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May Human Resources Advisor Volume 2, Issue 5

FEA Employees Identified for Conversion Under Arbitrator Altman's Decision

Am I eligible for a Living Quarters Allowance (LQA)?

 Generally not. Most of the converted employees began their teaching careers with DoDDS as local hires and were not eligible for LQA: The arbitration award does not confer this additional benefit. However, there may be some situations where converted teachers were at closing schools during the covered period and would have been transferred by management to another area as a condition of continued employment. In such cases, if the management directed reassignment would have been outside of the commuting area of the closing school, the employee would have been issued permanent change-of-station (PCS) orders to the new duty location and may now be eligible for LQA: Determinations on eligibility for LQA will have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Am I eligible for health benefits?

 You are eligible to enroll in a Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) plan of your choice effective at the time of conversion, in conjunction with any subsequent annual open season, or in connection with other events which permit enrollment and changes in enrollment. If you elect retroactive coverage, you will be required to pay the retroactive premiums back to the effective date of coverage. If you are nearing retirement, you should be aware that in order to be eligible for post-retirement coverage, you must generally have been enrolled in a FEHB plan for the last five years of service immediately preceding retirement or since the first opportunity to enroll.

Am I eligible for life insurance?

 Yes, you are eligible to participate in the Federal Employee Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program. You will be automatically enrolled in Basic Life insurance effective the first day in a pay status following the conversion and will be indebted for retroactive premiums unless you elect to waive coverage by completing a Standard Form 2817. You should also be aware of the requirement to be enrolled in FEGLI for the full period of service during which FEGLI was available or for the last 5 years immediately before the annuity commences in order to continue FEGLI into retirement.

Am I entitled to retroactive Post Allowance (PA)?

 There may be isolated cases where an employee could be entitled to retroactive PA: The authorization would depend on whether or not a post allowance was authorized for the employee's post of assignment during the period of retroactive conversion for which the employee has not already been paid. However, this would not apply to a part-time employee since post allowance may only be authorized to a full-time U.S. citizen employee stationed in a foreign area:

As a converted employee, am I eligible for benefits?

 You will be automatically placed in a retirement plan and may be eligible for health and life insurance and the Thrift Savings Program.

Can I negotiate a transportation agreement?

 Generally not. Most employees being converted began their careers with DoDDS as local hires that were not eligible to negotiate a transportation agreement. The arbitration award does not automatically confer this benefit. However, there may be situations where teachers were at closing schools during the covered period that would have been reassigned by management outside the commuting distance of the closing school or to another geographical area that might become eligible. A move within the same geographical locality may confer eligibility to negotiate a transportation agreement for PCS allowances from the old duty station to the new station. There is no other eligibility. A move to a different geographical locality may confer eligibility for PCS allowances from the old duty station to the new duty station, and subject to meeting eligibility requirements, for renewal agreement and separation travel. Determinations on eligibility to negotiate a transportation agreement will have to be made on a case-by-case basis.

Do I need to have qualifying National Teacher Examination (NTE) scores to be eligible for conversion?

 If you started as a teacher with DoDDS during school year (SY) 1994-95 or later, you would need to have qualifying NTE scores to be converted to a permanent position. If you started as a teacher with DoDDS before SY 1994-95, then you would not need to have the qualifying NTE scores on file. Former DoDDS educators, including former educators on "Not To Exceed" appointments, will not be required to take the National Teachers Examination upon being rehired, provided that the reemployment takes place on or before the beginning of the fourth year following separation.

Does DFAS Charleston need to know anything about my work history during the covered period?

 Yes! If you received outside earnings during the covered period due to outside employment, payroll needs a statement from you stating the amount earned and name, address, and telephone number of the company along with a copies of related W-2 forms.

Does Personnel set up any retroactive payment schedules?

 No, Personnel staff does not set up retroactive payment schedules for TSP, retirement or any other benefit. This is accomplished between the employee and DFAS-Charleston.

How do I arrange to make TSP retroactive contributions?

 This is done directly between you and DFAS-Charleston. If you were on a full-time temporary position and are being converted to a full-time permanent position, DFAS-Charleston will send you a letter with a form to elect a repayment plan. If you were not employed or were part time or intermittent and are being converted to a full time permanent position, the retro payments will automatically be deducted from any back pay due you. All retroactive contributions to TSP must come from future, pretaxed earnings.

How do I get retirement benefits?

 As a permanent employee, you will be covered by either the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), or the CSRS Offset, depending on your prior civilian service and breaks in service. Retirement fund deductions will be retroactive from the date of conversion.

How do I get Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) benefits?

