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    Today’s day-after-Thanksgiving sales kick off the holiday shopping season. But today isn’t just about shopping for the softest sweater or the hottest new toy. It’s also a great time to shop for the perfect health plan for you and your family.

    With just about a week left in the Federal benefits open season, why not focus on determining whether your current plan is the best one for you. Ask yourself these questions: Do you have the right coverage for your family? Are there other options you should consider? Are you getting the best value?

    I am proud to report that OPM’s Health Care and Insurance team recently earned national recognition for its efforts to improve the health of employees, retirees, family members, and newly insured Americans.

    Our team’s efforts to deliver high quality, affordable health care have been recognized in two reports to Congress about quality and prevention. The National Strategy for Quality and Improvement in Health Care Annual Report highlights efforts that support OPM’s Healthier Americans strategic goal. The National Prevention Council’s Annual Status Report features OPM initiatives to expand insurance coverage for Tribal employees, provide Employee Assistance Program resources to our Federal workers, and reinforce preventive services like timely flu shots.

    We work closely with our Federal Employees Health Benefits and Multi-State Plan Program health insurance carriers to help achieve these results.

    I’m also pleased to share that we've seen more FEHB plans achieve “Most Improved” and “Exemplary” status each year since we started tracking scores for health care quality. These scores demonstrate how well plans deliver care for such common conditions as diabetes and high blood pressure, and how effectively they screen for health risks.

    What does this news mean for you and your family? Many people don’t know that having good quality health coverage means they may be able to prevent or better care for chronic diseases. Sadly, high blood pressure contributes to approximately 1,000 deaths every day and at least 25 percent of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. Better screening and control save lives. Preventing chronic diseases helps us stay healthy, active, productive, and connected to those who depend on us. So your plan’s performance matters. Check out OPM’s Quality Scores page for your plan’s rating.

    Health needs change from year to year and it’s important to make sure your plan is still the best one for you and your family. Take a look at our FEHB Open Season page for key information and answers to your questions.

    Nothing is more important than your and your family’s health. Take some time this Black Friday and over the weekend to review your plan and consider whether it’s time for a change. And, don’t forget, open season ends December 8. 

    Photo of a sale sign in a store window.

    As we head into the busy holiday season, I want to take a moment to thank my OPM family and the entire Federal workforce for your incredible work, passion, and dedication to serving the American people.

    I am very thankful that in my first year as Director of OPM, I have been able to meet so many of you across the country and see firsthand the work you do. The commitment you all have to the missions of your agencies is plain to see. Here at OPM, I see that passion and drive every day, and I am incredibly thankful for the best team I could have possibly asked for. I especially want to recognize those families who are apart from their loved ones this year. So many public servants and military service members will spend this holiday season far away from home. We honor and appreciate their sacrifices and look forward to their safe return home.

    And I wish a safe journey to all of you who will be traveling over the holiday. As for me, I will be at home in Colorado with my husband and our daughter, Graciela, celebrating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner with family and friends. I will be thinking about how thankful I am to be able to work with all of you on making Federal service the best it can be.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

    Director Archuleta Looking into distance wearing blue dress and clutching pearls on neck

    One of our greatest challenges at OPM is to help agencies grow and develop our Federal leaders of the future. That is why I convened a series of Thought Leader talks this fall, and I’m pleased to report that the three sessions provided us with new information, inspiration, and vision to guide OPM in meeting that challenge.

    The sessions brought together leaders from government, business, academia and global organizations to talk about the future of leadership and how we can address challenges and opportunities. We focused on millennials because we know that they are the future of the American workforce, as well as innovative new practices around leadership development, assessment and engagement. And while we have to think about the leaders of today and those who will come after them, we must also plan for tomorrow.

    We also talked about how work may take many new forms in the coming years. In our first session, we discussed how email could be replaced by new forms of communication. We talked about working more virtually. If the current move toward telework continues, virtual work will increase, with some employees never stepping foot in a traditional office.

