November 2009 Newsletters
DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
FIREFIGHTER AND LAW ENFORCEMENT
RETIREMENT TEAM (FLERT)
Please remember to keep your individual claim files current and updated. If you have been reassigned, promoted, or changed positions, please send us the personnel actions (SF-50's), documenting those changes.
MAXIMUM ENTRY AGE REQUIREMENTS
Maximum entry age requirements apply when filling primary positions that are subject to the retirement system (e.g., permanent or term appointments). These requirements MUST BE put in vacancy announcements, OPM/DEU recruitment documents, etc. The following statements may be modified to meet the position (firefighter or law enforcement officer) and are suggested to be included in the vacancy announcement for primary positions filled by permanent or TERM appointment (maximum entry age does not apply to temporary appointments):
Applicants NOT currently in a special retirement position must not have reached their (35th birthday for primary firefighter positions) or (37th birthday for primary law enforcement officer positions) upon appointment to this position. Those over this maximum entry age MAY be eligible for reentry into this position IF they have prior Federal service, creditable toward retirement in covered law enforcement officer or firefighter positions, and the prior service is sufficient to permit retirement on, or before the mandatory retirement age of (55 for firefighter positions) or (57 for law enforcement officer positions). ONLY SERVICE CREDITABLE TOWARD SPECIAL RETIREMENT MEETS THIS DEFINITION. NOTE: Temporary service after 1988 is NOT CREDITABLE retirement service, and CANNOT be used to meet the maximum entry age requirements even if the temporary service was in a covered position.
Applicants over the maximum entry age and not currently covered under special retirement, but feel they meet the above eligibility for reentry should complete the following claim and provide the necessary documentation to support their claim (e.g., copy of SF-50's documenting total prior service in the special retirement system, individual claim coverage letter, etc.):
If you claim prior Federal service in covered law enforcement officer or firefighter positions as follows, and have attached documentation supporting this claim. Provide position title, series, grade, dates of service, location of positions, and date of birth.
Selection of individuals over the maximum entry age SHOULD NOT be made until it is verified that the applicant meets the maximum entry age requirements. Appointment of an individual to a primary position subject to the retirement system that DOES NOT meet the maximum entry age requirement is considered to be an erroneous appointment.
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT CORNER
It is that time of the year again - looks like we missed our fall issue so we will include fall and the Millennium issue as one.
BLM has been kept extremely busy due to the backlog of individual claims for firefighter retirement. In July, we identified 484 pending individual claims for firefighters within the Bureau.
We had a BLM task group meet the last week of August and reviewed approximately 50 claims - leaving the analysis and the final documentation for the specialists to write and out to the employees for a final review. The reason it is taking so long, is that an analysis is done on all the positions that you have claimed during your career. Some people have only had 8-10 positions in their career while others may have 20 or more.
We had two training sessions in Reno the last week of September. These sessions had been planned for over a year. At the present time, we do not have any training sessions set up, as we are staying in the office to get caught up on our backlog.
Firefighting Requirements for Dispatchers
August 4, 1999, IM OF&A 99-020 was issued by the Director, Office of Fire and Aviation. In May, Fire and Aviation sent out a proposal regarding firefighting experience for dispatch positions and as of the date of the memorandum they had received five written responses.
Based on the responses and the firm belief that fire dispatchers in career positions are required to make decisions in support of wildland fire management objectives, it was felt to be imperative that dispatchers have an understanding of wildland fire operations. This understanding can only be acquired from direct fire operations experience.
If you do not have a copy of this Instruction Memorandum, you can let our office know and I will make sure that you receive a copy.
At times it does not seem that we are moving along very fast, but when you consider what we have accomplished, time is flying by:
Training Sessions Conducted in FY 99 - 17 sessions (which includes two LEO in service sessions)
In August we sent out 75 requests for additional information for our individual claims - 43 were reviewed by the panel (we are still getting the notices out to employees)
We have 32 positions descriptions that we are working with personnel offices to obtain additional information.
The BLM put out maximum entry age information for both LEO and Fire.
Received an additional 26 claims in 1999, received 50 position descriptions and approved 43 for coverage. Currently, the Bureau has 2,739 positions descriptions on record.
All of this was accomplished while still answering hundreds of phone calls and correspondence and e-mail.
FISH & WILDLIFE SERVICE NICHE
Is your body and mind Y2K ready? I sure hope so, because 1999 is almost over. Can you believe how fast this year has gone by. I have been as busy as ever. My caseload is now up to 733 individual claims. Overall, eighty-four claims (47 special agents; 24 firefighters; and 13 refuge officers) have been approved. Forty-five claims have been archived (meaning they have received a prior OPM/USDI denial or the individual claim has been completed and the individual is no longer with the Fish and Wildlife Service). And lastly, I have 604 claims (80 special agents; 94 firefighters; and 430 refuge officers) that are currently pending review. Since October 1, 1998, I have completed sixteen training and/or informational sessions throughout the Fish and Wildlife Service system. During this same time period, the amount of correspondence that left the FWS program, directed to the Department of the Interior (specifically Mari Barr) and FWS employees, supervisors, managers, personnelists and/or individuals, equated to approximately 2 ½ reams of paper or rather 1300 memoranda or letters. The work never ceases.