 If you are now being converted to a permanent position for the first time with the Federal government, you are treated as a newly hired FERS employee. In that case, you are first eligible to contribute to the TSP during the second TSP open season following your date of conversion. If you are a rehired FERS employee who was previously eligible to participate, you are eligible to contribute to the TSP during the open season following your date of conversion. If you are a rehired FERS employee who was not eligible to participate in the TSP, you are not eligible for TSP now until the second open season following your date of conversion. The first open season each year is May 15-July 31, and the second is November 15-January 31. The letter sent to you will indicate when you are eligible and will contain the form you need to complete. You must return the completed form within 30 days and indicate the date you want your contributions to begin.

How do make retroactive retirement fund contributions?

 If you were on a full-time temporary position and are being converted to a full-time permanent position, DFAS-Charleston will send you a letter with a form to elect a repayment plan. If you were not employed or were part time or intermittent and are being converted to a full time permanent position, the retro payments will be deducted from any back pay you are owed. This aspect is the responsibility of our payroll office and you must work with them directly. Personnel is not involved in payment arrangements.

Is the process quick and easy? Tell me more.

 No, the process is rather long and involves coordination with multiple sections within the Personnel Center and with DFAS-Charleston. Reviews begin with the Labor Relations staff. They make the initial determination that the employee may be eligible for conversion. The case file is then forwarded to the Staffing Branch. A staffing specialist may take several hours checking for qualifications, the Mobility Statement, and the NTE scores. If information on file is incomplete, the process will be delayed. The staffing specialist may need to reconstruct where the employee would have gone if the employee were eligible for conversion while at a school that closed. Then the SF52s are coded. If the action is retroactive several years back, there could be as many as 20-30 (or more) SF52s to code. Care must be taken that these actions are coded correctly.

When the Staffing Branch completes the review, analysis, and coding, the action is then forwarded to the Personnel Management Team within the Operations Branch. If you are eligible for retroactive benefits, at this point you will be sent a letter explaining your benefit options. You must respond within 30 days of receipt of this letter indicating which retroactive benefits you are electing. If you are being retroactively reinstated or are being retroactively converted from an intermittent or part-time position to a full-time position, you may also need to provide a statement indicating that you were ready, willing, and able to work during that time and listing your outside earnings, with W-2 forms attached.

Once your election forms and any other necessary documentation are received, the Personnel Management Team will input the SF52s into the automated system and the SF50s will be produced. This process can take anywhere form several hours to several days to complete as every personnel action since the conversion date will need to be canceled and re-input. After all the SF50s are completed, you will be sent copies via your Personnel Center Representative (PCR). The actions and are also sent to the payroll office, DFAS-Charleston, for processing of the benefits and pay. If you are indebted for retroactive benefits, DFAS will send you a letter explaining your repayment options. If you are due money, DFAS will issue you that pay. The calculation and processing of retroactive pay and benefits is a time-consuming and complicated process involving the auditing of years worth of pay history, which is sometimes difficult to reconstruct.

What do I need to send the Personnel Center in order to process my conversion action?

 Within 30 days of receiving your letter from the Personnel Center advising you of your benefit options, complete and return your benefits election forms. Your Personnel Center Representative can assist you in preparing the forms. Only hen we have received your benefits election forms and, if necessary, your "ready, willing and able to work" and outside earnings statement will the entire package be completed and forwarded to payroll for processing.

What does "conversion" mean as related to the arbitrator's decision?

 If you are identified for conversion under Arbitrator Altman's decision, it means you are eligible to be converted to a permanent position.

What happens after I am identified for conversion?

 Labor Relations makes the initial eligibility determination and establishes the date of conversion to a permanent appointment. The case is then forwarded to the Staffing Branch for additional reviews, including a check for the NTE qualifying scores, receipt of the Mobility Statement, and a qualification review. Upon completion of staffing reviews and coding of the SF52s, Requests for Personnel Action, the case is then forwarded to the servicing Personnel Management Team within the Operations Branch. You will then be sent a letter explaining your benefit options. Once you respond, the SF52s are coded into the automated system. All actions which occurred between the effective date of conversion and present are coded as if the employee had been permanent all along. The resulting SF50s, Notification of Personnel Action, are filed in the employee's Official Personnel Folder. Copies are sent to the employee and to our payroll office, Defense Finance and Accounting Service (DFAS) - Charleston.

Who determines if and how much interest I may be due?

 Arbitrator Altman has already determined that "Any employees who have been displaced as a result of their NTE status shall be reinstated retroactively with back pay, benefits and interest, as required under the Back Pay Act." DFAS-Charleston will calculate the amount.

Will I receive retroactive educator leave?

 If you had a break in service while on a temporary appointment and will be eligible for back pay during the period you were unemployed, you may be eligible for retroactive educator leave. This determination would be made by DFAS-Charleston upon review of the new SF50s and their payroll records.