Are You Making the Most of Your Benefits?
Federal employee benefits are some of the best offered, but what you don’t know can cost you. By not making the most of the Federal employee benefits, you are losing out on your total employment compensation package as a Federal employee. The benefit packages available to employees are outlined below, and knowledge is the key to taking advantage of them.
First and foremost, the health insurance benefit packages available to Federal employees, retirees and their families, known as the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program, are tailored to meet the specific needs of almost any personal situation. This isn’t your private corporation’s one- or two-choice plan, there are over 14 benefit plans available nationwide and even more area-specific benefit plans offered. Choices range from catastrophic coverage to plans that cover specialist visits with no referral needed. If you do one thing as a federal employee, it should be to learn your health insurance benefit choices and choose wisely!
Among the other choices in the health care benefits, besides the FEHB, are:
While some of the health insurance benefits may offer a basic dental add-on option, there are separate dental insurance plans available to Federal employees. Don’t think that the basic plan offered with your health insurance will do much more than pay for a cleaning every year or so, dental ‘emergencies’ are more than likely not covered. With the cost of dental work easily reaching into the thousands for a chipped tooth – this is a benefit to examine closely.
As for the Vision plans for Federal employees, the offerings are basic and inexpensive. Most benefit plans offer one routine eye examination annually; one pair of eyeglass lenses or contact lenses annually; and one frame every other year.
Flexible Spending Accounts
The Federal Flexible Spending Account Program (FSAFEDS) offers three different flexible spending accounts (FSAs): a health care flexible spending account, a limited expense health care flexible spending account, and a dependent care flexible spending account. These accounts can provide tax free dollars to:
- Pay co-pays, co-insurance and deductibles;
- Purchase over-the-counter medicines, or other medical expenses that regular insurance does not cover;
- Pay for child care and/or adult day care expenses, or
- Pay for vision and dental expenses.
Long Term Care
The Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP) provides long term care insurance benefits to help pay for costs of care when you need help with the activities of daily living, such as bathing, cooking or dressing, or you have another impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease. While many assume that Medicare or private insurance will cover nursing home costs in later years, this is not the case, so be sure to learn more on this insurance program.
Federal Employees Group Life Insurance
The Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) is a group term life insurance benefit with three options available (Standard, Additional, and Family).
Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS)
FERS is the Federal Employee Retirement plan that provides benefits from three different sources:
- A Basic Benefit Plan,
- Social Security, and
- The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
Two of the three parts of FERS, Social Security and the TSP, can go with you to your next job if you leave the Federal Government before retirement. Basic Benefit and Social Security require you to pay your share each pay period. Your agency withholds your portion as a payroll deduction, and they pay an additional portion. When you reach retirement, you receive payments each month for the rest of your life.
This retirement system is similar to those in the private sector since Social Security and a Savings Plan (normally in the form of a 401K or an Individual Retirement Account) are normally offered. The Basic Benefit Plan is a defined benefit plan in which:
Employees contribute 0.8% of basic pay through a payroll deduction;
The employing agency contributes approximately 11.7% of basic pay to the retirement plan;
The basic benefit is computed as 1% of the highest average basic pay earned during any three consecutive years of time of service counted toward retirement.
Perks for Federal Employees
The ‘perks’ outside of the insurance benefits that are offered to Federal employees can really add up. In fact, the average private sector employee has a benefit package that averages $10,000 annually, while Federal employees have benefit packages that average over $40,000 per year. It is these extras, and knowing how to use them, that make Federal employment so attractive. These benefits include:
- Generous sick leave and vacation time;
- Ten paid holidays;
- Flexible work schedules;
- Family-friendly leave policies;
- An Employee Assistance Program (EAP);
- Job security;
- Alternative work schedules;
- Job sharing;
- Federal employee discounts; and
- Education reimbursement.
By learning the benefits you are eligible for as a Federal employee, you can make the most of your total compensation package and have a long, healthy service in the Federal government, as well as a long, healthy retirement from it.