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    Today is it. This is the last day for Americans to enroll in an Affordable Care Act Marketplace. And I want to make a special appeal to the Latino community to keep working until the last minute to get the word out.

    In the past month I’ve traveled to Philadelphia, San Antonio, Houston, Miami and Phoenix. I’ve concentrated on the Latino community because we lack health insurance in greater numbers than others. I am determined to get us covered – NOW.

    We heard last week that more than 6 million Americans have signed up and that the virtual lines are long in the Marketplaces. That’s great. But we can’t let up.

    In order to be assured of health coverage for the coming year enrollees have to have started the sign up process by midnight. Just like on an Election Day, as long as people are in line before midnight they’ll be given time to complete the enrollment process.

    The resources are there for Latinos. In addition to healthcare.gov there is cuidadodesalud.gov. The call center – 1-800-318-2596 - has Spanish speaking operators waiting to help.

    This is it. Spread the word anyway you can.

    Let’s get everyone covered NOW!

     Director Archuleta talking to students in Phoenix about the ACA


    It’s officially spring and the weather is slowly edging away from what’s been an unusually harsh winter season. We’ve had one major storm after another and lots of little ones in between. We’ve all made good use of our shovels, ice scrapers, coats, hats and gloves.

    At Dulles Airport, one of the major measuring centers, the National Weather Service measured 52.8 inches of snow for this winter, 30 inches more than the seasonal average. This is likely a winter we’ll be telling stories about for many years to come.

    Wherever I go, people always ask me about our Dismissal and Closure status. Our social media channels start getting busy with questions and comments days before a storm is ready to hit!

    What many people don’t realize is that we prepare all year round for these kinds of events. Whether it’s an unexpectedly heavy winter weather season, an earthquake in August, or a Superstorm in October, we do all we can to make sure we are prepared for anything.  Decisions may be hard and not always popular, but because we prepare, we barely miss a beat.

    We consult throughout the year with our partners in this effort – the Council of Governments, the National Weather Service and transportation departments throughout the National Capital Area.

    OPM’s guidance covers any natural disaster or event that disrupts commuting in the DC area.  This includes not only snow and ice, but earthquakes, tornados, hurricanes or other special events that may occur during the year.  Whenever these emergencies occur, OPM is committed to promoting the continuity of operations and ensuring the safety of its workforce. 

       

    One of the strongest tools we have is telework.  During emergencies, teleworking is often the best option for continuity of operations. That’s why so much of our Dismissal and Closure guide helps agencies and employees understand their options and flexibilities.

    We want to make sure that as much as possible, the weather doesn’t keep the Federal workforce from providing excellent service to the American people.

    The Telework Enhancement Act of 2010 helps us do that. The Act requires agencies to incorporate telework into their continuity of operation plans.  OPM used the Act as an opportunity to highlight telework in our emergency announcements. We have been working with agencies to increase the use of telework, both regularly and during emergencies.

    That effort is paying off. Federal employees are teleworking at an all-time high across the country. In the DC area, according to the Employee Viewpoint Survey, 70 percent of employees are telework eligible. Telework is the best option to keep the Federal Government working during the emergencies that prevent normal government operations.

    Moreover, new technologies allow Federal employees to work from home, and I know most of you find ways to make up your work at no cost to the Federal government.  As such, there is no good way for us to calculate with any accuracy the cost of closing Federal government building.

    Each year, OPM reviews its guidance and discusses lessons learned with its interagency working group and labor unions.  These discussions ensure that OPM’s announcements reflect the current needs of the Federal workforce. Over the past several years, we’ve worked unscheduled leave and telework into nearly all of our status options so that you have the flexibility to make the right decision for you and your family.  

    We follow up our consultations and engagement with the interagency and union stakeholders with videos, guidance, and other materials to help inform Federal employees.  Througout the year, we also encourage Federal workers to have preparedness conversations with their supervisors and agency leaders.  And when in doubt, FEMA’s www.ready.gov is the one stop shop for general preparedness tips and information.

    Now that we’ve (hopefully) seen our last snow of the season, let’s keep the conversation going.  Talk to your employees, to your supervisor, and to your families about the plans that work for you. Let’s all think about this winter and learn from it.  I know that together we’ll be ready for the next emergency that comes our way.  After all, hurricane season is right around the corner.

