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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.
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.”
As we take a deep dive into the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey results, I am proud to see the data proves that our talented workforce is always striving to get better. When some of our innovative analysts in the Office of Planning and Policy Analysis examined education attainment patterns evident in the results, they found that a large proportion of our employees take advantage of additional training and education opportunities in a quest to better serve the American people.
Their findings are summarized in a report, Making the Grade: The Story of an Increasingly Well-Educated Federal Workforce, which is now available on opm.gov.
When looking at the educational progress that Federal employees have made in the past decade, we see that 39 percent have increased their education levels. When looking solely at those who entered Federal service with only a high school degree, we find that a remarkably large share --86 percent--increased their education by earning anything from a certificate in a skill area to a college degree.
The Federal government can help employees advance their education in a number of ways -- from tuition discounts, like the one OPM initiated with the University of Maryland University College this year, to granting CHCOs the authority to help employees pay some of their educational costs. It’s a win-win investment: Employees develop critical skills that the government needs. And, as employees expand their roles and responsibilities, they are more likely to feel vested in their organizations and motivated to continue their service to the American people.
OPM’s analysts found that as employees further their education, their odds of moving into the managerial ranks and increasing their salaries also increase significantly.
Supervisors and employees often work together to make new educational opportunities possible. That’s a special dynamic in our workforce: Employees feel supported to develop their skills and managers know that their agencies will have committed and more highly skilled workers.
We want agencies to have the best tools available to make these collaborations possible. Through HR University, Federal HR professionals and managers have one-stop shopping for tools and resources available government-wide. We are planning to expand upon this successful model of employee training to other government professions with GovU.
So take a few moments to read OPM’s new report on education in the Federal workforce. You never know where your next spark of inspiration will come from!
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