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Dan Thibodeau is a USAJOBS Program Manager
With Memorial Day weekend upon us, Americans will be firing up their grills and shopping for a good sale. But let’s not forget what this holiday is truly about. It’s not about launching the summer season or even thanking our heroic veterans for their service to America. Memorial Day is a somber day of remembrance for the 1.8 million Americans who have given their lives in defense of this country.
Created after the Civil War, this holiday was intended to give Americans the opportunity to share their feelings, pride, respect, and honor for those who paid the ultimate price while serving in our nation’s military. This day, in particular, is especially meaningful for me. As a former Sergeant in the Marine Corps, I spent four years serving as an Aviation Ordnanceman before being medically discharged from the military. During my time in the service, and since getting out, I’ve wanted to do something to honor those who died while serving.
Sergeant Joshua James Frazier was tragically killed by a sniper in Iraq in February, 2007. The 24-year-old Marine from Spotsylvania, Va., had recently been promoted and was scheduled to head home in just two months when his life was cut short.
To honor my Marine brother, I will spend two years raising a black Labrador retriever, who is currently in training to become a service dog with Warrior Canine Connection. His name, fittingly, is Frazier.
Frazier, who will celebrate his first birthday this October, is on track to become a mobility service dog with Warrior Canine Connection, an organization that enlists recovering veterans (like myself) to train service dogs for fellow wounded veterans. These dogs help wounded warriors reconnect with life, their families, their communities and each other in many ways. They are trained to help open doors, retrieve items, and turn on lights, among other duties.
Frazier is a busy boy. He goes everywhere with me, including my office here at OPM. He even has his own Facebook page, if you would like to stay up-to-date on his adventures.
Last weekend, we attended a motorcycle ride honoring Sergeant Frazier and Army Sergeant Nicholas Mason. More than 600 motorcyclists participated in the annual ride, which was designed to honor and remember Virginia’s fallen service members and to reach out and help those veterans who are wounded, disabled, or in need.
For those OPM employees who live near Washington D.C., we are lucky to have the opportunity to visit multiple memorials dedicated to those killed in action, including Arlington National Cemetery, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, the WWII, Korean, and Vietnam Veterans memorials. My personal favorite is the veteran’s exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History.
But even if you don’t live in D.C., cities across the country have memorials, cemeteries, and museums dedicated to our country’s fallen service members. If you have the chance, please take time on Monday to visit one of these landmarks and reflect on the true meaning of Memorial Day.
By Dean Hunter, Director of Facilities, Security, and Emergency Management, OPM
Last month we celebrated the forty-seventh annual Earth Day – a day for celebrating the world around us and raising awareness for the many environmental issues that need our attention in order to have a clean, healthy world. People across the globe recognized the day with service opportunities and awareness events to continue to make the crucial environmental changes we all need.
Here at OPM, the celebration and commitment to sustainability continues year-round. I am proud to announce that OPM was nominated for a Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships award. The Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships is a non-profit dedicated to accelerating energy efficiency in the building sector through public policy, program strategies and education throughout the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. We were nominated by the District of Columbia Sustainable Energy Utility (DCSEU) as one of their business partners for the work we’ve done with them to reduce our energy and water use.
We’ve been making strategic changes for several years to curb our energy use and employ various energy efficient strategies. We’ve seen a significant decrease in our energy use as a result. Our partnership with DCSEU enabled us to obtain rebates for our energy and water reduction efforts. We’ve also installed new high efficiency chillers for the air conditioning system, optimizing air handler and cooling tower performance, and improving lighting, including installing dimmable lighting in stairwells.
I am honored that our team has been recognized for their leadership in energy efficiency as well as for their innovation in their solutions. We are in an old building that presents many challenges and the sustainability team helped create solutions that are effective and long lasting.
We hope that for many years to come we will continue to be a part of the solutions to the environmental problems our world faces.
May is Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage (AAPI) Month and is the perfect opportunity for us to celebrate the vast contributions AAPI communities make to both our nation and as part of the Federal workforce that serves the American people.
In the first year of his administration, the President signed an executive order reestablishing the White House Initiative on Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders (WHIAAPI) and the President’s Advisory Commission on AAPIs.
The President’s commitment to this fastest-growing racial group in our country has extended to every corner of his administration.
At OPM, I’m grateful that Kiran Ahuja, who for six years was the Executive Director of the WHIAAPI, now serves as our Chief of Staff. Michelle Lee serves as the Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Chris Lu is the Deputy Secretary of Labor. Vice Admiral Vivek Murthy is the nation’s Surgeon General. Nani Coloretti serves as Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Deputy Secretary. And Esther Kia’aina is an Assistant Secretary at the Department of the Interior. These are just a few of the AAPI members who serve throughout the Administration.
As the President reminded us in his proclamation celebrating this month, AAPIs make up “one of the most culturally and linguistically diverse groups in America.” We should celebrate this diversity and also work to make sure that the Federal Government is providing the appropriate level and type of services to these varied communities.
“We are working across government to improve data collection to counter existing stereotypes and to shed light on the realities faced and resources needed by the AAPI community,” the President also said in his proclamation.