    We are already starting to use new technologies to be more strategic in our recruiting. Many organizations, including the U.S. Army, are turning to a new type of assessment for applicants. Instead of just analyzing resumes, managers are using a situation-based simulation that allow them to assess an applicant’s choices and skills. It’s one of the most innovative and useful tools I’ve seen in the recruiting realm.

    Most importantly, we examined leadership. We discussed how we need to look at leadership differently. Leaders must be outcome-driven to be successful. That includes judging those who work for us on what they do well rather than on what they do poorly. Marcus Buckingham, a noted business consultant and thinker, led an impressive discussion on his strategy of emphasizing employee strengths for assessment of performance management and engagement. Marcus talked about the value of focusing on coaching to help employees succeed in their jobs and grow in their careers. It’s a different way of thinking, and it is one of the discussions that made the biggest impact on me.

    Each one of these sessions inspired my thinking about how I will help managers across government grow and develop our talented and hard-working Federal workforce. We already have begun work on several initiatives to strengthen our leadership pipeline, including a Senior Executive Service mentoring program, a coaching network, and a special onboarding web page for new members of the SES.

    I look forward to convening more sessions in the future. The dialogue we fostered was meaningful for every member of the group. And we helped each other bring our own worlds closer together. We are all determined to recruit, develop, and retain the leaders of tomorrow.

    One of the Chief Human Capital Officers attending the sessions summed it up best. As we were leaving Tuesday’s final talk, she told me that the Thought Leader talks were the most important set of professional discussions she had ever been a part of.

    I totally agree.

    Four people standing together at Thought Leaders meeting. From left to right the individuals are Cassie Brennand, Steve Shih, Marcus Buckingham, and Julie Brill 

    It’s open season time again, and I want to make sure you have all of the answers you need to your questions about your Federal benefits to help you make these important decisions.  

    At 11 a.m. on Monday, November 24, 2014, OPM is hosting a special Google Hangouts question and answer session. Four of OPM’s program experts will be available to answer your questions on health care, vision, dental, and flexible spending account benefits.

    During open season, FEHB participants need to decide whether to keep their current health plans or change them. You should review the FEDVIP options and consider whether to enroll in FSAFEDS for the following year. If you are eligible to enroll in the FEHB program but do not currently participate, you can sign up for the first time. 

    To prepare for the Google Hangout and to help get familiar with the choices available to you, I suggest you check out the Circle ‘Round Your Benefits, Plan Comparison, and Plan Smart Choice tools. We want to help you make the best choice for you and your family.

    The questions and answer session should address any questions you have about the benefits you have available to you and also any features in the plans. Changes for the coming year include a lower minimum deposit requirement for the FSAFEDS Program. You can also roll over up to $500 to the following year.

    Our experts can clarify terms and help you compare plan features. It’s the perfect way to make sure you have the best information at your fingertips to make a decision by the December 8 deadline.

    Ask your question on Twitter or the Google Hangout page using hashtag #FedBenefits. Start asking them now and tune in to see if your question is answered. And be sure to join us on Monday.

    Open Season image with door on left with a sign that says 'Open'. Text on the right Says 2014 Federal Benefits Open Season

    By now, we’ve all heard of the Great American Smokeout. The national event, organized by the American Cancer Society, encourages Americans to make a plan to quit smoking or to make November 20 the first day of a cigarette-free life. I couldn’t agree more. What a great moment to give yourself the gift of health and long life!

    The 2013 Federal Employee Benefits Survey (FEBS) Tobacco Use Report showed that six out of 10 Federal employees who currently smoke are considering quitting. We want to help you get there.

    The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program offers resources to help employees stop smoking, including free tobacco cessation counseling and medications. To take advantage of this benefit, check out the details on our Quit Smoking Resource Page. Be sure to talk to your doctor about which approach is best for you.

