Benefits And Entitlements
Benefits counseling services for health and life insurance, retirement and Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) are provided centrally by the Benefits and Entitlements Service Team (BEST). BEST is located at JBSA Randolph, Texas. These counselors are available Monday through Friday, with the exception of federal holidays, from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. EST at 1-800-525-0102. Open Season enrollments, changes or cancellations can be made through BEST or by utilizing the Government Retirement & Benefits (GRB) Platform web application – access via AFPC Secure or the Air Force Portal.
|BENEFITS||ELECTION PERIOD||HOW TO ENROLL|
|Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB)||60 Days||GRB Online Platform or 1-800-525-0102|
|Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI)||60 Days||GRB Online Platform or 1-800-525-0102|
|Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)||60 Days||www.BENEFEDS.com or 1-877-888-3337|
|Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) (for reimbursement of health and dependent care expenses not paid by health insurance)||60 Days (or by October 1st, whichever occurs first)||https://www.fsafeds.com|
|Long Term Care (LTC) Insurance||60 Days (for abbreviated underwriting application)||https://www.ltcfeds.com or 1-877-582-3337|
|Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) Retirement savings plan)||Automatically Enrolled; may make changes at any time||https://www.tsp.gov|
|Election of FERS||Within 6 months of reemployment||Obtain SF 3109 from local or servicing Civilian Personnel Office|
|Waiver of Federal Employees Heath Benefits Premium Conversion||60 Days||Obtain Premium Conversion Waiver Form|
FEDERAL EMPLOYEE HEALTH BENEFITS PROGRAM
The FEHB program is the largest employer-sponsored group health insurance program in the world. The FEHB program is administered by the OPM and provides major medical coverage for hospitalization, doctor visits, prescriptions, and other medical services. There are no pre- existing coverage stipulations, and a physical examination is not required. A large number of health plans participate in the FEHB program, to include fee-for-service, health maintenance organizations, consumer-driven, and high deductible health plans. Enrollment options are self- only, self-plus-one, or self-and-family. Health insurance is a valuable benefit for which eligible employees are immediately able to enroll. Coverage is effective the first pay period AFTER the enrollment is processed. While you can use your FEHB benefits as soon as coverage is effective, it may take several weeks before the carrier shows the enrollment, in which case employees sometimes are required to pay out-of-pocket and then submit claims for reimbursement. The new employee enrollment window expires 60 days after the date of hire. Employees who do not enroll within this window must wait until the annual open enrollment period or have a Qualifying Life Event (QLE) to enroll outside of this window.
For more information on FEHB coverage and options, see OPM information.
FEDERAL EMPLOYEE DENTAL AND VISION INSURANCE PROGRAM
Employees eligible for FEHB, even if not enrolled, are also eligible for a supplemental dental and/or vision benefit, FEDVIP. Dental or vision coverage offered through FEHB plans varies widely from carrier to carrier but would be the primary coverage. FEDVIP provides comprehensive secondary coverage. Employees may enroll in dental coverage only, vision coverage only, or dental and vision coverage. Enrollment is self-only, self-plus-one, or self- and-family. Eligible new employees have 60 days to enroll in FEDVIP. In addition, there is an annual open enrollment opportunity and certain QLEs may permit enrollment or a change to your enrollment within a specified time frame. Generally, you cannot cancel your coverage outside of the open enrollment period. FEDVIP may also be carried into retirement. FEDVIP is administered by BENEFEDS.