    Happy Spring!

     

     

     


    We learned today that more than 6 million Americans have signed up for health insurance so far in the Affordable Care Act Marketplace.

    This important milestone means that more than 6 million Americans can count on affordable, quality health care. It means they don’t have to worry about insurance companies refusing to cover them because they are sick or have a preexisting condition. It means 6 million Americans don’t have to worry about how they will pay a hospital bill if they or someone in their family gets sick.

    In the past month I have been to Philadelphia, San Antonio, Miami, Houston and Phoenix to spread the word about the need for all uninsured Americans to sign up for health insurance, particularly Latinos, who have a higher uninsured rate than most Americans and more health risk factors.

    At one enrollment site in Phoenix, 300 people had waited on line just on Wednesday to get signed up. And nationwide on Wednesday there were 1.5 million visits to healthcare.gov and the call center received more than 430,000 calls.

    6 million is great. But our work is not yet done. We have four days left. We all need to spread the word to our friends, our families, our colleagues, our neighbors. Enroll in the Marketplace.

    Tell them to go to healthcare.gov. Tell them to go to cuidadodesalud.gov. Tell them to call the 1-800-318-2596 call center 24 hours a day.

    Let’s get everyone covered now!  

    http://youtu.be/3Okgs0a-ybM


    The Office of Personnel Management is committed to the accurate and timely processing of retirement claims to Federal retirees.  In recent months, we have taken steps to reduce the backlog in processing Federal employee retirement requests, addressed the needs of the Retirement Services (RS) Information Technology system and improved customer service in RS.

    Because of the hard work of our employees, OPM has made significant improvements to retirement processing efforts over the past year.  As of the end of fiscal 2013, the claims inventory was 17,719 cases – a 71 percent reduction since the peak of 61,108 cases in January 2012.  As of February 2014, the average time to process a new retirement claim was 61 days. The average processing time was 91 days in July of 2013 and 156 days in December 2011.  While annuitants wait for their final monthly annuity, OPM places new retirees on interim pay which on average constitutes approximately 80% of their final pay within 7 days of notification of their retirement.  Process improvements achieved through the hard work of our RS employees and strategic efforts have allowed for this reduction in inventory.  
     
    While parts of the retirement process remains paper-based, OPM has begun a gradual transition to a fully digital process. Since 2005, new employees’ data is all maintained electronically.  The OPM Strategic Plan and OPM Strategic IT Plan outline the fully electronic process using that data.  Once the transition is complete, most retirement data will be electronic, and the vast majority of records will be sent automatically through the system to the points where a human decision-maker is still needed.

    We are expanding on the Retirement Case Management System being developed with resources Congress provided in 2014. We are doing that by moving to align our retirement processing systems to a common IT platform with other OPM activities. This will make it easier to accomplish future incremental retirement processing improvements and take advantage of data OPM will gather throughout an employee’s career lifecycle.

    The IT improvements included in the President’s fiscal 2015 Budget request are based on the Retirement Services Strategic Plan and similar successful information technology initiatives. In addition, we are working closely with major commercial providers of IT services that support agencies’ retirement application processing to ensure that Retirement Services information technology systems are compatible and consistent with current technology.

    While OPM has made progress, I will work closely with leadership and employees to continue to improve the services that our customers deserve and expect.  We are working to prioritize claims processing, customer service, and IT modernization, including the development of a case management system for Retirement Services.

    I remain humbled by the hard work and dedication of OPM employees, and want to assure the Federal workforce that I remain focused on providing RS the tools it needs, including to  improve Retirement Services IT.

    We will continue to make every effort to provide the excellent and timely service that our world class Federal workforce deserves.


    I’m headed to Miami this weekend. We’re coming down to the wire for uninsured Americans people to sign up for the Affordable Care Act Marketplaces. I especially want to make sure that the millions of uninsured Latinos know the benefits of the new health care law and how they can enroll.

    The deadline for signing up for this year is March 31. After that people without health insurance will have to wait another year to enroll. They’ll have to wait another year to benefit from the preventive care the Affordable Care Act provides for free. They’ll have to wait another year for the Federal financial assistance available to help people pay their monthly premiums. They’ll have to pay a penalty for not being covered.