    Quitting provides immediate and long-term health benefits. It’s one of the most important things you can do to protect your own health and your family’s well-being. It can lower your chances of getting many serious diseases, including heart disease, lung disease, infections, osteoporosis, and many types of cancer.

    I also urge you to reach out to teenaged children who may be struggling with smoking. Teenagers know that tobacco is bad for them. What they may not know is that even the first few cigarettes can cause real damage. The Department of Health and Human Services’
    “The Real Cost” campaign aims to reduce the number of teens who experiment with smoking and become lifelong tobacco users. The campaign gives them the facts so that they can judge for themselves.

    So if you are considering quitting, you have already taken the first step toward health. And if you’ve tried before, there’s no better time to try again. You are not alone and you can succeed. Take advantage of the many free and convenient programs the FEHB offers.

    Today is the day to take your first step towards a smoke-free life.

    Image with trees in background that has text in the middle inside of a circle that says 'every setback is a new opportunity'

    Five years ago, President Obama signed an Executive Order that created Pathways, a group of internship programs that serve as a clear expression of the value the Federal government places on recruiting and retaining students and recent college graduates for public service careers. These programs are also shining examples of one of my highest priorities as Director of OPM – to create a skilled federal workforce that reflects the diversity of the American people.

    On Monday, OPM hosted its first Pathways Programs Day, a comprehensive training event held at NIH for current Pathways participants.  We brought them together to discuss the future of the Federal workforce and to receive information about skills training and continuing education opportunities. These young people also heard from some remarkable public servants who credit their success, in part, to their participation in Pathways.

    Pathways includes three programs:  an internship for current students; the Recent Graduates Program for people who have graduated within the past two years, and the Presidential Management Fellows Program for people who have received an advanced graduate or professional degree in the past two years.

    One of our panelists Monday was Nigel Simon.  Nigel began his Federal service as a Pathways intern and is now a member of the Senior Executive Service. He works at the EPA. Raised in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands, Nigel’s 17-year Federal career began when he went to and applied for the forerunner of Pathways, the Student Career Experience Program.

    Nigel said the skills he developed in Pathways helped prepare him for his career. He has worked for a variety of offices at the EPA, including in the New York City region, which covers his home in the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. When Nigel spoke with Pathways participants on Monday, he urged them to follow one of his early mentor’s advice: Soak up as much as you can from each experience you have.

    Today Nigel pays forward that early mentoring he got by serving as a mentor himself, to students and young hires just entering public service. “I do one shadow assignment every six months,” Nigel said.

    Channing Martin, a native of Washington, D.C., started her Federal career as an intern at OPM. She used Pathways to rise to the next level, securing an apprenticeship working with our SES team, the CHCO and the Office of Diversity and Inclusion.  “I had a rotation set up and got a lot of experience that way,” she said.

    After she received her graduate degree, Channing became a Presidential Management Fellow. Today, she still works at OPM, helping to recruit and award applicants to that Pathways program. She specializes in recruiting from the STEM disciplines -- Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.

    I think I will give Channing the last word about Pathways for those just starting their careers in public service or preparing to go to the next level.

    “From my grad school, the Big Five consulting firms are coveted,’’ Channing said. “I want the Federal government to be regarded that way.”

    So do I Channing. Showcasing our successful and talented public servants like Nigel and Channing will help us get the word out about our remarkable employees and the terrific Pathways programs that provide an entry to the satisfying work of public service.

    Director Archuleta speaking on a stage to a room of pathways program participants

    As I celebrate my one-year anniversary as the Director of the Office of Personnel Management, I have reflected on OPM’s accomplishments over the past few months. I think about how honored I am to be a part of a team that has done so much for the American people. And today I hosted a digital town hall to talk about how OPM will continue to move America’s Workforce forward in the coming years.

