Welcome to another issue of the RetireFederal newsletter! This issue has topics of interest for Federal employees who are getting ready to transition to retirement and for those who are already retired. RetireFederal exists to help prepare federal employees for retirement, provide assistance when applying for benefits, and guidance to those who need direction when navigating the maze of all the parts of your retirement benefits that fit together for financial independence.
What YOU Need to Know
Open Season is Here
Most employees, retirees, and survivors have an opportunity to enroll or change health, dental, and vision insurance plans between November 14 - December 12, 2022. You can change enrollment type e.g., Self only, Self+One or Self and Family as well as plans. Employees also have an opportunity to enroll or reenroll in the Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAFEDS). All changes will be effective January 1, 2023 (with the exception of Postal employees). Review the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB - health insurance) premium rates for 2023 here and Federal Employees Dental & Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP - dental and vision insurance) here. Find your health plan options and begin to run comparisons to be sure that you are in the best health plan for you and your family. Additional resources:
OPM Open Season Resources including comparison tools.
The Consumers' Checkbook Guide provides a robust comparison tool for health, dental, and vision insurance plans here. There is a nominal fee, but it is worth it!
The National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) has several webinars Tammy has presented for on demand viewing on FEHB and/or Medicare choices as well as other resources here. The webinars are available to members.
Benefeds is also sponsoring a Virtual Benefits Fair with live chat sessions, webinars and important information for this Open Season period.
FEHB enrollment, changing plans or enrollment type for employees is through your agency online system or on an SF 2809. Annuitants have a couple of ways to change options on this website. Annuitants can also find additional information including a link to a mobile app here.
Keep in mind you need to be enrolled in FEHB a full five years immediately prior to retirement to continue health coverage with the government paying a large portion of the premiums. Coverage as a family member or the plus one counts as does Tricare. Those with Tricare must have the FEHB effective the day they retire.
FEDVIP information on plans, enrollment, etc., for employees, retirees, and survivors is on the BENEFEDS' website.
FSAFEDS provides employees a great opportunity to enroll or reenroll to pay for eligible expenses on a pretax basis. This could be a tax savings of up to 30%, depending on your tax bracket, since it reduces your taxable federal and state income. Employees and their dependents can enjoy this benefit. Many of the FEHB plans and most of the FEDVIP plans participate in the paperless reimbursement program. This helps for medical, dental, vision, and prescription copayments. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted in 2020 expanded reimbursable qualified medical expenses for 2020 and later years to include the cost of over-the-counter drugs without a doctor’s prescription. The act also permitted the use of FSA funds to reimburse the costs of menstrual care products. Both of these CARES provisions are permanent. Other favorite eligible expenses are prescription glasses, contacts, counseling, CPAP supplies, and even massage therapy. Learn more about this pretax benefit on FSAFEDS' website.
Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP)
Notice of Suspension of Applications for FLTCIP Coverage
The suspension period will begin on December 19, 2022. The suspension period will remain in effect for 24 months from the date the suspension period begins. OPM is suspending applications for coverage in FLTCIP to allow OPM and the FLTCIP Carrier to assess the benefit offerings and establish sustainable premium rates that reasonably and equitably reflect the cost of the benefits provided, as required under 5 U.S.C. 9003(b)(2). Current policies remain in effect as long as the premiums are paid and policy holders who are in claim will continue to receive scheduled benefits.
Eligible individuals who submit an application for FLTCIP to the program administrator, Long Term Care Partners, LLC, prior to the date that the suspension period begins, will have their application considered. If the Carrier approves the application for coverage, the individual will receive a benefit booklet and schedule of benefits with complete coverage information
OPM has issued regulations setting forth the process for suspension of applications in 5 CFR 875.110. Authority: 5 U.S.C. 9008; Public Law 116–92, 133 Stat. 1198 (5 U.S.C. 8956 note); 5 CFR 875.110.
Comment from Retire Federal: If you have considered LTC insurance and haven't acted on your research, this is a good time to act. The policies are priced on your age at the time of purchase and your health will determine if you are an eligible applicant.