    So far more than 5 million people without insurance have already signed up for a plan. More than 10 million people have enrolled in private insurance or signed up, renewed, or found out they are eligible for Medicaid coverage.

    In Miami on Saturday I will go to Palmetto Hospital in Hialeah where Enroll America is sponsoring an event to help people sign up for the Affordable Care Act Marketplaces. I want to salute Enroll America and all the other community groups across the country for the hard work they are doing in key states where large numbers of Americans are uninsured and need coverage.

    After the formal event, I will join community organizers to go door-to-door in the community to explain to people the benefits of the new health law and tell them how they can sign up.

    I need your help. If you are uninsured, enroll. If you have health insurance, talk to family members, talk to friends, talk to neighbors. If people have questions, there are navigators and online resources available to help. A call center is available at 1-800-318-2596, seven days a week, 24-hours a day. Consumers can get help in English and in Spanish.

    Don’t forget. The deadline is Monday, March 31. It is so important to #GetCovered!


    During my confirmation hearing last summer, I promised to assess the state of Information Technology at OPM and develop a strategic IT plan within 100 days of being sworn in. I am pleased to share that plan with you today.

    The Strategic IT Plan addresses our technology needs across the agency and aims to improve many of the factors that directly impact our IT, including efficiency, accountability, and innovation. It’s organized around the concept of an “HR lifecycle IT framework.” This builds upon OPM’s strategic workforce planning for the hiring process and continues throughout an employee’s career in Federal service, culminating in retirement.

    IT is really about a bigger picture. We know that our IT systems impact how we do every aspect of our work. That is why in order to better serve the American people, Federal employees, and Federal agencies, my team and I will also use the HR lifecycle IT framework to help make government human resources smarter and more effective.

    Here’s a look at our HR lifecycle framework: 

    Graphic of the HR lifecycle framework. Header reads: Strategy, Acquire, Sustain, and Separate. 3 tier chart, Top tier: Business Initiatives, Middle tier: Enterprise Initiatives, Bottom tier: Enabling Initiatives.

     
    Our goal is to be able to:

    • Manage, analyze, and share data easily
    • Leverage efficiencies
    • Support business processes
    • Enable better decision-making

    There are a lot of pieces to this plan, some of which you will see up close – such as USAJOBS and our retirement tools. Other aspects will take place behind the scenes. Either way, we’ll be using the same strategy of making foundational improvements and working through initiatives -  from IT leadership to Data Analytics to Information Security. That will allow us to improve IT across the board. In the end, our goal is to provide better, faster service in every way possible.

    There’s a lot more to this plan and I’m sure we’ll have more to share in the coming months as we put it into action. If you’d like to read the plan in its entirety, you can find it on OPM’s website (http://www.opm.gov/about-us/budget-performance/strategic-plans/strategic-it-plan.pdf).

    This Strategic IT Plan is another step in OPM’s mission to better recruit, retain and honor a world-class Federal workforce.


    During a trip to San Antonio this week, I got to know a group of amazing veterans who, after serving their country valiantly, have decided to continue to serve the American people by transitioning into a civilian position with the Federal government.

    I also was able to visit some cutting edge facilities in San Antonio that help our returning heroes successfully return to civilian life.

    I toured the Center for the Intrepid. The CFI helps service members with severe injuries and amputations maximize their ability to lead full and productive lives.  They do truly crucial work, assisting not only these service members but also their families and support systems.

    I also had the chance to visit the Warrior Family Support Center. The center provides a friendly, comfortable and safe environment for wounded warriors and their families to connect with other military members, to get emotional, educational and social support that can help them better make the transition to civilian life.

    I was so impressed by the teams at these centers and am thankful that we have them working to help our injured service members.

    One of the most memorable moments for me was my time with five transitioning service members at Ft. Sam Houston.

    Sergeant Rafael Acosta, Staff Sergeant David Merchant, Master Sergeant Aileen Philips, Specialist Jared Werner, and Specialist Miriam Martin together have given more than 67 years of service to their country in the Army and the Marines. They are five examples of the great men and women who are beginning the transition from military service to civilian service. It is a testament to their commitment to service that they will continue to work for their country by joining the Federal workforce.

    They are among a growing number of veterans who are doing that. Preliminary data for fiscal year 2013 shows that more than 30 percent of new federal hires will be veterans. That’s a statistic I’m incredibly proud of and that I know can and will continue to grow.