    As Director, I have met so many Federal employees from across the country. Their wisdom and their suggestions have enlightened me and guided me. Their feedback and input inspired us to create a new initiative that focuses on how we can recruit, develop, and engage a diverse workforce for today and for the future. I’m calling this initiative REDI, which stands for Recruitment, Engagement, Diversity, and Inclusion.

    When it comes to recruitment, REDI will help us hire more people like the guests I highlighted at today’s town hall. Gioia Massa, whom I met at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, is living her childhood dream of growing plants in space. Miriam Martin, whom I visited with at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, is a woman veteran who wants to use her military logistics skills in Federal service. And Matthew Gonzales, a young man I met in Los Angeles who works on satellite communications for the Air Force. There are many Gioias, Miriams, and Matthews, driven by innovation and imagination, who want to be a part of the Federal family. REDI will help hiring managers bring such talented people into their agencies.

    With the REDI initiative, we are also rethinking how we better recruit and communicate with job-seekers. And as our workforce ages, we need to focus on recruiting more young people. The millennial generation wants to work at places where they can innovate and make their marks. We are increasingly using social media to reach them, and that outreach will continue to grow in the coming months. We also must create the right pipelines for people to come into government. That’s why we are enhancing Pathways, OPM’s programs for student interns, recent graduates, and Presidential Management Fellows. Pathways participants get a taste of government service through fulfilling experiences that include training and real-work exposure. And then maybe, they will join the next wave of Federal employees.

    I will be talking more about our efforts in the coming weeks and months and I look forward to sharing them in more detail with you. This past year has taught me that Federal employees are constantly looking for better ways to do their jobs better and to serve the American people. I know that REDI will help them do that.

    So thank you to my Federal family for an incredibly rewarding first year. Thank you for all you do each and every day to serve America. Going forward together, we will continue to show every American that they are served by a mission-driven, talented, and model Federal workforce.

    Today I have an update on a program that provides health insurance coverage to hundreds of thousands of Americans:  the Multi-State Plan (MSP) Program. The Affordable Care Act created the MSP program to foster competition and bring consumers more choices in the Health Insurance Marketplace.

    I first wrote about the MSP Program earlier this year. At that time, we were still evaluating the program’s results for the 2014 health plan year. Now that we have a full year of the program under our belt, I am happy to announce that we offered more than 150 MSP options in 31 states, including the District of Columbia, and enrolled more than 370,000 individuals into MSP plans.

    This is a strong start for a brand new program, and we are working to offer these types of plans in even more states in 2015 and beyond. OPM is adding a second health insurer in 2015. The Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans are joining the program and will sell MSP options alongside the Blue Cross Blue Shield MSP options in the Health Insurance Marketplace. CO-OPs are a relatively new type of health insurer. They are non-profit organizations that are customer-driven. They are designed to offer consumer-friendly, high-quality health insurance options. The addition of the CO-OPs to the MSP Program will help advance OPM’s role in making sure all Americans have access to quality, affordable health insurance.

    In addition to adding a second health insurer in 2015, we are expanding the MSP Program into five additional states, for a total of 36 states, including D.C. We will offer more than 200 MSP plan options.

    Beginning November 15, you can sign up for an MSP option, or another health insurance plan, through or If you have questions, call 1-800-318-2596. So if you have friends or family members who need health insurance, be sure to share this information with them.

    Director Archuleta attends an Affordable Care Act event in Miami 

    We all have a loved one who served in the military. Their stories teach us, inspire us, and remind us of what our country stands for. They teach us about sacrifice, about courage, and about determination.

    That is why Veterans Day is so important and also so personal. It’s a day to remember those who sacrificed everything to serve our great country. For me, it’s a time for me to remember and to honor the sacrifices of my brother. When he returned home from service in the Vietnam War, I was still very young. He never talked about the hardships of his service, even as we grew older together.  And while it was hard for me to accept that I will never know everything there is to know about my brother, I also realize that his silence is his story. And I accept and honor that.