An issue that has been a major concern ever since I took on this program is the use of standard position descriptions. There needs to be some consensus Bureau-wide on the development and use of standard position descriptions. At present, some Regions are not properly using the standard position descriptions that have been approved for firefighters and special agents. It is an issue that definitely needs attention. Development, approval, and proper use of standard position descriptions for Refuge Officers and lower graded firefighters would alleviate many existing position management problems.
Case in point, is the Special Agent position descriptions (PDs) that do not have prior coverage approval. That is, I discovered that many, if not all, Special Agent positions prior to 1983 were never submitted to OPM nor DOI for a coverage determination. I began working on getting coverage for many of the Special Agents for their FWS service prior to 1983. During the review and analysis, I discovered that quite a few Special Agents' service after 1983 was also lacking special retirement coverage approval. Therefore, I am now examining ALL federal service of the Special Agents within the FWS. I guess my primary concern is that someone is assuming that just because it is a Special Agent PD, it is an approved PD. This is not always the case. I have sent a list of approved Bureau-wide positions, so please use it or if you have any questions call me at 208/387-5348. Thanks.
Continually, several Special Agents have had service with other Bureaus or Agencies (e.g., DOJ, SSA, OPM, EPA etc...). To complete the special retirement package and have all of the necessary documentation in an Official Personnel Folder at the time of retirement one should have certification/approval letters in their OPF. Thus, agents having other agency federal service should contact their prior agency to get a letter of certification, if certifiable, for their previous service. The certification letter should be in the OPF, so there are NO QUESTIONS about his/her eligibility for the 20 year retirement. OPM has audited a couple of FWS Special Agents retirees files and found they were lacking the proper certification letters. These individuals received regular retirement annuities until their eligibility was properly certified.
One last item, I know I have stressed this issue numerous times before, but I have a large workload to try and completed as soon as possible. Therefore, I ask that each individual please be patient. I know many of you have special circumstances that you would like me to deal with individually; however, I can't deal with 604 special circumstances. I am working as fast as I can to get the work out. Other than that, have a great end of 1999 and be careful out there. Go Y2K!!
NATIONAL PARK SERVICE CORNER
A meeting is scheduled with WASO Ranger Activities and WASO Personnel for November 30 and December 1 to discuss the 6c program including priorities, workload and staffing needs, and other 6c issues.
IMPORTANCE OF TRAINING ON 6(C) PROGRAM ADMINISTRATION
Training sessions are conducted to provide information to manager and supervisors on how their position management decisions affect the costs of their positions and the benefits and qualification requirements of their employees; to provide information to personnelists on how to administer the 6c program from the establishment of the PD, through classification, recruiting, and the tracking of employees coverage through retirement; and to provide information to employees on how their career decisions affect their benefits, how to track their coverage, and general information on the 6c benefits. Training is the way we prevent future back logs of individual claims (when PDS are covered, there's no need for an individual claim), prevent problems and misunderstandings created by lack of information, and prevent other errors that have been made because employees were put in the wrong retirement code, or they thought they were covered, but they weren't, etc. Supervisors and Personnelists are strongly encourage to attend one of our 1 and ½ day training sessions on program administration of the Firefighter and Law Enforcement Officer Retirement Program. Although these training sessions are generally hosted by one of the DOI Bureaus, sessions are open to ALL DOI supervisors and personnelists. Our training schedule is posted on our home page. The NPS training schedule will not be decided until after the meeting mentioned above.
In FY99 we received 60 new claims; we reviewed 175 . Of those reviewed, we have requested additional information from 27 individuals, 65 are awaiting the final review, and we have completed 83 claims. We have a total of 776 pending claims. Because we continue to receive new claims or are unable to complete a claim because of a lack of supporting documentation, it seems this number never goes down!
When an Individual has service in positions that have not been covered under the special retirement program (6c), but the individual believes the positions should be covered, they must submit a claim for their service and a determination will be made regarding credit or non-credit. We are working on claims in Date of Receipt order. We have 50 claims received between 1989 and 1994 that were not completed prior to the establishment of our office. We have approximately 450 FERS claims that were submitted in 1995; 152 claims submitted in January, 1997, which have been reviewed, but are lacking information, so a final decision letter could not be issued; and approximately124 other new claims.
We have sent letters out to those pending claimants that submitted their claim prior to 1997. If you submitted your claim prior to 1997, and have not received a letter requesting updated information in connection with your claim, it is because we do not have your current e-mail or mailing address. PLEASE call Heather Lonigro at 208-387-5046 to provide us this information. We have sent out 595 letters to date.
WHAT HAPPENS AFTER I GET MY DECISION LETTER AND WHEN WILL I GET MY BILL OR CHECK?