    Fedshirevets.gov is a great resource for veterans who are looking to enter the civilian federal service. There is also a special veterans section on USAJOBS.

    We should all honor the incredible work that all our service men and women do for us each day. And we are equally honored that when it’s time for these brave warriors to take the next step in their careers, they choose to join the civilian Federal workforce.


    Each year, the President designates March as National Women’s History Month as one way that Americans in schools, workplaces and local communities can take the time to reflect on the accomplishments and legacies of women who have shaped our great country’s history.

    This year’s theme is “Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and Commitment.”

    Like many of you, when I see those words, I think of my mother, I think of my sister, and I think of my daughter, all strong and courageous women in my life.

    The theme of character, courage and commitment honors the extraordinary and often unrecognized determination of the tenacity of women. For generations, often facing social convention and legal constraints, women have persevered in their efforts to achieve their full potential.

    This month, the National Women’s History Project has named 12 honorees whose lives and achievements span centuries and cultural and ethnic backgrounds. 

    Among the honorees are three women who are – or were – Federal employees. They are examples of the legions of women who go to work for the American people each and every day.

    Frances Oldham Kelsey was the Food and Drug Administration Pharmacologist who refused to approve thalidomide, a drug that was later proved to cause severe birth defects.  Dr. Kelsey’s research led Congress to pass the 1938 Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act greatly strengthening the agency’s drug regulations. Dr. Kelsey continued her work at the FDA until her retirement in 2005 at age 91.

    Ann Lewis has been a lifelong women’s rights organizer and women’s history advocate. She served as White House Communications Director under President Clinton. As a national commentator on public policy, she champions the recognition of women’s history.

    Lisa Taylor is a civil rights attorney for the Department of Justice where she has enforced the rights of HIV victims, autistic children, and educational opportunities for minority students. She was in Naval ROTC as a student and served as an officer aboard the USS Tarawa, where she developed the ship’s first program to address sexual harassment.

    I salute all of these women. And I want to thank all the women here at OPM for the job they do each and every day to serve this agency and the American people.

    In his Women’s History Month proclamation, President Obama calls on all of us to also “celebrate those who make progress in our time. Let us remember that when women succeed, America succeeds.” 

    I hope we all take time out of our busy lives this month to remember the women who have been important in our lives. And still are.

     

     

     


    Saturday I went to Philadelphia to get the word out about the approaching deadline for people to enroll in the Affordable Care Act Marketplaces. The push is on to make sure that everyone who is eligible for health insurance under the new health law has the information and help they need to enroll by March 31.

    I visited with people attending a four-hour event at Congreso de Latinos Unidos where representatives from the Department of Health and Human Services were on hand to answer questions and assist people in the enrollment process.

    I told the community residents a little bit about my family’s health care story and about how necessary it is to have health coverage, regardless of what age you are.

    My daughter Graciela was diagnosed with ovarian cancer at the age of 19. Now healthy, she still has a lifetime of tests and need for medical care ahead of her. The Affordable Care Act ensures that she won’t ever be denied coverage for that care. My older brother Bob is a laborer. He works whenever he can get a job, so he wasn’t able to get health insurance. With the Affordable Care Act, he has been able to sign up for a plan through healthcare.gov and he no longer has to worry about the possibility of getting sick. My younger brother Dan is a contractor. He had health insurance but it was prohibitively expensive – he spent most of his paycheck just on the cost. With the exchanges he was able to get a plan that is much more affordable and still provides excellent coverage.

    My family’s story is not that unusual. It’s the same story that families all across America could tell. And it’s why the Affordable Care Act is so important.

    The President wants to make sure that the word is getting out to the Hispanic community, which has a higher insurance rates that most. Nearly 25 percent of Hispanics are uninsured.

    That’s a statistic that must change. And because of the Affordable Care Act it will.

    Because of the Affordable Care Act, Americans can get quality healthcare for an affordable cost. They can be sure that they will have coverage to treat the accidents and unexpected illnesses that may come their way. And they can know that they can’t be denied coverage because they’ve been sick.

    My trip to Philadelphia today is the first of several I will be making between now and March 31, the deadline to enroll. We all need to spread the word: Enroll Now!


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