    This year is the fifth anniversary of President Obama's signing of the Executive Order on Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government. The EO made helping veterans transitioning into civilian Federal employment a top priority, and since then, we have made tremendous progress. According to OPM’s report, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch for FY 2013, 24 percent of total hires government-wide were veterans in 2009 and that rate increased to 31 percent in 2013. That is the highest percentage of veterans since the mid-1970s. It’s a great accomplishment. But we still have more work to do.

    We have veterans transitioning to civilian life from service in Iraq, Afghanistan and other postings following several years – and often multiple tours of duty – during the war on terrorism. They bring home with them a wealth of skill, talent, and expertise, not to mention such workplace intangibles as self-discipline, work ethic and team-minded approaches to solving problems. Many of them have whole careers ahead of them still, and they want to continue to serve their country. I am absolutely committed as the Director of OPM to making sure that we give these veterans, who served their country so nobly in the military, a chance use their skills and their talents to continue their mission of service. I know that we are better for it.

    This year, I think about my brother and how proud I am of him. And I think about, and honor, all you who have served in the military and who are continuing to serve in the Federal government. Keep sharing your stories. We need to hear them. 

    It’s hard to believe that it has been a year since the President of the United States gave me the best job of my life -- Director of the Office of Personnel Management. I am so grateful to my OPM family for welcoming me, for supporting me, and for working so incredibly hard to serve the American people.

    I have such a sense of pride and wonder at my staff’s professionalism and strength. In the past year OPM has accomplished so much. We’ve published many crucial regulations on everything from non-discrimination to honoring our fallen Federal heroes. We’ve successfully managed our first year of the Affordable Care Act’s Multi-State Plans, and we’ve raised more than 70,000 pounds of food for the homeless. Together, we processed over a hundred thousand retirements, formed new educational partnerships, and created the agency’s first digital innovation team. We’ve continued the important work of the President’s Council on Veterans Employment, and established an initiative around strengthening our efforts for women veterans and veterans of color. And over the past year we've implemented a series of measures to improve oversight of background investigations which has enabled us to continue to deliver on our solemn responsibility of providing high quality investigations for 95% of the federal government.     

    So much happens every day here at OPM to make sure that agencies have the resources, tools, and expertise they need to hire, train, and develop their employees. And that’s just a handful of the accomplishments of the past year. The hardworking employees at OPM rarely rest.

    Let me put a few faces to the accomplishments. Because it can be easy to forget that behind the numbers, the facts, and the accomplishments are hard-working and passionate individuals.

    Debbie Robinson of our CHCO Council staff stepped up to lead Adelante, one of our many Employee Resource Groups that engage and inform all of us at OPM. Ray Parr worked tirelessly to bring OPM’s rich supply of data to life, creating a STEM applicant dashboard that will help hiring managers attract more diverse applicants to Federal service. Kathryn Hidalgo and her great HRS team in San Antonio came together to improve their Customer Satisfaction Survey scores for two years running. And Michael Murray in our Office of Diversity and Inclusion worked with agencies across the government to make hiring and retaining people with disabilities a priority.

    I am proud not only of my own employees, but of our entire Federal family. I know that every agency across the Federal government is just as productive, efficient, and hard-working as we are. That is why I am honored to be the head of this amazing agency and to lead the human resources effort for all Federal employees. In the past year, I have traveled around the country and shouted out the incredible accomplishments, efforts, and dedication of our Federal family. And I’m just getting started. 

    To highlight the great work of this agency and of employees across government and to discuss the future of the Federal workforce, I invite you all to join me at a digital town hall on Friday, November 14 from 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. ET. I’ll share some of the highlights from my first year and talk about my plans to recruit, engage, and develop a skilled workforce that reflects the people we serve. I’ll also answer your questions. Share your questions on social media using hashtag #AmericasWorkforce from now until Friday and you just may get your question answered live on our Google Hangout. Please RSVP today!

