December 1998 Newsletter
REMINDER - - REMINDER - - REMINDER
KEEP THOSE SF-50'S COMING FOR ANY CHANGE IN YOUR COVERAGE. PLEASE ALSO FURNISH COPIES OF SF-50'S FOR EMPLOYEES WHO TRANSFERRED TO FERS AND EMPLOYEES WHO RETIRE THIS YEAR AND EMPLOYEES WHO RETIRE THIS YEAR. THANKS!!!
FF/LEO RETIREMENT TRAINING
During the Calendar year 1998, the FLERT Team conducted 27 training sessions, a total of 264 hours of training in various locations in the United States. This does not include in service sessions or other meetings we are asked to go to.
In Calendar year 1999, we are going to be giving only one training session per month. We plan to have a web site available with the dates of training, place and contact person.
What is the Firefighter/Law Enforcement Retirement Course? The course covers:
- What is Firefighter and Law Enforcement Officer retirement?
- Definitions of key elements of the retirement program: particularly the terms "primary, secondary, immediate transfer, position coverage and individual coverage".
- Benefits of special retirement - - $$.
- How position management affects retirement coverage, and how staffing and recruitment are affected by special retirement?
- Submitting Position Descriptions for coverage.
- How an individual makes a claim for coverage.
Copies of the training manual are always available upon request Also, the Fire and Law Enforcement Team (FLERT) is available to do "on-site" training sessions. So put your order in now, if you would like our team to provide training at your office. This training is recommended for FF/LEO managers, supervisors, and administrative personnel who provide information and guidance to employees on firefighting and law enforcement retirement. It is also recommended that firefighters and law enforcement officers attend. The class size is normally 15-30 individuals. Requests for training must be submitted in writing to: Marcia Scifres, NIFC - FA104, 3833 South Development Avenue, Boise, ID 83705-5354. For more information, please contact Marcia Scifres or Donna Burch (see numbers at end of bulletin).
We had a good special retirement training session here in Boise in October. We are not planning on having a training in Boise in 1999, due to the number of requests from the field.
Based on requests from the field offices, the following is a list of training sessions scheduled for 1999. Many of the sessions are tentative at this time. Please note that each of the training sessions will be open to ALL DOI bureaus and offices with firefighters and law enforcement officers.
We have training sessions already scheduled for the following months:
January 12-13 - Manteo, North Carolina
February 2-5 - Albuquerque, NM, 2 sessions
March - Washington D.C., or the local area
April 13-16 - Fairbanks, AK, 2 sessions
May - Yellowstone
June - Hawaii (*)
August 24-25 - Anahuac, Texas
September 21-24 - Reno, NV, 2 sessions
October - Atlanta (*)
November - California (*)
December - Merritt Island, Florida (*)
As you see, 1999 is filling up fast. We will provide more information as soon as it is available. We will also be providing the name of the key contact for each training session. The asterisk (*) indicates a request was received, but no firm date or location has been established.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT CORNER
As you place new employees in covered firefighter or law enforcement positions, please send copies of the SF-50's, Notification of Personnel Actions, to this office. We need to enter the new employees in our data base system so their coverage will be tracked. It is also important that you let us know when employees in the special retirement system retire, because we need to take them out of the system.
USE OF STANDARD POSITION DESCRIPTIONS
It is very important that the bureau standard position descriptions for firefighter and law enforcement officers are used when appropriate. Some of the firefighter position descriptions need the duties and classification reviewed.
When there is concern about a standard firefighter position description, the field should notify the State FMO, the State FMO should notify Ron Dunton, the Fire Program Manager at NIFC. A group, headed by Ron Dunton, field FMO's, a field classifier and Mark Whitesell will soon be looking at the standard position descriptions that need to be changed or updated; and new PD's that need to be developed.
If you do not use a standard position description, BE SURE to submit the new position description (with percentages by major duties), an organization chart, and a organization function statement to this office.
If you need a list of standard position descriptions, contact Donna Burch or Marcia Scifres at the numbers shown at the end of the Information Bulletin.
FWS CORNER - HAPPY NEW YEAR!!
