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Eye Opener: New help for feds serving in the military

By Ed O'Keefe


Eye Opener

Happy Wednesday! The federal government is reminding agencies to pay workers the difference between their military and civilian pay when they get called for National Guard or Reserve duty.

Lawmakers approved a new law requiring the government to pay "reservist differentials" as part of last Spring's omnibus appropriations bill. Military pay to reservists and national guardsmen is often well below civilian government salaries, meaning feds and their families suffer financial hardship during tours of duty.

In an effort to ease the burden and ensure agencies are paying eligible workers, the Office of Personnel Management briefed human resources officials from across the government about the law last Friday. Agencies that have not been paying reservist differentials since the last passed in mid-March should retroactively pay eligible employees, OPM said.

The new law is packed with tricky details: Guidance from OPM runs 29 pages -- lengthy even by their standards. That's partly because OPM has to coordinate pay for reservists and guardsmen from all three branches of government -- extending the agency well beyond its normal reach. The measure also requires OPM to compare military pay and benefits with civilian basic pay -- an apples to oranges comparison because the military and civilian agencies use different different payment methods and timetables.

Confused about the process? Wonder if you qualify? Check out OPM.gov/reservist for more information on how to determine pay for eligible reservists or guardsmen.

Leave your thoughts in the comments section below

Cabinet and Staff News: Postal Service Board of Governors member Alan C. Kessler renominated to a second term by Obama. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton headed to Copenhagen for the climate talks. Ben Bernanke's nomination is all-but assured, but some lawmakers want to use it to curtail the Federal Reserve's powers. Ohio senator places a hold on a key Homeland Security nominee.

CENSUS BUREAU:
Posters urging Hispanics on census raise eyebrows among evangelicals: Thousands of the posters created by NALEO have been distributed to churches in an effort to raise awareness of the census among Hispanics. Most were printed in Spanish.

2010 Census to get a cold start in late January: The constitutionally-mandated decennial count of the population will get its formal start late next month at a yet to be announced community in Alaska.

CENTERS FOR DISEASE CONTROL AND PREVENTION:
Doses of swine flu vaccine for young children recalled in Md., Va.: The issue is not one of safety, the agency said. Instead, the strength of the vaccine had dropped slightly after it was shipped.

CONSUMER PRODUCT SAFETY COMMISSION:
Millions of blinds recalled as strangulation hazard: The agency said five deaths and 16 near-strangulations from Roman shades have been reported since 2006, while three deaths connected to roll-up blinds have been reported since 2001.

DEFENSE DEPARTMENT:
U.S. announces transfer of Guantanamo detainees to Illinois prison: The Justice Department will use part of the facility to house federal inmates, while the Defense Department will use part to house a "limited number" of Guantanamo detainees.

CRS: Up to 56,000 more contractors likely for Afghanistan: The surge of 30,000 U.S. troops into Afghanistan could be accompanied by a surge of that many contractors, vastly expanding the private sector's presence in the war zone.

FEDERAL COMMUNICATIONS COMMISSION:
FCC takes on cable's terrestrial loophole: The agency is moving to prevent cable operators from withholding local broadcasts of sports events from other providers of television services, including satellite and telecom companies.

INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE:
Citigroup earns massive tax break: The Internal Revenue Service on Friday issued an exception to long-standing tax rules for the benefit of Citigroup and a few other companies partially owned by the government.

JUSTICE DEPARTMENT:
Obama panel urges single system for secrets: A presidential task force on government secrecy recommends creating a new governmentwide system for categorizing sensitive information.

U.S. POSTAL SERVICE:
Watchdog urges Postal managers to support cost-cutting initiative: GAO says a three-year-old program to place injured workers in productive jobs has saved the mail agency money, but it has been implemented slowly and without enough support from management.

SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION:
The Hirshhorn Museum's $5 million balloon expansion: On the drawing board is a 145-foot-tall temporary inflatable structure that's intended to sit in the concrete-bound courtyard and balloon through the top of the building.

STATE DEPARTMENT:
Richard Armitage on Colin Powell, Condi Rice and Hillary Clinton: Some of the direct pops that the former deputy secretary of state takes at his former colleagues in the first edition of Prism are interesting.

U.S. TAX COURT:
Court lets DUI driver write off car damage: Drink, drive, crack up the car...and write off the damage on your tax return. For one taxpayer, that scenario became reality after he appealed a decision by the Internal Revenue Service.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | December 16, 2009; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Eye Opener  
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