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Federal Benefits Open Season is here! Each year, we encourage all eligible employees and retirees to review their health, dental, vision, and dependent care needs and to make changes to or enroll in one of the available benefit programs. Open Season is the time to make choices you generally cannot make at any other time of the year.
Remember, all health, dental, or vision plans are not alike. Open Season is about exercising your ability to choose the benefits that best meet you and your family’s needs. You have between now and December 12 to make your benefit decisions. Here is a link to learn more about the Federal Benefits Open Season.
The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program
The FEHB Program covers over 8.2 million employees, retirees, and their families all across this country. For 2017, there will be 245 health plans available, with 15 of them available nationwide. And remember, all FEHB Plans now offer the opportunity to enroll in a Self Plus One enrollment type. This option allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member who you designate, such as a spouse or child. If you did not take advantage of Self Plus One last year, you can do so for 2017. You can learn more about the FEHB Program on our dedicated Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.
Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)
For 2017, FEDVIP offers 10 dental plans, six of which are nationwide plans. There are also four vision plans, all available nationwide. Coverage under a FEDVIP dental or vision plan is a great way to fill in the gaps of any health plan coverage you now have or to help pay for services that are not covered or available under your FEHB health plan. Some highlights: FEDVIP offers adult orthodontia. In-network Class A dental services, such as oral exams, prophylaxis and topical application of fluoride, are free. And, you can enroll in a self-only vision plan for less than $3 per pay period. As always, check plan brochures for specific coverage and compare plans. You can learn more about FEDVIP on the Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.
Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS)
While retirees are not eligible to enroll, most employees are eligible. You should check with your agency’s human resources office to verify your eligibility. For those who are eligible, FSAFEDS offers three accounts to choose from: a health care account; a limited expense health care account; and a dependent care account. Participation in these accounts allows you to lower your taxable income by setting aside pre-tax money to pay for eligible health, dental, vision, and dependent care expenses, such as co-pays, prescription drug costs, orthodontics, eyeglasses, and child/elder care. As a reminder, there is now a “carry over” provision under which enrollees can carry over up to $500 of unused Health Care FSA money into the following year. This means that you won’t have to forfeit money you don’t use by the end of the calendar year. To take advantage of the carry over of 2016 funds, you must re-enroll for 2017.
To learn more about FSAs, how much you can contribute, how much you can save, and changes for the 2017 benefit period, head over to our Federal Benefits Open Season webpage.
Don’t forget, you have until December 12 to review your needs and those of your family and to make the choices that are right for you.
As a part of a system-wide upgrade to the Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS) website, the site will be in transition from July 30 through September 1. During this period, there will be a blackout on participants being able to request reimbursements from their FSA.
The blackout is necessary to allow WageWorks, which was recently awarded a new contract, to set up an enhanced process to file claims and use the FSAFEDS website.
OPM regrets that the blackout may cause inconvenience for some FSAFEDS participants and we understand their concern. However, given the broad scope of the transition, the sensitive nature of the data involved, and the significant security requirements, a claims blackout period of four weeks is necessary. When the upgrades are complete, we are confident that FSAFEDS will be equipped to deliver enhanced service to participants.
In preparation for the transition period, OPM has given FSAFEDS participants several months’ notice through outreach including letters and emails. To minimize the inconvenience, we have scheduled the blackout in late summer, when claim volumes are typically lowest.
For specific information on the transition period, we recommend that participants visit www.fsafeds.com, which includes a FAQ. Participants may also contact the FSAFEDS Program Office at FSA@opm.gov.
In addition, there is still time for participants to file claims for reimbursement before the blackout period begins on July 30.
FSAFEDS allows participants to save money for health care expenses with a Health Care or Limited Expense Health Care FSA. Think of it as a pre-tax savings account that helps you pay for items that typically aren’t covered by a Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan, the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program, or other health insurance coverage. FSAFEDS also offers another account called Dependent Care FSA. This account allows employees to set aside money for day care expenses for young children and elder care expenses.
We thank everyone for their support of FSAFEDS and for your patience while we go through this transition.