Happy New Year! Well, another year has past and it seems as though my caseload will forever last. Sounds poetic, eh?? I guess you could say the word is out that if one believes they are eligible for special retirement coverage then they should submit a claim. The deadline is drawing nearer. We, as well as the FWS WO personnel office, have been distributing this information for over a year now. I have traveled to numerous places, over the last year, and informed many FWS eployees that they have the right to file a claim and receive a determination from the Department of the Interior.
I stated in my presentations (informational -- e.g., in-service training at: Marana, AZ; Tallahassee, FL; and Sheperdstown, WVA and Fire Management meeting at Spearfish, SD) and training sessions -- e.g., Region 5 - Hadley, MA; Reion 1 - Portland, OR; Region 6 - Denver, CO; and Klamath Falls, OR) that those individuals attending had one (1) year to get to me their entire claim package. If you attended one of the informational or training sessions that I, or another FLERT member conducted, you have ONE YEAR from that date to get your claim package (e.g., letter of intent/claim letter, affidavits, SF171, position descriptions, training records, etc...) into this office. If your packet is not into this office within the one year deadline, you will have to deal with the timeliness issue. I understand it takes a while to gather all of this information, but one year should be more than enough time.
As previously stated, I have traveled to several places over the year. Most recently, I have been to Yuma, AZ; Klamath Falls, OR; and Nespelem, WA. I would like to thank: Lynn Levitt (Yuma BLM), Mike Glass (Klamath Basin NWR); and Ted Jenn (Colville Indian Agency) for their hospitality and hard work setting up the training facility as well as hosting the training session. Also, a special thanks goes to: Jeff Enlow (Imperial NWR), Mike Glass (Klamath Basin NWR), Dave Nee (Colville Indian Agency, Mt. Tolman Fire Center) and Nancy Curry (Turnbull NWR) for the tours of their facilities. I now have a greater understanding of refuge/agency operations, especially for the law enforcement and fire management programs.
Currently, I have approximately 375 claims. Of those, I have now reviewed over 50 individual claims.
What does receiving a positive determination mean for the individual and the bureau? Once a determination is made on an individual's claim or position coverage, then the individual's respective personnel office will complete corrections to whatever personnel actions need to be corrected and the individual should be placed in the correct retirement code (CSRS (6); CSRS - Offset (E); or FERS (M)). From then on, if the individual remains in a covered position, their retirement code should remain the same until retirement.
Now, financially what does this mean to the individual and the bureau. The individual, once the personnel function has been completed, should get a bill of collection from the Denver Payroll Center for the extra ½ % owed by the individual for whatever service received special retirement approval. Also, the bureau will owe their portion of the contributions. Currently, bureau contribution rates are as
Retirement Special Regular Difference
Code Retirement Retirement
CSRS 9.01% 7.0% 2.01%
FERS 28.1% 15.0% 13.1%
This means that the bureau will be contributing a larger portion to the retirement fund. Managers should be planning for the increase cost to government, and budgets adjusted accordingly.
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS CORNER
In 1998, the Team and I have conducted FF/LEO retirement trainings/information sessions in four of nine BIA Areas. I want to thank the coordinators of the most recent trainings: Bill Watchman-Fort Apache Agency, Ted Jenn /David Nee-Colville Agency and David Carter-Anadarko/Muskogee Inter-Area Fire Management Zone. If your Area/Field office would like to host a full FF/LEO retirement training (1½ days) please contact Marcia Scifres, Team Leader by e-mail or memo requesting the time and place you'd like to have the training. Our training schedule is almost fully booked for 1999 (see first article, page 1).
SEND THOSE CLAIMS IN!
If you are covered under CSRS and attended one of the FF/LEO trainings in 1998 but have not submitted your CSRS individual claim for past service, you have one year from the date you attended the training to file your claim with FLERT. Otherwise you will need to explain why you did not file after getting the FF/LEO retirement information at the training/information session. If you do not have all the information required to file an individual claim for your fire and/or law enforcement time in the federal government, send in a FF/LEO retirement claim request with the information you have collected, and indicate that you are still gathering additional information for your claim. The claim deadline for filing CSRS individual claims was 1989. We need to get CSRS people covered, if they are eligible and can identify why they did not file before the 1989 deadline, but can't do it without a claim providing the required information.
