NASCOE News Flash 3/21/2018

NASCOE will be heading to Washington DC the first week of April to conduct our annual negotiation session. The negotiation team has been preparing to present and negotiate the items submitted by membership. For those unfamiliar, suggestions on how to improve efficiency, improve working conditions or improve service to our producers are submitted by membership through the online submission form located on the NASCOE webpage. Those suggestions are vetted and then sent to management for consideration. The negotiations team which is comprised of the officers, the area execs and area negotiation consultants, then meet face to face with management to negotiate the item. To ensure equal representation from the areas, negotiation consultants must be a PT if the area exec is a CED and vice versa. All members are encouraged to participate in the negotiation process by submitting items for review.

NASCOE has received a few questions regarding the comment during the town hall regarding the one to ten ratio for supervisors and employees. This has been the standard touted by OPM for the federal workforce for the past several years. It is important to keep in mind the goal is to average one supervisor for every ten employees across the agency, not that every supervisor must have ten employees. It is very likely you will see this standard used while standing up the business center and in areas of the mission area where possible. NASCOE will continue to monitor this and other areas of concern as we move forward.

In addition to the negotiating with management, NASCOE will also participate in an all association meeting on Wednesday, April 4th. We will have the opportunity to see and visit with leaders from the agency, department and FPAC. This will give us the opportunity to follow up on some of the information that was provided in the recent town hall meeting. An update will be provided to the membership soon after the meetings.

The following is a legislative report from our consultant Hunter Moorhead.

“All – I hope this note finds you well. I want to update NASCOE’s membership on two important legislative initiatives, the omnibus appropriations measure and Farm Bill. The current continuing resolution is set to expire on March 23. We expect the House of Representatives and U.S. Senate will soon wrap-up negotiations and meet the current deadline. This legislation will fund the government through fiscal year 2018. The Congress recently agreed to new spending limitations (caps) that should allow for adequate FSA salaries and expenses funding. We continue to urge Secretary Perdue to make available any additional funds for hiring county office staff. When finalized, we will share information about the final package.

“The other important legislative issue is reauthorization of the 2014 Farm Bill. While I expected the House Agriculture Committee this week to release draft legislative language, our contacts tell us it will likely be the middle of April. A group of Democratic House members have raised concerns with any effort to limit Food Stamp benefits. The other challenge for Chairman Michael Conaway is securing House floor debate time. On the Senate side, the negotiations are slowly moving forward, and any draft bill will follow action by the House of Representatives. We will continue to monitor the Farm Bill process and share any legislative information.”

NASCOE Scholarship Deadline January 1

Please see our current applications for scholarships and awards in the NEA.  I have to think we have more employees than two in the whole area who could benefit from scholarships and I KNOW we have folks deserving of a DSA.  The deadline is January 1.  Please encourage your members to consider applying for a scholarship or nominating a deserving individual for a DSA.  If you have any questions, I know that Annette or I would be happy to help.
Distinguished Service Award for services to NASCOE – 0
Distinguished Service Award for services to FSA/Agriculture – 0
Distinguished Service Award for services to Community – 0
 
Scholarships:
Traditional Scholarship – 2 (NY and MA)
Open Continuing Education Scholarship – 0
Member Continuing Education Scholarship – 0
Continuing Education for Adult Children of Members – 0
Grandchildren Scholarship – 0
Associate member scholarship – 0
Thanks!
Rick Csutoras
NASCOE NE Area Exec

NASCOE Benefits Report

PACOE Benefits Chair Mary Jo Frazier shares the NASCOE Membership Benefits Report:

NASCOE
WDC, Pre-Negotiation Meeting
Benefits Report
January 11, 2017

Five months into my position I have realized that at times this position can be non-eventful or you can create work for yourself, so I chose the latter.   The wonderful thing is that we have awesome area chairs that are sharing in the workload.

Conference Call on October 27th 2016:   Main objective of this meeting was to create a list of actions items.

Action Items created for 2016-2017:

  1. Work with publicity chair to make the NASCOE website easier to navigate when it comes to Benefits and discounts.   This will be completed once we know how much information is created from updated discounted information below.
  2. Contact Dillard’s financial and follow up with Teresa bout a membership credit card that was discussed at National Conference. If a product is found Benefit chairs will elevate the findings to the NASCOE Executive Committee.

iii. Update list of gas station discounts

  1. Update list of AAA discounts
  2. Update list of cell phone discounts
  3. Find Costco and Sam’s Club membership discounts

vii. Gym discounts through current health insurance providers and Dental/Vision plan discounts for our members

viii. Update Quick Guide to Benefits

  1. Start a computer file with benefits documents created: Newsletters, reports, notes etc…this will allow us to hand something down to future chairpersons.