Do you have something red to wear? Friday, February 5 is National Wear Red Day, a day when wearing red raises awareness about the risks of cardiovascular disease and promotes the importance of heart health, including a lifestyle that reduces the risk of developing heart disease. February is also American Heart Month, when the nation shines a spotlight on the need to promote a heart healthy lifestyle.
Cardiovascular disease is the Number 1 killer of women and men in the United States. Each of us can lower our risk of developing heart disease by knowing the risk factors and warning signs. You can lower the risk of developing heart disease by:
Watching your weight
Quitting smoking and staying away from secondhand smoke.
Controlling your cholesterol and blood pressure
Getting active and eating healthy
While you may be seeing an increased focus on heart health this month, workplaces across the Federal Government and the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program participate in programs that help our Federal family improve their heart health throughout the year. Many Federal agencies participate in StairWELL, a program that encourages employees to use the stairs while at work, and offer stress management, nutrition, and heart health education classes. All FEHB plans offer 100 percent coverage for comprehensive tobacco cessation services. This is a particularly powerful benefit because quitting smoking is associated with reducing the risk for heart disease within one to two years, as well as a reduced risk for lung cancer and many other types of cancers.
OPM is an active member of the National Prevention Council and supports the Surgeon General’s priorities to improve the health of all Americans. OPM is also a partner in the Million Hearts Initiative and we invite you to visit the Million Hearts website to learn more about preventing heart disease. Together, we can improve our health and the health of our loved ones.
With the December 14 deadline for Federal employees and retirees to make benefit changes quickly approaching, I want to make sure you have all of the answers you need to make the best possible decisions for you and your family.
Today at 1:30 p.m. ET, OPM will host a special #FedBenefits Twitter chat. OPM program experts will answer your questions on health care, vision, dental, and flexible spending account benefits.
As I mentioned last month, beginning in 2016 all carriers will offer three enrollment types: Self Only, Self Plus One, and Self and Family. This Open Season is your first opportunity to enroll in Self Plus One, which allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member, such as a spouse or child.
During the Twitter chat, 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 14 deadline.
Just join us at 1:30 p.m. today on Twitter at www.twitter.com/USOPM and tweet your questions using hashtag #FedBenefits. We’ll get to as many questions as we can during the hour. Also, you can tweet your questions in advance of the event.
And of course, you don’t have to wait until the Twitter chat to get answers. Any time between now and the deadline, you can go to www.opm.gov/openseason or speak to your local HR office to get the latest information.
John O’Brien is the Director of Healthcare and Insurance for OPM.
Federal benefits open season is here. Each year we encourage all employees and retirees to review their benefits and make sure that they have plans that work best for them and their families. From today through December 14, employees and retirees can review and update their health, dental, and vision choices. Eligible employees who are not currently enrolled can also select plans for the first time. Retirees not currently enrolled in the Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP) can also select dental and vision plans for the first time during open season.
The Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB) covers over 8.2 million employees, retirees, and their families all across this country. For 2016, there will be 252 health plan choices available, with 11 of them available nationwide.
Beginning in 2016, all carriers will offer three enrollment types: Self Only, Self Plus One, and Self and Family. This year is your first opportunity to enroll in Self Plus One, which allows you to cover yourself and one eligible family member, such as a spouse or child.
As always, we encourage you to look at all available health, dental, and vision plans and decide which ones best meet the needs of you and your family, as everyone’s needs are different. If you decide that your current coverage still works for you, you don’t have to do anything. Your benefits will remain in place for next year.
If you are eligible to sign up for the FEHB Program, you can also participate in FSAFEDS, the health and dependent care flexible spending account program. These accounts allow employees to set aside pre-tax money to pay for eligible health and dependent care expenses, such as co-pays, prescription costs and childcare.
Two changes were made to Health Care FSAs last year. Employees can enroll with just $100 contribution. Also, participants can re-enroll and carry over up to $500 of unused FSA money into the following year. This means that you won’t have to forfeit money you don’t use by the end of the calendar year.
If you want to participate in FSAFEDS, be sure to sign-up by December 14. When it comes to FSAFEDS, everyone must re-enroll on an annual basis.
Don’t forget, employees and retirees have until December 14 to make their choices. For more information about the Federal benefits open season and to find the right option for you, visit opm.gov/openseason.
John O’Brien is the Director of Healthcare and Insurance for OPM.
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