TO TAKE A REFUND OR NOT ?
WARNING - taking a refund of your FERS retirement contributions will result in the service covered by that refund being TOTALLY ELIMINATED as creditable service for retirement purposes - including firefighter and law enforcement (FF/LEO) retirement.
If you resign, (to take a Tribal job, or for any other reason) or go to a position not subject to FERS retirement, AND are a FERS employee in a BIA FF/LEO covered position, we strongly recommend that you DO NOT request a refund of your federal retirement deductions. A refund of your contributions into FERS CANNOT be repaid if you return to the federal workforce.
If you return to the federal workforce, your prior service will count towards retirement (and FF/LEO retirement) only if you left your FERS contributions in the system. If there is any possibility that you might return to federal service, you should leave your retirement contributions in the system.
Have a Happy New Year!!!
Q. If, some years back, I received a letter from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) denying coverage for my Federal employment under the Firefighter/Law Enforcement Officer (FF/LEO) Special Retirement can I resubmit my claim and get the Department of the Interior (DOI) to reconsider my claim?
A. Technically, the answer is -- NO! Why, first of all, per 5 CFR 831.911 (a) -- (Oversight of coverage determinations) -- OPM maintains final authority over all agency decisions. It states that "The Director of OPM retains the authority to revoke an agency head's determination that a position is a primary or secondary position, or that an individual's service in any other position is creditable under 5 U.S.C. 8336(c)." So, if OPM has already examined and made a decision, approving or denying an individual's claim, DOI cannot revisit or reexamine the claim file, "... unless the agency head determines that new and material evidence is available that, despite due diligence, was not available before the decision was issued" (5 CFR 831.911 (e)." It is the responsibility of the claimant to provide documentation to OPM or MSPB that "new and material evidence" is now available that was not available before the decision was issued. Then the possibility exists that a reexamination may occur. However, one must submit their request to OPM in order for the agency to get authority to reexamine the claim.
Q. How can temporary (or seasonal) employees enter a permanent "primary" position after Maximum Entry Age (MEA - 35 for Firefighters, 37 for Law Enforcement Officers)?
A. In the Department of Interior, the only way an employee can enter a "primary" position after MEA is if they have prior covered service which is creditable for retirement purposes. When that time is subtracted from the applicant's age, it reduces the age to below MEA.
Q. How can collateral duty Firefighter and Law Enforcement Officer personnel claim coverage?
A. Employees who have combination of firefighter and law enforcement duties can claim the combined service, if the two combined constituted a "primary duty", which normally is about 50%or more of the job.
Q. How can Human Resources (HR) help with pending claims?
A. Information needed from HR is copies of SF-50's. Also, HR needs to assure that current Position Descriptions (PD's) have been submitted for coverage. We will advise you of those SF-50's which we need. Also, let our Team know if you have any claims that need special handling.
This is distributed to Human Resource's, State/Region Fire Management Offices and State/Region Law Enforcement Officers within BLM, NPS, FWS, OAS, BIA, BOR, and IG's office. We would like to reach as many Personnel Offices and employees as possible. If you read this, please pass it onto another interested employee. This Information Bulletin is intended for all Bureaus and Offices who have firefighters and law enforcement officers. As our mailing list grows, we rely more on electronic distribution. We urge people that have access to the Internet to get a copy from our home page shown below.
Marcia L. Scifres, (Team Leader - BLM and all other DOI)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5345
Michael Gillmore, (FWS Claims)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5348
Marilee Pospahala (NPS Claims)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5044
Matthew Wagers, (BIA Claims)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5045
Donna Burch, General Information
Program Assistant, 208/387-5959
1/2% EXTRA is published by:
Firefighter and Law Enforcement
Retirement Team (FLERT)
National Interagency Fire Center
3833 S. Development Avenue
Boise, Idaho 83705-5354
FF/LEO Retirement Assistant
If you have any questions or comments about FF/LEO Special Retirement, the Information Bulletin, or other issues, please don't hesitate to call Marcia Scifres at 208/387-5345 or Donna Burch at 208/387-5959.