Some of the action items on the list above have been completed and I plan on submitting something formal to the executive board before our national convention for review.   The ultimate goal is to hand this information out to membership at national convention in either booklet and/or pamphlet format and have it available in an email friendly format and possibly on our NASCOE website.

Suggestions and ideas are always welcome.   Thank you.

Respectfully Submitted,

Brenda F. Estrada
National Benefits Chair

 

Membership Information

With all the hiring actions going on in Pennsylvania right now, this is a great time to remind FSA employees what all PACOE and NASCOE can do for you.

Thank you to Kelly DeLucy, PACOE’s new membership chair for making the following documents available. Here you can find the PACOE welcome letter, the membership application and FSA-444

We also have some great resources about NASCOE including a introductory flyer, the invitation brochure, membership booklet, and benefits brochure.

If you need any other information to encourage new hires and coworkers who may not already be members to join, please feel free to contact Kelly, Rick or any of the officers or area executives for more information.

NASCOE Scholarships: January 1, 2016 deadline approaching

The 2016 NASCOE Scholarship deadline has been changed to January 1, 2016.  Attached you will find the newest 2016 Scholarship Applications.

If you have a student or are a student and fall into one of these 5 categories we encourage you to apply. Applicant winners are sent to NASCOE to be eligible for the NASCOE scholarship.

Traditional Scholarship

This award may only be used to defray expenses for a graduating high school senior or college freshman enrolled as a full time student with a minimum of 12 hours at an accredited school. Applicants must be a NASCOE members child or members legal dependent. The NASCOE members’ dues must be paid and membership kept current for the past 5 years, or if less than 5 years, continuous membership has been maintained since becoming a NASCOE Member within the first 12 months of becoming a permanent employee. The evaluation criteria are based on ability, incentive assistance, and other personal characteristics. Nominations for Scholarships are competitive. Area winners are selected from State entries. The National winner is selected from Area winners. The time schedule contained in this booklet must be followed. This scholarship can only be won once at the Area and National level.

Open Continuing Education Scholarship

This award may only be used to defray expenses for a 2nd, 3rd, or 4th year student continuing their education at an accredited school while carrying 6 or more credit hours per semester. Applicants must be a NASCOE member, members spouse, member’s child, member’s legal dependent, or member’s grandchild. The NASCOE members’ dues must be paid and membership kept current for the past 5 years, or, if less than 5 years, continuous membership has been maintained since becoming a NASCOE Member within the first 12 months of becoming a permanent employee. The evaluation criteria are based on ability, incentive assistance, and other personal characteristics. Nominations for Scholarships are competitive. Area winners are selected from State entries. The National winner is selected from Area winners. The time schedule contained in this booklet must be followed. This scholarship can only be won once at the Area and National level.

Member Continuing Education/Collegiate Education Program

The applicant must be a NASCOE member. The NASCOE members’ dues must be paid and membership kept current for the past 5 years, or, if less than 5 years, continuous membership has been maintained since becoming a NASCOE Member within the first 12 months of becoming a permanent employee. The Member must be attending, or currently enrolled to attend, an accredited college or participating in a career advancement program designed to increase the skill set of a member and further their employment abilities within the Farm Service Agency. The member must submit a short essay explaining how this continuing education scholarship will further their career within FSA. Nominations for Scholarships are competitive. Area winners are selected from State entries. The National winner is selected from Area winners. The time schedule contained in this booklet must be followed. This award can only be won once at the Area and National level.

Continuing Education for Adult Children of Members

This award may only be used to defray expenses for a Member’s child continuing their education as required or encouraged through their employer for 5 or less credit hours a semester. Applicants must be a member’s child, member’s legal dependent, or member’s grandchild. The NASCOE members’ dues must be paid and membership kept current for the past 5 years, or, if less than 5 years, continuous membership has been maintained since becoming a NASCOE Member within the first 12 months of becoming a permanent employee. The evaluation criteria are based on ability, incentive assistance, and other personal characteristics. Nominations for Scholarships are competitive. This scholarship can only be won once at the National level.

