Newly appointed employees are covered by the Federal
Employees Retirement System (FERS). This is a contributory three-tier plan
providing retirement income from a Federal pension, Social Security and a
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). The first two components are defined benefit
plans. The FERS retirement contributions, which equal .8% of your basic pay,
and the Social Security (FICA) tax contributions, is equal to 6.2% of your
basic pay, are automatically deducted from your bi-weekly pay.
The third component, the TSP, is a voluntary defined contribution plan. This means an employee's benefits depend upon the amount of their contributions. Participation is voluntary, but TSP is a very important part of your retirement under FERS. In order to have a comprehensive retirement plan TSP must be considered as a major factor under FERS.
In addition to a future retirement benefit, FERS provides disability coverage and survivor benefits.
If you were employed by the Federal government in the past, you may be covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the CSRS Offset system instead of FERS.
Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), Traditional and Roth contributions
The TSP is a retirement savings and investment plan
for Federal employees. The TSP is a defined contribution plan similar to the
401K plan offered in the private sector. Contributions are made by payroll
The TSP is administered by the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board and the U. S. Department of Agriculture’s National Finance Center (NFC) serves as the TSP record keeper.
For CSRS employees the TSP is a source of retirement income in addition to the regular CSRS annuity.
For FERS employees the TSP is one part of the three parts of the retirement package, along with the FERS Basic Annuity and Social Security. The money that is saved and earned through the TSP account will provide an important source of retirement income.
All newly hired employees (including reemployed
annuitants who are in a position covered under CSRS or FERS) will be
automatically enrolled into the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) at a contribution
rate of 3% when they enter on duty, unless an employee makes their own TSP
contribution election. The contributions will be invested in the Government
Securities Investment (G) Fund until the employee makes a contribution
allocation with the TSP.
FERS employees will receive Agency Contributions and Agency Automatic (1%) Contributions in the TSP account. FERS employees are vested in an automatic 1-percent contribution made by the agency after 3 years.
Employees are allowed to contribute up to the IRS elective deferral limit each year.
Traditional contributions are before-tax contributions to the TSP account that will be taxed when withdrawn. This reduces the taxable pay and current overall tax bill.
Roth contributions are after-tax contributions to the TSP account that will be tax-free when withdrawn. The significance of Roth contributions is that the earnings are also tax-free when withdrawn (as long as IRS requirements are met).
Group Health Benefits Program
The Federal Employee’s Health Benefits (FEHB) insurance program is available to employees and their families for protection against the cost of illness and accident. Employees may select from a variety of plans, including fee-for-service, health maintenance organizations, and point-of-service plans based on the employee’s geographic location. The cost depends on the plan selected. The government pays a portion of the cost for health benefits premiums, usually about 70%. The premiums are deducted from the employee’s bi-weekly pay.
Annual Open Seasons are conducted each year which allow employees an opportunity to elect or make changes in their current coverage.
Group Life Insurance
Employees may purchase group life insurance to provided life and accidental death and dismemberment coverage. Most Federal Employees, including part-time employees, are eligible for participation in the Federal Employee’s Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) Program. Participation in the program is entirely voluntary.
The Federal Employee’s Group Life Insurance Program offers group rates, and the convenience of payroll deductions.
FEGLI is group term insurance. It does not have any cash or paid-up value.
The Government pays one-third of the cost of your Basic life insurance.
The FEGLI Program offers Basic coverage and several options:
Basic coverage: Equal to the employee’s salary rounded up to the next even thousand, plus two thousand dollars, and
Three types of Optional insurance:
- Option A – Standard, in the amount of $10,000;
- Option B – Additional, in an amount from one to five times the annual rate of basic pay after rounding the salary up to the next even $1,000;
- Option C – Family, one to five multiples of coverage for a spouse and all eligible children. Each multiple is equal to $5,000 in the death of a spouse and $2,500 in the death of an eligible child.
Injury Compensation Plan
The Federal Employee’s Compensation Act (FECA) provides pay, medical care and assistance, including vocational rehabilitation and reemployment rights if an employee sustains a disabling injury while in the performance of official duties.
For most SSA jobs, employees are paid according to the General Schedule (GS) classification pay system.
- Salary Increases: Under the GS classification pay system, you are eligible to receive within-grade increases until you reach the highest step of your grade provided your performance is at the successful level and you have completed the required waiting period.
- Payroll Deductions: Deductions are made for Federal income tax, State and Local income taxes in some areas, Medicare and Social Security and/or retirement. You may also authorize deductions for life insurance, health benefits, and the Combined Federal Campaign.
- Direct Deposit of Salary Payments: The payroll office will send your salary directly to a bank or other financial institution for deposit in your checking and/or savings accounts.
- Payday: Every other Tuesday is designated as payday for SSA employees. Your salary payment will cover a 2-week pay period ending 10 days before payday. Employees can use Employee Express to view and print their Leave and Earnings Statements which show gross and net salary as well as the amount taken out for each payroll deduction.
Generally employees work a full-time schedule of 5 days a week, 8 hours a day. However, some employees work a part-time schedule from 16 to 32 hours a week.
- Alternative Work Schedule: Some SSA offices have alternatives to a fixed work schedule. These alternatives take two forms, with some variations - flextime with credit hours and compressed work schedules:
- Flextime refers to a variety of arrangements in which fixed times of arrival and departure are replaced by a working day composed of two different types of time - core time and flexible time. Core time is the designated period during which all employees must be present. Flexible time is designated as part of the schedule of working hours within which employees may choose their time of arrival and departure from the work site.
- Flextime with Credit Hours allows employees to work additional time after completing their normal workday provided they have advance approval from their supervisor. The additional time will be accrued for employees to use sometime in the future.
- Compressed Work Schedule allows employees to work eight 9-hour days, one 8-hour day and take one day off in a biweekly pay period or work four 10-hour days each week of the biweekly pay period.
The Federal Government observes ten legal holidays.
Approved absence from work in the Federal government is called leave. All leave must be requested in 15-minute increments and approved by your supervisor. There are several types of leave:
- Annual Leave: Used to take time off for rest and
relaxation. Leave is earned as follows:
Years of Federal Service Annual Leave Accumulated Less than 3 13 days a year 3 through 15 20 days a year 15 or more 26 days a year
- Sick Leave: Used for the following reasons:
- Receiving medical, dental, or optical examinations;
- Presenting a health threat due to exposure to communicable disease; or
- Involvement in adoption-related activities.
A limited amount of sick leave may be used to provide care for family members or for death of a family member. You earn 13 days of sick leave a year and it may accumulate without limit.
On-the-job training is provided SSA-wide. It covers needed knowledge and skills; i.e., clerical, technical, professional, managerial, etc., in accordance with established management priorities and availability of funds.
You are eligible for honorary and monetary awards that are granted to recognize superior accomplishments.
Depending on where you work, counseling services are provided to assist employees with their career-related concerns and personal financial situations. The Employee Assistance Program also provides direct counseling and referral, management consultation, supervisory training, employee education and outreach.
Child and Elder Care Services
Depending on your work location, childcare services may be available to meet the needs of working parents at SSA. Child Care Centers are designed with children in mind and equipped with child-size furniture and facilities along with carefully selected playthings.
Elder Care services are provided to help employees recognize that they may be now or may become caregivers in the future and acquaints them with the many issues involved in care giving. It puts employees in touch with a wide variety of community resources and services that can help them meet the needs of their elderly loved one.
Depending on your work location, a fitness/wellness center may be available to assist employees in maintaining and improving their overall health. It emphasizes health education and encourages employees to develop positive health attitudes and personal lifestyle changes that can prevent future health problems.