Find additional information on vision insurance coverage on the OPM website
For questions regarding FEDVIP, or to enroll, contact BENEFEDS at 1-877-888-3337 or visit www.BENEFEDS.com
FLEXIBLE SPENDING ACCOUNTS (FSA)
FSAFEDS allows you to set aside pre-tax dollars from your pay for reimbursement for your eligible out-of-pocket health care and/or child/elder dependent care expenses thus lowering your taxable income. FSAFEDS offers three different flexible FSAs: a Health Care Flexible Spending Account (HCFSA), Limited Expense Health Care Flexible Spending Account (LEX HCFSA), and Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA). A HCFSA will reimburse employees for eligible health care expenses such as copays and deductibles which are not covered under FEHB and/or FEDVIP. A LEX HCFSA is designed for those enrolled in a High Deductible Health Plan with a Health Savings Account. This is limited to eligible expenses from dental and vision care for you and your dependents not covered or not reimbursed by your coverage. A DCFSA will reimburse employees for eligible day care expenses for children under age 13 or dependents who are incapable of self-care who are on your federal tax return. Generally, eligible new hires have 60 days to enroll, except for those hired late in a calendar year that may enroll during the annual open enrollment period. Benefits must be elected each year if you wish to continue to participate in the program. The program is administered by FSAFEDS.
For questions regarding FSAFEDS, or to enroll, contact them at 1-877-372-3337, TTY: 1-800-952-0450 or visit: www.fsafeds.com.
FEDERAL EMPLOYEE GROUP LIFE INSURANCE
FEGLI is the largest group life insurance program in the world. It consists of Basic Life Insurance coverage, which is automatic, and Optional Life Insurance, which must be elected within 60 days of hire or conversion to an eligible position unless there is a QLE allowing for a change. Unlike other benefits, there is no annual open enrollment period for FEGLI. There is no physical required for new employee enrollment, and FEGLI coverage can be decreased or cancelled at any time. However, opportunities to elect or increase coverage are infrequent and may require a physical examination. If you are enrolled in Basic Life, certain life events (marriage, divorce, etc.) may allow you to elect optional coverage within a specified time frame of that QLE. FEGLI is group term life insurance and does not build up any cash value. You may designate anyone you wish to receive all or a portion of your FEGLI coverage, with the exception of Option C coverage, which is only payable to the employee. Employees may continue FEGLI into retirement if enrolled in the FEGLI program for 5 years immediately preceding retirement, or from the first opportunity to enroll (if employed less than 5 years prior to retirement).
FEDERAL LONG TERM CARE INSURANCE PROGRAM (FLTCIP)
FLTCIP provides long term care insurance to help pay for care associated with the need for help with everyday activities. This insurance helps pay for long term care services in many settings, such as at home, a nursing home, assisted living facility, and adult dependent care facility. Eligible new employees can apply within 60 days with abbreviated underwriting (fewer questions on health). Even if you do not enroll, extended family members may be eligible to apply. In addition, FLTCIP benefits may be continued into retirement.
To learn more or to enroll, contact the program administrator, Long Term Care Partners at 1-800-582-3337 or visit www.ltcfeds.com.
RETIREMENT COVERAGE AND SYSTEMS
Employees are encouraged to begin retirement planning early and review their plans regularly throughout their career. Educated financial plans and decisions made throughout one’s career will help to secure a more financially comfortable retirement. Retirement coverage is automatic for employees hired into eligible positions. Retirement benefits allow for an immediate or deferred retirement annuity for eligible individuals after meeting length-of- service and age requirements. In addition, employees who experience a condition where they are unable to perform their job due to physical or mental disability lasting at least one year may apply for disability retirement (subject to OPM approval). Survivors of employees or annuitants who pass away may also be eligible to receive a monthly survivor’s annuity based on the employee’s retirement covered employment. Retirement system coverage depends on various factors such as your service history and type of appointment. Below are descriptions of the different federal retirement systems:
- The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) covers most employees hired in a position that provides retirement eligibility after 1 January 1984 and before 1 January 2013. It is a three-part retirement system consisting of Social Security benefits, a FERS annuity or pension, and the TSP which is an integral part of FERS. For more information, see the MyPers website.