Grandchildren Scholarship

This award may only be used to defray expenses for a student continuing their education at an accredited school while carrying 12 or more credit hours per semester. Applicants must be a member’s grandchild. The NASCOE members’ dues must be paid and membership kept current for the past 5 years, or, if less than 5 years, continuous membership has been maintained since becoming a NASCOE Member within the first 12 months of becoming a permanent employee. The evaluation criteria are based on ability, incentive assistance, and other personal characteristics. Nominations for Scholarships are competitive. Area winners are selected from State entries. The National winner is selected from Area winners. The time schedule contained in this booklet must be followed. This scholarship can only be won once at the Area and National level.

The Traditional and both Continuing scholarships will pay at the Area and National levels.  The other two will pay at the National level only.

The updated handbook is on this link as well.  It has detailed information about each scholarship.  http://nascoe.org/forms-downloads/

If you have questions or need additional information, please feel free to contact Kelly Sundy, NEA Scholarship Chairperson.

 

NASCOE News Flash: Update on OPM Retirement Interpretation

October 13, 2015

The recent OPM interpretation adversely affecting temporary service has been a grave concern for NASCOE and management.  NASCOE received notification this afternoon that the adverse interpretation has been reversed and ASCS/FSA non-deduction service performed after July 1960 to be creditable service.

For Wes Daniels
NASCOE President

As a reminder, this decision impacted those individuals under the FERS retirement system with ASCS temporary/non-deduction service performed prior to January 1, 1989 as well as individuals under the CSRS/CSRS-Offset retirement system with temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS. FERS employees were not previously allowed to pay a deposit for temporary/non-deduction service performed after January 1, 1989; this reversal does not change that policy and temporary time performed after that date remains ineligible for a deposit.

NASCOE is excited and encouraged by this development and will continue to fight the battles that matter to our members.

NASCOE News Flash: OPM re-interprets temporary service time as creditable service for retirement eligibility

NASCOE News Flash
October 8, 2015

Please take time to read this important update. This is one of the most important legislative/management issues we have faced during the current Administration. To begin, NASCOE leadership has been working to reverse the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) decision and will continue until this decision is reversed. The information below has been obtained through multiple channels and provides the most updated information. In summary, a certain lawyer at OPM has declared that Public Law 85-568 (enacted July 1960) no longer applies to FSA’s county office workers. In effect, this means temporary time no longer counts toward retirement benefits. In addition, it appears that the Department of Agriculture is moving forward with OPM’s interpretation based on information obtained from FSA State offices. Please see the related documents below.

As recently as this morning, NASCOE President Wes Daniels visited with Administrator Dolcini about the impact of OPM’s decision. Administrator Dolcini and other USDA officials are working to rectify this situation. We are now significantly expanding our outreach and will work toward reversing this unjustified decision.

Creditable Service for Retirement Eligibility and Annuity Computation Purposes

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has recently reviewed and re-interpreted Chapter 20 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook to exclude temporary/non-deduction time with the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) as creditable service for retirement eligibility and annuity calculation purposes, even if a deposit application has been submitted and the deposit paid in full.

Chapter 20 of the CSRS/FERS Handbook states the following with regard to Creditable service:

“Public Law 85-568, enacted July 1, 1960, declared employees of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation (ASC) county committees to be Federal employees as of July 10, 1960, for retirement purposes. This law covered all ASC county committee employees except those specifically excluded by law or regulations (such as temporary and intermittent employees). However, an employee who separated before July 10, 1960, cannot receive credit for that service.”

Q and A:

What is non-deduction service?

Non-deduction service is service performed for which retirement deductions were not taken from your pay.

Who should I contact with questions about my temporary/non-deduction service?

Employees should feel comfortable contacting either their employee association or State HR specialist with questions or concerns related to their temporary/non-deduction service.

Who has been made aware of OPM’s interpretation?

It is our understanding that the USDA’s Office of General Counsel (OGC), FSA’s Human Resource Division (HRD), FSA Administrator and Deputy Administrator Offices, as well as the employee associations (NASCOE) are aware of OPM’s interpretation. Further, we understand that OGC is actively pursuing a favorable re-interpretation of the law to include temporary/non-deduction time as creditable for retirement eligibility and annuity calculation purposes.

Who is affected by OPM’s interpretation of the CSRS/FERS Handbook?

