay percentage, after they’re moved off of the “Rest of U.S.” locality pay area.

Along with the four new localities, OPM also proposed rules to change the mapping of locality pay, as well as expand current locality pay areas to include several additional counties and regions.

OPM is requesting comments on the proposed rule about potential ripple effects of the changes in locality pay. The proposal will remain open to public comment until July 28.