- The Federal Employees Retirement System Revised Annuity Employee (FERS- RAE) covers employees newly hired into a position that provides retirement eligibility on or after 1 January 2013 or rehired with less than 5 years prior potentially creditable service and before 1 January 2014. The Federal Employees Retirement System Further Revised Annuity Employee (FERS-FRAE) covers employees newly hired into a position that provides retirement eligibility on or after 1 January 2014 or rehired with less than 5 years prior potentially creditable service. These systems are identical to regular FERS but FERS-RAE and FERS- FRAE employees pay higher employee contributions than regular FERS employees.
- The Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) is a closed system to employees newly hired after January 1, 1984, but still covers a portion of the Department of Army Civilian workforce. CSRS employees are not subject to Social Security Tax.
- Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and CSRS Partial, which is called CSRS-Offset, cover certain employees who are vested in the CSRS, but are subject to Social Security by law. If you are placed in CSRS-Offset you have a 6-month opportunity to elect coverage under FERS.
A number of pamphlets describing various retirement programs are available on the MyPers website. Information regarding retirement eligibility, computation, and benefits may be found on the Government Retirement and Benefits (GRB) Platform or by calling BEST at 1-800-525-0102 to speak with a retirement specialist.
Employees may request retirement estimates, however, BEST will only calculate 1 estimate every 4 years. All employees may use the self-service calculators available on the GRB Platform to calculate their civil service retirement annuity as well as their TSP and social security benefits. This tool will only factor the civil service annuity.
Employees intending to retire should submit their retirement applications via MyPers at least 90 days ahead of their retirement date, however, the earlier the better. A retirement counselor will contact the employee and provide retirement counseling before the date of retirement. Effective 1 June 2020, a Request for Personnel Action (RPA) for a retiring civilian employee must be received by the Benefits & Entitlement Service Team (BEST) before a retirement application package is submitted. On or after 1 June 2020, all retirement packages received by the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC), for which BEST has not received the retirement RPA, will be returned without action. Information regarding retirement eligibility, computation, and benefits may be found on the GRB Platform or by calling BEST at 1-800-525-0102 to speak with a retirement specialist.
MILITARY SERVICE CREDIT PAYMENTS
If you have served on active military duty, regardless of which retirement system you are under, you may make a deposit to the civilian retirement system for that service and receive credit towards the civilian retirement for that service. In addition, some reserve service may also be eligible for Civil Service credit. Service credit for retirement credit is not automatic and requires action by the employee. For FERS and certain CSRS employees, a deposit is required in order to receive credit for both retirement eligibility and annuity computation. This is true even for Military Service which interrupts Civilian Service (except Military Service which is fully covered under military or civilian leave).
- This process is handled by the employee via MyPers after they’ve received their CAC. The instructions, forms and procedures can be found at the MyPers website.
- Each employee will need their DD214 and documentation of their military basic pay before beginning the process. The employee’s branch of service will determine who this form is sent to at DFAS.
- Assistance is available through BEST, the representative will walk you through the process. The DFAS website may also offer additional assistance.
CIVILIAN SERVICE CREDIT PAYMENTS
Eligibility for making service credit deposits or redeposits depends on your respective retirement system. CSRS and CSRS Offset employees may or may not receive retirement credit for eligibility and annuity computation without paying a deposit or redeposit, depending on the dates of the service. FERS employees must pay a deposit to receive eligibility and annuity computation credit for temporary service but may receive credit for eligibility to retire but not for annuity computation for refunded service. CSRS and CSRS Offset employees may make service credit deposits for periods of service where retirement deductions were not withheld, such as in the case of temporary service regardless of when the service occurred. Additionally, you may make a redeposit to cover periods where you separated from Civilian Service, applied for, and received a refund of retirement deductions. Retirement credit for eligibility and annuity computation without paying a deposit or redeposit depend on the dates of the service. FERS, FERS-RAE, and FERS-FRAE employees may make service credit deposits for periods of service where retirement deductions were not withheld, such as in the case of temporary service performed prior to 1 January 1989. Temporary service performed on or after 1 January 1989 generally is not creditable under FERS, and a deposit is not allowed. Refunded service, regardless of the dates, may be repaid. If the refund is not repaid, credit toward length-of-service for eligibility will be given, but no credit will be given for the refunded service when calculating the annuity.