Note from the Administration on Community Living (ACL): The duration and level of long-term care will vary from person to person and often change over time. Here are some (all are "on average") statistics you should consider:
Someone turning age 65 today has an almost 70% chance of needing some type of long-term care services and support in their remaining years
Women need care longer (3.7 years) than men (2.2 years)
One-third of today's 65 year-olds may never need long-term care support, but 20 percent will need it for longer than 5 years
The Retire Federal Team is available for consultations to assist you in navigating the decision points about applying for Medicare and other federal insurance programs.
More Learning Opportunities
Plan your Federal Retirement Podcasts with Tammy Flanagan and Micah Shilanski, CFP, provide fun and informative retirement planning guidance.
Retirement Planning is Tammy's weekly column appearing on www.govexec.com. It covers what you need to know for a successful transition to retirement. Get the latest stories and updates sent to your inbox every Friday.
For Your Benefit airs live on Mondays at 10 am Eastern and is available as a podcast wherever you normally get your podcasts. Coming / past attractions:
November 21, Walton Francis and Kevin Moss from The Consumers' Checkbook Guide to Federal Health Plans
November 28, Karen Schaeffer, CFP, and Tammy Flanagan debate some of the most common concerns about decisions that must be made at and around retirement.
The Thrift Savings Plan also has several online webinars.
Retire Federal is available to provide one-on-one consultations on all your important retirement benefit decisions. We help mid-career employees who are making important career decisions as well as employees who are ready to set the date and have us review their retirement forms.
Visit the NARFE Federal Benefits Institute to see webinars Tammy has given recently on FEHB and Medicare.
NARFE members have access to a series of webinars on federal benefits, financial planning and other topics relevant to planning for and living your life after retirement. Webinars are included with your membership. Join NARFE today!
To-Do List for December 31 retirement applications:
You will need to make your FEHB Open Seasons changes on the SF 2809 and include it with your retirement application package
Check in with your Retirement Specialist to confirm your application is on track
Make a copy or download your Electronic Official Personnel Folder (EOPF) as you will lose easy access to it one you are off the rolls; it is very important that you have evidence of your federal career (beginning and ending dates of periods of service, changes in work schedule, changes in retirement coverage, and anything else that might be of importance in determining your length of service and high-three average salary along with your eligibility for the benefits you have applied for.
If your last day is December 30 or 31, 2022:
Your last salary check may arrive the week of January 8 depending on your Payroll Office
Look for a notification from your payroll provider of the date they have sent your retirement package to OPM (should be within 30 days of your separation, but there have been recent delays).
OPM places you in interim pay status at the beginning of February if all goes smoothly*
OPM will mail your Civil Service Active (CSA) number and password so that you may access OPM's Services Online.
Access TSP withdrawals after your payroll provider has notified the TSP of your separation. This can take up to 30 days or more.
Look for the direct deposit of your lump sum payment for unused annual leave which may arrive mid-February depending on your Payroll Office. This payment may come as early as the pay period following your final paycheck or as late as six months following your separation.
Follow your agency's requirements for retirement; you should have access to a retirement benefits specialist from the human resources section of your agency who will be in charge of your retirement application processing along with your payroll provider supplying OPM with your final retirement contributions and date of final separation from your agency.
YOU, YOUR HR OFFICE, YOUR PAYROLL PROVIDER and OPM all have a part in your smooth transition to retirement!
*Be prepared to wait up to eight months for your retirement to be finalized...OPM is experiencing significant processing backlogs. It is imperative to have enough cash on hand in order to provide for your day-to-day expenses during this time, although many claims are processed smoothly, there are some that can take many months to finalize!
Coming in the next newsletter
Reviewing your coverage once Open Season has ended... be sure you got what you ordered!
The first days of life after retirement; what to expect!
Setting yourself up to maximize benefits such as TSP, Social Security and your CSRS / FERS retirement benefit.