    Thank you. I am proud of each and every one of you. You make my job meaningful, worthwhile, and fun. You give me purpose and you drive my passion for public service. So, whether you work across the street or across the world, I’m looking forward to continuing our work together.

    It is time again for Federal employees to review their health, dental, and vision plan choices to make sure they have the coverage that best meet their needs and the needs of their loved ones.

    The Federal benefits open season begins on Monday, November 10. Employees have until December 8 to make their choices. And the choices are many. The Federal Employees Health Benefit Program covers 8.2 million employees, retirees, and their families all across this country. We want to make sure that Federal workers can get the coverage that meets their needs. So for 2015, there will be 257 health plans, with 11 of them available nationwide.  Whether you are looking for a robust plan or one that covers your basic needs, there is a plan for you.

    During open season, FEHB participants can decide whether to keep their current health plans or change them; they can change their FEDVIP, and FSAFEDS enrollments for the following year. Eligible employees who are not currently a part of FEHB can also enroll for the first time. 

    Employees also have the option of enrolling in Flexible Spending Plans. These plans allow employees to set aside pre-tax money to pay for eligible health and dependent care expenses.  Employees who are eligible to participate in FEHB can participate in FSAFEDS. For the first time, employees can enroll in FSAFEDS with just a $100 deposit. And also for the first time, employees with flexible spending accounts will be able to roll over up to $500 of unused funds into the following year. 

    To help you understand the choices available to you, check out the Circle ‘Round Your Benefits, the Plan Comparison, and Plan Smart Choice. Whether you choose to stick with the plans you have or start anew, we hope you find that you receive the best service and options to meet your and your family’s health care needs.

    I want to be sure that everyone in the Federal family has the peace of mind to know that their families are protected and covered. From the preventative care that keeps us healthy to the unexpected emergencies that give us pause, FEHB and our other benefit programs help give us that peace of mind.

    Federal benefits open season starts Monday, November 10

    As we take time this November to celebrate Native American Heritage Month, I also want us to recognize the outstanding work that Native American Federal employees do each and every day.

    This morning, OPM had the honor to host a Native American celebration in partnership with the Department of the Interior and the Department of Energy. We came together to reflect on the accomplishments of American Indians and Alaska Natives and to rededicate ourselves to making sure that we work hard to broaden the representation of these Americans in agencies across government.

    As I opened this morning’s event, I talked about how fortunate I am as Director of OPM to visit with Federal employees across our great country.  In the year that I’ve been Director, I have met with students at two tribal colleges as well as with members of SAIGE, the Society of American Indian Government Employees.

    I remember that at one SAIGE meeting in Albuquerque, a remarkable public servant really touched me with his definition of public service.

    Reed Robinson is a member of the Lakota tribe. As the son of a State Department employee, his family has a tradition of public service. Reed began his career as a National Parks Service intern. He is now Superintendent of Devils Tower National Monument in Wyoming, a 1,267-foot tall remnant of an extinct volcano.

    Reed is a remarkable manager with a credo about public service that I want to share with you. Reed says that through Federal public service, you can develop a deep understanding of excellence and how to apply it.

    For Reed, excellence means more than just doing your job well. It means approaching your job with integrity, humility, resilience, clarity of mission and collaboration. I couldn’t have said it better myself.

    We have amazing public servants like Reed throughout our Federal family. Right here at OPM, our longest serving Native American Federal employee is Naite (Tina) Stephens. A program administrator for projects and quality control for our Human Resources Solutions program, Tina has worked for the Federal government for 34 years. She is just one example of the amazing dedication and purpose-driven mission of our talented Federal workforce.

    I hope as we all rush through our busy days this November, that we take time to reflect on how lucky we are to be part of a country whose people have such rich history and traditions. And particularly this month, let us pay tribute to and honor the legacy of our First Americans, who as President Obama said in his presidential proclamation “have shaped our country’s character and culture.”

    Director Archuleta takes a photo with SAIGE members at their national training in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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