NONAPPROPRIATED FUND SERVICE CREDIT
Prior NAF service may be creditable toward Appropriated Funds service dependent upon various factors such as the type of NAF service (regular versus flexible) as well as the number of years of service.
All federal employees are subject to the Medicare tax. To answer questions about how FEHB Program & Medicare work together to provide you with your health benefits coverage at age 65, visit the OPM website.
OLD‐AGE, SURVIVORS, AND DISABILITY INSURANCE (OASDI)
OASDI, also known as Social Security Tax, is available to all employees with the exception of those under CSRS that are subject to the Social Security Tax. However, there is a maximum taxable earnings limit which changes annually. Earnings above the limit are exempt from the Social Security Tax.
To find out what the annual limit is, visit the social security website.
THRIFT SAVINGS PLAN
TSP participation is critical for you while planning for a retirement income that will meet continued financial needs during retirement years. The TSP offers the same type of savings and tax benefits that many private corporations offer their employees under 401k plans. Contributions are made through payroll deduction and are tax-deferred. TSP features a variety of investment options. Transfers and rollovers from other qualifying retirement plans may be eligible for acceptance into your TSP account. TSP also offers various withdrawal and loan options. All employees in CSRS, CSRS Offset, FERS, FERS-RAE, and FERS-FRAE are eligible to participate in the TSP. New and rehired employees are automatically enrolled at a contribution rate of 5%. The contributions that you make to your TSP account are separate from your contributions to FERS or CSRS. FERS employees receive an employer automatic 1% and matching contributions up to 5%, while CSRS and CSRS-Offset employees do not receive matching contributions. The maximum annual contribution limit is determined each year by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is important for FERS employees intending to maximize their contributions to calculate carefully. Employees who reach the annual limit before the end of the TSP contribution year will have withholdings cease and may miss out on agency matching contributions. It is also important to note that the TSP contribution year is based on when the pay is received, not when it is earned. Because of the time lag between making the election, the effective date of the election, and the receipt of pay, it is often necessary to make the following year’s TSP election in late November or early December in order to affect the first pay date in January. TSP elections to increase, decrease, stop, or restart withholdings can be made at any time. These changes can be done via the GRB Platform. To make changes to your investment allocation, move money between funds, or inquire about account balances, loans, or withdrawals, call 1-877-968-3778 or access the TSP website. Once TSP receives the first contribution, they will establish an account and contact the employee with account access information.
Access the Thrift Savings Plan website.
TSP Catch-Up Contributions
Beginning January 1, 2021, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) implemented the spillover method for catch-up contributions. The spillover method streamlines the catch-up process for eligible participants; they no longer have to make separate catch-up contributions. The TSP system determines if the participant is eligible to make additional contributions toward the catch-up limit based on the participant’s date of birth. For 2021, the annual Elective Deferral Limit (EDL) is $19,500. The Internal Review Code (IRC) 414(v) catch-up contributions limit for 2021 is $6,500. If the participant is eligible to make catch-up contributions, anything beyond the annual EDL regular contributions automatically start counting toward the catch-up contribution limit. These additional contributions “spill over” until the participant meets the catch-up limit for those age 50 or older. Contributions spilling over toward the catch-up limit are matched, but only on up to the 5% of salary to which participants are already entitled. Participants aged 50 or older who do not wish to contribute toward the catch-up limit should adjust their contributions accordingly.
Here’s what you should know:
- You must already be contributing an amount that will reach the IRS annual contribution limit. To see the most current limits, visit Contribution Limits.
- You may start, change, or stop making catch-up contributions at any time. There are no matching contributions for catch-up contributions.
- Starting January 1, 2021, the TSP no longer uses Form TSP-1-C for catch-up contributions.
Additionally, IAW Bulletin 20-1 https://www.tsp.gov/bulletins/20-1/ , the following forms and publications will soon be changed to reflect the spillover method.
