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News Release

Tuesday, April 13, 2004
Contact: Brenda Bertrand
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Director Kay Coles James Encourages Agencies to Educate their Employees on Organ and Tissue Donation

James highlights National Donate Life Month

Washington D.C. - As a part of her continuing effort to increase health awareness of Federal employees, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kay Coles James has issued a memo to heads of executive departments and agencies to encourage Federal employees governmentwide to observe National Donate Life Month. The month-long observance in April gives organizations an opportunity to highlight the critical need for organ, blood, tissue and marrow donations and transplants through public awareness campaigns and activities nationwide.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services, about 70 Americans receive an organ transplant every day while 84,000 people desperately in need of life-saving assistance are on the national transplant waiting list. Tragically, each day 16 people will die because needed organs are not available in time.

"The President has declared April as National Donate Life Month, and I would urge every American to consider signing up as an organ donor," stated James. "At the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, our goal is to make the Federal government a model employer in every way. Giving the gift of life and helping others sustain life are the most cherished gifts any person can give or receive."

In the memo, Director James encourages employees to educate themselves about the donation process and the growing need for donations and transplants. James also emphasizes existing flexibilities available for bone marrow and organ donation, if an employee chooses to be a donor.

  • An employee may use up to 7 days of paid leave each calendar year to serve as a bone-marrow donor. An employee also may use up to 30 days of paid leave each calendar year to serve as an organ donor. Leave for bone marrow and organ donation is a separate category of leave that is available in addition to annual and sick leave.
  • The length of absence for organ donation procedures will vary depending upon the medical circumstances of each case. For medical procedures and recuperation requiring absences longer than 30 days, we encourage agencies to continue to accommodate employees by granting additional time off in the form of sick and/or annual leave, advanced sick and/or annual leave, donated annual leave from the agency's leave transfer or leave bank programs, or leave without pay.

In addition, a message encouraging consideration of organ donation will appear on over a million Federal employee pay stubs.

Director James, in an effort to increase awareness and empower Federal employees to make informed health related decisions has actively engaged the agency in several health initiatives. Most recently, James launched HealthierFeds (, a web and event based campaign used to educate Federal employees and retirees on healthy living and best treatment strategies. As part of the HealthierFeds initiative, Director James is producing monthly columns on health issues and sponsoring other informative events and publications to educate Federal consumers about healthy lifestyles. This campaign fully supports President Bush's HealthierUS initiative for a healthier America ( and the Steps to a HealthierUS, led by Secretary Tommy G. Thompson of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Additionally, the government's health insurance program, the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, allows employees to choose from among more than a dozen insurance options in every geographic area. While specific benefits may vary among plans, the FEHB covers non-experimental transplants such as cornea, heart, kidney, pancreas, lung, liver, and small intestine transplants. Coverage includes related medical and hospital expenses of the donor, even if the donor is not an FEHB member. Federal employees are encouraged to check their own health insurance to find out how it treats transplants.

"I am pleased to say that our program is a model in this area as in so many others," James added. "The health plans that participate in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program provide excellent coverage for organ transplants and the necessary follow-up care."

The Federal government also helps its workers participate in the effort to make organ transplants more available by offering leave policies to make special accommodation for organ and bone marrow donation possible.

For more information on organ donations, please visit the Department of Health and Human Services organ donation website at

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OPM leads and serves the Federal Government in enterprise human resources management by delivering policies and services to achieve a trusted, effective civilian workforce. By Empowering Excellence in Government through Great People, we provide leadership and support to U.S. agencies on issues including human resources policy and oversight, background investigations, federal employee benefits, retirement services, guidance on labor-management relations, and programs to improve workforce performance. For more information, visit or follow OPM on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn.

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