OPM’s interpretation, as stated above, applies to individuals under the FERS retirement system with ASCS temporary/non-deduction service performed prior to January 1, 1989 (FERS employees were not previously allowed to pay a deposit for temporary/non- deduction service performed after 01/01/1989 – this period of service remains ineligible for a deposit). OPM’s interpretation would also apply to individuals under the CSRS/CSRS-Offset retirement system with temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS (pre or post 01/01/1989).

What do I do if I am planning to retire in the near future or think I might have temporary/non-deduction time with ASCS?

At this time, the FSA Human Resource Team is asking that you review your service history for such periods of temporary/non-deduction time that were previously considered creditable (pre 01/01/1989 for FERS employees and all non-deduction service for CSRS/CSRS-Offset employees). If you have these types of service you can contact your Administrative Specialist or HR Specialist to review your service history with/for you in an effort to help you understand the full impact of OPM’s determination. If an employee does not meet retirement eligibility without including temporary/non-deduction service, HR is advising that you do not retire until such time that an official determination (re-determination) is issued by OPM or retirement eligibility thresholds are met without including temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS.

What if I paid a deposit and OPM has accepted the deposit and issued a “Paid-in- Full” invoice?

At this time, it is our understanding that OPM accepting your re-deposit does not entitle you to service credit for the non-deduction time. This determination would be made by OPM when finalizing your retirement annuity. If OPM upholds their current interpretation, it is HR’s understanding that you would be allowed an opportunity to request a refund of your service credit deposit. OPM would refund your deposit paid with annually compounded interest from the date of deposit. At this time we are not recommending that you request a refund of your paid deposit in case OPM’s interpretation would be reversed.

What will happen to those individuals who have already retired and who have temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS?

We are not sure yet how the pension will be affected for those individuals who have already retired and who have temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS.

What happens if I retire and it is later determined that the temporary/non-deduction service with ASCS is creditable for retirement purposes?

Upon retirement OPM becomes your servicing personnel office. We encourage you to track this issue via employee associations, news outlets, OPM website, etc. Contact OPM when/if any development occurs.  

An Insurance Benefit Opportunity for PACOE. DONT MISS IT!

JM Marketing has negotiated with Fidelity Life Insurance Company a limited open enrollment for USDA-FSA employees for the state of Pennsylvania going through August 15, 2013. During this open enrollment period, qualifying employees can apply for up to a $75,000 policy on a Guaranteed Issue basis. As long as the employee is actively at work, working at least 20 or more hours per week there are no health questions or physicals and coverage cannot be declined due to health issues.  Also, if an employee selects less than the $75,000 face amount to begin with, each year moving forward during the open enrollment period they can increase the face amount without having to answer health questions up to $75,000 worth of total life coverage.

Not only does the Fidelity policy provide employees with life insurance premiums that are locked in to age 100 but it also provides employees with an accelerated death benefit for Long Term Care. This important benefit provides individuals with a monthly benefit of 4% of the death benefit each month for 75 months. Benefits would begin after a 90 day elimination period.

Check out the brochure:  NASCOE Fidelity Flyer with EOB.   And the Contact Info is here:  Ty Christenson  with JM Marketing Insurance & Retirement Services, 410 Archibald Street, Kansas City, MO 64111 Fax: (816) 841-3790 Toll Free: (800) 330-6223 x131, www.jminsuredirect.com

Register for our Annual Meeting!

Hello to all!!

Plans are coming together for the PACOE annual meeting!! As I said before, the meeting will be held in the Somerset, PA at the Hidden Valley Resort. We are planning a meeting the day prior (November 9, 2012) to plan for the NASCOE Northeast Area Rally to be Held on May 3-5, 2013 also at the Hidden Valley Resort. For those of you who wish to be on the Rally Planning Committee and will be attending the PACOE meeting on Saturday, but do not wish to travel home, there is a block of rooms reserved at the resort. The room fee is $104 for the night and the deadline to reserve a room is OCTOBER 25, 2012. Even if you will not be staying overnight and still wish to be on the Rally Planning Committee, please send me an email as well as check the box on the registration form.

I have attached the Registration Form for the State Meeting. Please take the time to fill out and send to Dolly Little. Also, note there is no registration fee for this meeting!!

I look forward to hearing from you!! If you have any questions please let me know.

Sincerely,

Dan Smeal

PACOE President