- TSP Benefits That Apply to Military Service Members Who Return to Civilian Federal Service (USERRA)
- Annual Limit on Elective Deferrals
- Contributions Toward the Catch-Up Limit Fact Sheet
- TSP-1, Election Form
- TSP-U-1, Election Form (Uniformed Services)
- TSP-1-C, Catch-Up Contribution Election (form to be removed by 1/1/2021)
- TSP-U-1-C, Catch-Up Contribution Election (Uniformed Services) (form to be removed by 1/1/2021)
- TSP-19, Transfer of Information Between Agencies
- TSP-44, Request for Refund of Excess Employee Contributions
- Summary of the Thrift Savings Plan
- Managing Your Account for Civilian Federal Employees Managing Your Account for - Members of the Uniformed Services
- How to Read Your Quarterly TSP Participant Statement (obsoleted)
- How to Read Your Annual TSP Participant Statement (obsoleted)
Thrift Savings Plans elections (start, stop, change) can be made through the Government Retirement and Benefits (GRB) Platform at https://grbplatform.us.af.mil. Once in the GRB Platform, choose the TSP tile. Please note that as part of the spillover transition, additional changes are forthcoming.
These changes cannot take effect until after the final pay period of 2020, therefore, participants will continue to use the current catch-up process. The spillover process will take effect with elections for the first pay period of 2021.
For more information regarding TSP or Catch-up contributions, visit the TSP websites at: https://www.tsp.gov/making-contributions/catch-up-contributions/.
Questions should be posed to the ThriftLine: 1-877-968-3778 (toll free) (M-F) 7:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., eastern time. For account-specific inquiries, log in to My Account, click Message Center, and go to the Messages tab. Response time is within 24 business hours.
You may make beneficiary designations for FEGLI, Retirement, TSP, and unpaid compensation. Each requires a different form be completed, certified, and filed with the appropriate office (found on the GRB Platform). The most recent, valid beneficiary form on file is the official declaration of who is entitled to payment regardless of whether it reflects a current or former spouse or family member. Therefore, it is critical for you to keep all beneficiary designations current with regard to intentions for payment. An existing entitlement to survivor benefits will supersede the beneficiary for retirement benefits. For cases where there is no beneficiary form on file, benefits are paid in order of precedence under the law.
DEATH BENEFITS AND SURVIVOR ANNUITY
If you pass away while an active employee or retiree, your spouse, former spouse, and dependent child(ren) may be entitled to a monthly survivor annuity.
ACTIVE DUTY MILITARY SERVICE (LWOP US)
The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 provides employees with an entitlement to LWOP when employment with an employer is interrupted by a period of service in the uniformed service. (See 5 CFR 353.106.)
If you will be deployed in connection with your Civilian Service, contact your Civilian Personnel Office for information pertaining to FEGLI and other benefits.
CHANGE OF ADDRESS
It is very important for you to remember to update your address of record in the DFAS myPay system. DFAS will flow the change to Human Resources and TSP databases as well. An accurate address is needed to ensure that tax and certain other withholdings are correct and will allow your servicing offices the ability to reach you if needed, for example, if you should apply for a TSP loan, TSP may need to send forms to you. Additionally, if you are enrolled in FEHB, you must contact your health plan to report your change of address. If you are enrolled in FEDVIP, FSAs, and/or FLTCIP, you will need to update your account profile contact information. Relocation may also necessitate a change in health plan, FEDVIP enrollment, etc. Please review your benefits information and promptly make any necessary changes.
FEDERAL EMPLOYEES’ COMPENSATION ACT
If you sustain a traumatic injury or occupational disease in the performance of duties, report the injury or illness to your supervisor immediately. The supervisor and you will complete the CA-1 or CA-2, which can be found at the Department of Labor’s website. For more information concerning the Federal Employees Compensation Act, contact your Injury Compensation Program Administrator in the Civilian Personnel Office.