Weekly Updates

Professional Liability, COVID Testing, & Other Updates

August 20, 2021
Important Professional Liability Insurance Update

We encourage all PMA members to purchase a professional liability insurance (PLI) policy. PLI is a critical piece of any federal manager’s playbook: an insurance policy that will provide you with legal representation in the event of a civil, administrative, or criminal action that arises from actions taken in your scope of employment. Don’t forget that the IRS will reimburse managers for 50% of the cost!

For those of you who hold policies with FEDS Protection and pay your premium through payroll deduction, look out for an email containing important details around your future payments. Be sure to update your allotment with the company’s new direct deposit information.

Not sure whether PLI is right for you? On August 26th, from 12PM-12:45PM Eastern, join our partner FEDS Protection for a presentation on how PLI can protect you. This free event is open to all, register to attend.

Be Prepared When Retiring

Last month, more than 20% of all applications for retirement contained at least one error. While these errors are eventually resolved, the delays they cause before you receive your first pension payment can cause unnecessary stress and hardship.

Why are there so many mistakes? Well, the retirement application process is paper-based and requires input by the applicant, their agency, the agency's payroll service provider, and OPM. For applicants, the forms are simple enough and IRS workers can rely on support from the Employee Resource Center to navigate the process. However, many of the most common errors aren't the retiree's fault. In fact, the most common error is that either a HR official or a payroll official neglected to sign your paperwork before it was sent for processing.

Even if all goes smoothly, you can still anticipate a delay (up to 120 days) before you see that first pension payment arrive in your bank account. To that end, we recommend being ready in case something goes wrong. That means ensuring you have six months of emergency savings to cover your expenses (some Feds rely on a distribution from their TSP to cover this), keep copies of all your retirement forms, be sure to have copies on hand of your beneficiary designation forms, documentation of your start/end dates, and records showing that you had health and life insurance coverage at least during the last five years of your career.

Plan Your and Your Team's Use or Lose

As the summer approaches its unofficial end, it's time to think about your plans for the rest of the year. For NBU workers, use or lose annual leave must be scheduled and approved no later than November 20th, though your business unit may need this information earlier. For those of you with BU staff (or who are BU yourselves), you need to be sure that leave is scheduled and approved no later than October 1st. This year, some of you may have as many as 60 additional use or lose leave hours due to a temporary increase in the carryover limit last year. You must use those hours in 2021 too.

COVID Testing Mandate

OPM continues to refine guidance around vaccinating and testing the Civil Service. Workers who are unvaccinated or who choose to not share their vaccination status must be tested for COVID-19 at least weekly if they enter the workplace. This applies even to someone who is stopping in briefly to pick up a batch of cases or to drop off mail. OPM released FAQs to help agencies determine which types of tests are acceptable and who will need to submit to testing. However, PMA and other management associations across the government find this guidance lacking in clarity. Our friends at the Federal Managers Association (FMA) captured a number of the issues succinctly in FEDforum this week.

In a briefing earlier today, PMA spoke with leaders from OPM and OMB to share our concerns on how this will impact the IRS and our members. We left the meeting unsatisfied with the state of their current plans. We will be reaching out to OPM Director Ahuja directly next week, in partnership with several other organizations to express our concern that federal managers are not being proactively consulted on these directives. Our members deserve clear, concise, and easily enforced guidance. One example of an issue we have is that the administration has not provided clarification on who is and is not "fully vaccinated" now that boosters are recommended for certain people and, later this year, for all people.

We ask for your patience with IRS leadership. Because the IRS is a sub-component of the Treasury Department, our agency is sometimes left having to wait for information to flow up and down before it can make plans for the workforce. The IRS COVID Response Team wants answers too so they can keep everyone as safe as possible. If you have any questions or concerns, we recommend reviewing the Safer Federal Workforce page, and you can always reach out to us here at PMA and we will do our best to support you.

Professional Development

This week, we wanted to highlight two interesting podcasts for our members. The first recommendation features former IRS Chief Human Capital Officer Dr. Ron Sanders and he discusses the challenges the IRS faces in the next fiscal year. The proposed IRS budget for FY22 would allow for significant hiring and Dr. Sanders talks about how we must redefine the skills and expertise new hires need to bring to the agency. You can read an article he wrote with former Commissioner Charles Rossotti on the topic.

The second recommendation features Kristen Vaughan, of Accenture, and she discusses how managers can help their employees thrive during uncertainty. You will need to be prepared as the agency refines return-to-work policies, as you find yourself leading a hybrid team, or managing new expectations from employees now that we've experienced historic workplace flexibilities. You can read a brief of Ms. Vaughan's report on helping Feds thrive, or the full report if you'd like to know more.

PMA News and Updates

We meet monthly with IRS HQ to talk through issues our members are facing and the IRS briefs us on anything they have planned or upcoming. This month, the focus is on COVID-19 and, as we mentioned earlier, the IRS is waiting for additional direction from Treasury before moving forward. Treasury is also reviewing the recently negotiated NTEU National Agreement so there will be more details to come, once the agreement is final. During our call, PMA National President James Collins requested that HCO prepare a passthrough document for the new National Agreement once it is ratified. You may recall that the 2019 National Agreement did not have a passthrough document and this leads to confusion, particularly among senior managers and executives who may incorrectly belief that a term of the contract does not apply to NBU workers. We hope that HCO can deliver that document for us this time around and we are deeply grateful for the time they set aside to hear our concerns.

As a reminder, IRM 6 contains servicewide policies for every person, regardless of whether they are a manager or other NBU. Be sure to refer to IRM 6 when you have a question about things like details, leave, and more.

We are also pleased to announce that the IRS and PMA have signed a consultative agreement as required by 5 CFR § 251.201(a). We would like to thank our IRS-PMA Liaison Dana Davis for her hard work researching and reviewing the agreement, our former IRS-PMA Liaison Brinda Dent for starting this conversation with us last year, Deputy CHCO Keith Walker for his support and kindness, and IRS Chief of Staff Kevin McIver for his support throughout this process. Our agreement formalizes our relationship with the IRS and demonstrates the IRS's commitment to improving managerial effectiveness. We will continue to find ways to work closely with the IRS to elevate and resolve concerns and we are excited to continue to advocate for our members and our agency on Capitol Hill.

DC's quiet this week as Congress is in recess. The Senate is set to return on September 13th and the House on September 20th. There is a lot of work to be done - the Congress will need to pass the IRS FY22 budget, take action on the debt ceiling to prevent the nation from defaulting on its bonds, and take up the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. PMA has been engaging the media while Congress is away - we are working to draw attention to the burden that the infrastructure bill places on the IRS while, at the same time, providing zero dollars in funding to help implement these changes. There's still time to join PMA's advocacy and encourage your representatives to support a Federal pay raise.

Weekly updates