As the AAPI population has grown, it has become increasingly clear that AAPI communities vary by immigration patterns, socioeconomic status, educational attainment, wealth accumulation, and much more.
In order to provide more accurate and meaningful information on the AAPI community to both policymakers and the public, Federal agencies are working to provide disaggregated AAPI data – that is data by individual ethnicities – whenever possible.
For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s American Housing Survey now includes AAPI subgroup data. The Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics Labor Force Characteristics by Race and Ethnicity report includes unemployment rates and other labor force estimates for seven Asian subgroups.
Here at OPM, our AAPI employee resource group (ERG) engages in a number of activities to support AAPI employees including brown bag luncheons, panels, other internal events for OPM staff, and shares vacancy announcements with its members. We have partnered with our AAPI ERG to encourage and promote participation in career development programs. And, we are looking forward to its upcoming AAPI Heritage Month event on Tuesday, May 24 from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. This wide-ranging panel discussion on diversity and the Federal workforce will feature some of the talented AAPI leaders in the Administration.
I encourage all Federal employees to celebrate the contributions our AAPI colleagues make every day to the Federal Government’s ability to fulfill its mission. And we should all encourage more AAPIs to join our Federal family.
Last week was another great Public Service Recognition Week. Together, we took time to reflect on the great work our Federal workforce does every day. I am continually impressed by the dedication and commitment our two million-strong Federal workforce has to serving the American people. And here at OPM, whether it’s helping agencies make sure employees have the tools and training they need to do their jobs, administering health benefits for Federal workers, retirees and their families, or helping our nation’s veterans transition into Federal civilian service, our team works hard to help agencies across government fulfill their missions.
The President said it best in his annual PSRW proclamation: “Civil servants demonstrate resolve and inspire optimism in sectors throughout our country. They are engineers and educators, military service members and social workers, and their individual and collective contributions drive us forward on the path toward an ever brighter tomorrow. Both at home and abroad, they carry forward the notion that as Americans, we are committed to looking out for one another and to working together to forge a bright future for generations to come.”
Last week, I co-authored an op-ed with Max Stier, president and CEO of the Partnership for Public Service. In it we highlighted some of the good work Federal employees do every single day. We know that Federal employees work hard to serve the American people. Whether it’s processing Social Security checks, fighting wildfires, or searching for the next groundbreaking cancer treatment – Federal employees deliver the services the American people need.
Many Federal employees do some pretty amazing things in their jobs. In the op-ed, we highlighted a few of this year’s Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Medal – or “Sammie” – finalists. Among them were Dr. Paul McGann, Jean D. Moody-Williams, and Dennis Wagner, three Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services employees who have been working tirelessly for the past four years to reduce medical errors and avoidable infections in hospitals. Their efforts have led to 2.1 million fewer patients harmed and 87,000 lives saved.
We also showcased Lisa Jones of the Department of the Treasury. Lisa designed a program to help low-income communities get access to money to fund health-care centers, charter schools, housing, and small businesses.
And, I was proud to mention that one of the Sammie finalists is OPM’s own Kimya Lee and our Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey team. Those team members include: Kim Wells, Craig Simons, Rose Miller, Taylor Lewis, Shannon Lewis, Stephanie Westphal, Lauren Sobek, Karl Hess, Mari Raviele, Megan Poore, and Lorraine Latimore. Each year, this talented team analyzes survey data and creates thousands of reports managers can use to help them improve employee engagement and productivity throughout the Federal service.
There are countless more examples in every Federal agency of employees doing equally innovative and groundbreaking work. Without Federal employees, this country simply would not run. So for that, we should all be grateful.
I want to again thank each and every Federal employee for the work you do every day – often behind the scenes – to keep our country running efficiently, safely, and productively.
Each May, we stop and make time to let Federal employees know how much they are valued and appreciated for the work they do. But even when it’s not Public Service Recognition Week, know that the President, me, and all Federal leaders recognize, honor, and are grateful for the work that you do.
Every day agencies across the Federal Government come together to provide important services to the American people. This spring, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) joined forces to recruit prospective candidates for administrative law judge (ALJ) positions. ALJs are integral to SSA and other agencies to make impartial decisions on such issues as disability determinations, licensing, or grievances. Nearly 2,000 ALJs work in 27 Federal agencies across the government.
SSA’s hearing and appeals operation is one of the largest administrative adjudicative systems in the world. OPM provides agencies with certificates of well-qualified ALJ candidates, drawn from a robust register, to fill vacant positions. We are happy to report that OPM recently issued an announcement for entry-level ALJ positions on USAJOBS, which yielded more than 5,000 applications.
In the coming months, OPM will review qualifications and complete the thorough approval process by which applicants who successfully complete both online and in-person assessments of the examination will be added to the ALJ register. In addition to scheduling the current administration of the exam, OPM replenished the existing ALJ register with new candidates who successfully completed the 2013 administration of the examination. OPM also opens the examination on a quarterly basis to disabled veterans and certain individuals who are entitled to veterans’ preference in relation to disabled veterans.
SSA and OPM are committed to continuing to work together to fulfill this important government function.
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