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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.
year, more than 600,000 people are released from Federal and State prisons, and
millions more are released from local jails. One in three working-age Americans
has an arrest record. Many face long-term, sometimes lifelong, impacts of a
criminal record that prevent them from getting a job or accessing housing,
higher education, loans, credit, and more.
Such barriers hurt public safety, add costs to the taxpayer, and damage
the fabric of our communities. Removing these barriers and promoting the
rehabilitation and reintegration of people who have paid their debt to society
is a critical piece of the Administration’s efforts to make the nation’s
criminal justice system more fair and effective.
week is National Reentry Week—a chance to call attention to the urgency of
criminal justice reform and to highlight the ongoing work across the Federal
government to remove barriers to reentry for people returning to their
communities. Here at the Office of Personnel Management, we are doing our part.
issued a proposed rule that would ensure that applicants with a criminal
history have a fair shot to compete for Federal jobs. The rule would
effectively “ban the box” for a significant number of positions in the Federal Government by delaying the point in the hiring process when agencies can
inquire about an applicant’s criminal history until a conditional offer is
made. This change prevents candidates from being eliminated before they have a
chance to demonstrate their qualifications.
inquiries into an applicant’s criminal history may discourage motivated,
well-qualified individuals who have served their time from applying for a Federal job. Early inquiries could also lead to the premature disqualification
of otherwise eligible candidates, regardless of whether an arrest actually
resulted in a conviction, or whether consideration of an applicant’s criminal
history is justified by business necessity. These barriers to employment
unnecessarily narrow the pool of eligible and qualified candidates for federal
employment, and also limit the opportunity for those with criminal histories to
support themselves and their families.
Administration is committed to pursuing public policies that promote fairness
and equality. As the nation’s largest employer, the Federal Government should
lead the way and serve as a model for all employers – both public and private.
rule builds on the current practice of many agencies, which already choose to
collect information on criminal history at late stages of the hiring process.
The rule would take the important step to codify, formalize, and expand this
are certain times when an agency might be justified in disqualifying an applicant
with criminal history, or collecting information on their background, earlier
in the process. Therefore, OPM will set up a mechanism for agencies to request
exceptions. These will be granted on a case-by-case basis. These
exceptions could be granted either by individual position, or by class of
positions, depending on the specifics of the case. For example, cases could include certain law enforcement
jobs that require the ability to testify in court, or jobs where applicants
undergo extensive and costly training before they are offered a job.
the box for Federal hiring is an important step. It sends a clear signal to
applicants, agencies, and employers across the country that the Federal Government is committed to making it easier for those who have paid their debts
to society to successfully return to their communities, while staying true to
the merit system principles that govern our civil service by promoting fair
competition between applicants from all segments of society.
This week OPM held its inaugural Diversity and Inclusion Collaboration and Innovation Summit at the U.S. Coast Guard Headquarters. We brought together individuals from across government who are committed and passionate about finding innovative ways to fulfill the President’s Management Agenda’s goal of creating a more diverse, inclusive, and engaged Federal workforce.
I was happy to kick off the two-day summit by stressing that we need to think about diversity and inclusion not as something “nice” to have, but as a “must have.” Diverse workforces can draw from the expertise, backgrounds, and experiences of individuals from every community in this country. When we have more diverse talent, we can better fulfill our mission to provide excellent service to the American people.
Our national security leaders, for example, recognize that increasing diversity in their ranks would help enrich the insights and perspectives they need to protect the security of America.
The people who attended this two-day summit know the basics. But the basics aren’t enough. To make real progress, we need to tackle the hard stuff. We need to not only have a diverse group of leaders around the decision table, we need to actually seek everyone’s input and make it part of the decision-making process.
All employees should feel valued when they come to work. They need to know that their opinions matter, that they are respected as individuals, and that they have an impact on the important work their agencies are doing. That’s what drives real employee engagement.
One big success we have already seen across government is in hiring people with disabilities. In 2010, the President issued an Executive Order directing Federal agencies to hire 100,000 people with disabilities. I am happy to say that we’ve exceeded that goal, thanks in part to a tool called the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP). The WRP helps hiring managers find qualified students with disabilities who are just starting out in their careers. The WRP, which is managed jointly by the Departments of Labor and Defense, has more than 1800 names that Federal managers can tap into to find qualified candidates in fields ranging from health care to computer specialists.
That is just one example of the many creative solutions we are seeing across government. We have seen innovative ways of attracting diverse hires in the STEM field, including women and underrepresented minorities. I hope the summit will generate countless other ideas that we will likely be talking about at summits to come.
In the meantime, keep the discussion going - in every agency, office, and on every team. Share your ideas. Nothing is too bold. We need everyone’s help to make the Federal government the model workforce for the American people. It’s only when we remember that diversity cannot be an add-on to your mission, but is critical to it, that we will get the transformation we need.
Last week, at the annual Carrier Conference, OPM met with the insurance carriers that provide our Federal family across the nation with an array of health plan choices.
The conference offered OPM the opportunity to discuss details and trends with the insurers who offer coverage to the 8.2 million Federal employees, retirees, and their families who depend on the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) for coverage.
April is Autism Awareness month, and on April 1 the President issued a proclamation in honor of World Autism Awareness Day. With this being Autism Awareness month, I want to highlight one important change OPM is making to the FEHB benefit package that will impact children on the autism spectrum. Beginning in 2017, OPM will expect all our insurers to offer Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) benefits to children on the autism spectrum.
When I addressed the FEHB insurers at the Carrier Conference, I reminded them that for the past several years OPM has been encouraging plans to cover this treatment. I’m happy to say that since 2013 more and more plans have been offering this intensive therapy, which is becoming a leading form of treatment for children on the autism spectrum. In fact, 43 states now require health insurers to cover ABA.
But despite the recent voluntary expansion, OPM continued to receive letters from Federal families desperate to get coverage for their children. We heard from Federal families who had to pay out-of-pocket for this expensive care. By requiring every plan to cover ABA, all Federal employees with children on the autism spectrum will have access to this important coverage.
In addition to the obvious benefits to our Federal employees and their families, it is important that our FEHB benefits are on par with the private, academic, and non-profit sectors. In fact, the results from our 2015 Employee Benefits Survey bear this out: 67 percent of respondents said the availability of FEHB influenced their decision to take a Federal job. And 78 percent said having that benefit influences their decision to stay. Very simply, if the Federal Government does not offer high quality and inclusive health benefits, we run the risk of not attracting and retaining a high quality Federal workforce.
The addition of ABA coverage for children on the autism spectrum is another example of how OPM is continually evaluating and updating health benefits for Federal employees, retirees, and their families.
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