Shortly after you receive your original 6c decision letter, we send a copy to your servicing personnel office (SPO). They have a lot of work to do in reviewing your records and correcting your retirement code and/or pay, as applicable. After the corrections are processed, the SPO sends the package to the payroll/benefits group in Denver. There is still a big backlog of 6c corrections in the payroll/benefits office. Please be patient with your SPO and payroll. However, if you received your 6c decision letter years ago, you should check with your servicing personnel office to follow-up on your package in payroll/benefits to find out when you might get your bill of collection or check (if you're one of the lucky ones). We are putting together an information sheet that explains this process. This information will be sent with the 6c decision letters to individual claimants in the future. We will also be putting this information on our home page in the next few weeks.
STANDARD POSITION DESCRIPTIONS
In January, 1999, 20 new NPS Standard Fire Position Descriptions were issued, 17 of which are covered under 6c. Along with these standard PDs, NPS established a new Standard PD numbering system. When using a standard PD, you MUST enter the Standard PD # (located in item 14 on the OF-8-PD cover sheet) into FPPS in the last three spaces of the position allocation number field which is on the Position SF-52/SF-50 Information Screen. By inserting the number in this field, it will appear on the employee's Notification of Personnel Action (SF-50) and eliminate the need for the servicing personnel office to submit the PD to the Firefighter and Law Enforcement Retirement Team for coverage. Questions regarding standard PDs should be directed to your servicing personnel office. So if you occupy a standard PD and the # is NOT on your SF-50, see your servicing personnel office.
BUREAU OF INDIAN AFFAIRS CORNER
With the New Year fast approaching I think back to all the questions I received this year from firefighters, law enforcement officers and personnelists about the DOI Firefighter/Law Enforcement Officer Retirement Program. Most of the questions are about eligibility: Am I covered for special retirement? How do I find out if I am covered? How do I get coverage? All good questions that have different answers depending on your federal career as a firefighter and/or law enforcement officer. If you have any questions about eligibility or any part of the special retirement program, please give me a call at 208/387-5045.
Position vs Individual Coverage
Since October 1998 I have conducted seven BIA- firefighter/law enforcement officer trainings and briefings at Agency and Area offices. With information about the firefighter/law enforcement officer retirement program getting out to more people in the field, response has been good this past year. 301 position descriptions were sent in for position description coverage and 48 individual claims were sent in for individual coverage. The difference between position coverage and individual coverage is position coverage covers just the position that is approved and covers who ever occupies the position and meets the requirements for special retirement. Individual coverage covers the person who submitted the FF/LEO retirement claim for the time the person was approved for coverage. Keep up the good work sending in those claims!
Standard Position Descriptions
Four Range Aid/Range Technician Firefighter Standard Position Descriptions (GS-0455-2/3/4/5) have been DOI approved for firefighter retirement. The approved position descriptions and special retirement approval letters will be sent to Area Foresters so they may use them as Standard Position Descriptions for next fire season. Approved Standard Position Descriptions are position descriptions that have already been classified and approved for firefighter or law enforcement retirement. They have a unique position number which identifies the position as approved for special retirement.
Using special retirement approved Standard Position Descriptions speeds up the classification and hiring process as the positions are already classified and approved for special retirement. When a person is hired permanently into a special retirement approved Standard Position Description, the servicing personnel office (SPO) sends a copy of the personnel action (SF-50) with the Standard Position Description number to me so I can track firefighters and law enforcement officers who have been placed in approved Standard Position Descriptions. Tracking who is in special retirement approved position descriptions helps identify who is currently covered and how long they have been covered for special retirement. Supervisors who use approved Standard Position Descriptions save time as they can use the same Standard Position Description for numerous positions that perform the same work. The Office of Law Enforcement Services and the Southwest Region Personnel Office are in the process of getting the Standard Position Descriptions used for all law enforcement officers covered for DOI special retirement.
On January 19-20, 2000 there will be a Firefighter/Law Enforcement Officer Training in Spokane, Washington. The 1 ½ day training will cover what the program is, how to qualify for special retirement, and how to retire with special retirement benefits. The Spokane Agency is hosting the training. If you want more information and/or would like to attend, please call Bob Gilrein, Branch of Forestry at (509) 258-9242.
When do I receive a "bill of collection" for the extra 1/2% due as a result of retro-active coverage decision?
After a retro-active coverage decision is issued, it is important to assure that the servicing personnel office knows that corrections need to be done. The current servicing personnel office must correct the personnel actions (SF-50's). Then, the corrected personnel actions must be sent to the payroll office for a "bill of collection" to be issued. If the service was in another agency (i.e., Forest Service), the corrected personnel actions must be sent to the Forest Service for the bill to be issued.
Is there any provision for deferred retirement under FF/LEO?
No, Firefighter and Law Enforcement retirement is an "immediate annuity" only.
This is distributed to the Human Resource Offices, 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 - All other DOI)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5345
Donna Burch (BLM Claims)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5959
Michael Gillmore, (FWS Claims)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5348
Marilee Pospahala (NPS Claims)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5044
Matt Wagers (BIA Claims)
FF/LEO Retirement Specialist, 208/387-5045
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
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.