Benefits

GSA requires that you enroll in many of the benefits offered to you within the first 60 days of work. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for Open Season, which typically runs from the Monday of the second full workweek in November through the Monday of the second full workweek in December.

Leadership

Cristina Brydges is the Acting Director of the Talent Team. One of her duties is working with GSA’s HR groups.

Generally speaking, neither Cristina nor TTS can “advise” you on benefits — everything TTS offers is actually owned and run by GSA’s HR and Benefits groups. She can, however, help you escalate questions and problems and point you in the right direction.

Marty Sanchez-Lowery is our point of contact for health insurance (FEHB), life insurance (FEGLI), and retirement (FERS). Marty’s contact information can be found by searching the staff directory or by reaching out to #talent.

Please direct your questions and send all of your benefits forms to Marty. When filling out your benefit forms, you can use digital signatures on enrollment forms, including a copied-and-pasted version of your handwritten signature. The only benefit documents that cannot be submitted with digital signatures are beneficiary forms (for life insurance, retirement accounts, and so forth).

Communication

Find us in Slack:

Credit union

GSA has a credit union. It is free and easy to join if you’re a current employee. Once you join, you’re a member for life (even if you leave GSA).

Discounts

Organizations across the United States offer a number of discounts to federal employees. Specific discounts are covered here, here, and here, but some highlights include:

  • Major cell phone carriers offer a 15% discount on cell plans to all federal employees—just ask!
  • Apple offers a discount (~10%) to feds when they buy personal equipment.
  • General Assembly offers a discount to federal employees.

Flexible spending accounts

Flexible spending accounts (FSA) allow you to pay for eligible out-of-pocket health care and dependent care expenses with pre-tax dollars. They cannot be used to pay any type of premium, and you must use all the money in your account by the end of the year or you risk forfeiture of the unused funds. However, there is a grace period. If you have unused funds in your FSA account and incur expenses from January 1 through March 15, you have until April 30 to submit claims against the prior year.

Common reimbursements include gym memberships (with a doctor’s note), over-the-counter medication (with a doctor’s note), and eyeglasses.

There are three kinds of FSA:

  • Health Care Flexible Spending Accounts are used to pay for qualified medical costs and health care expenses not covered by your Federal Employees Health Benefits

  • Limited Expense Health Care Flexible Spending Account (LEXHCFSA) is only available to employees who enroll in a FEHB program or under a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) with a Health Savings Account (HSA). Expenses are limited to dental and vision care services and products that meet the IRS definition of medical care.

  • Dependent Care Flexible Spending Accounts are used to pay for eligible dependent care expenses such as child care for children under age 13 or children who are physically or mentally incapable of self-care. In some cases, they’re also used to pay for elder care.

Flexible Spending Accounts run on a calendar year and enrollment into the program is closed on October 1 of each year. New and newly eligible employees who wish to enroll in this program must do so within 60 days of their start date and prior to October 1. If you miss this deadline, you must wait until Open Season (mid-November) to enroll for the following calendar year.

Please note that FSA does not automatically renew each year; you must re-enroll annually.

Insurance

Health

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program offers a wide selection of health plans for eligible employees and their eligible family members.

Eligible employees may choose from:

  • Fee-for-Service plans and their Preferred Provider Organizations (PPOs);

  • Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs) for those who live within the geographic area serviced by the plan; and

  • Consumer-Drive and High-Deductible health plans that offer catastrophic risk protection with higher deductibles, health savings and reimbursement accounts, and lower premiums.

The Office of Personnel Management lists the plans available in each state.

New employees, employees who move outside of the area covered by their plan, and employees who have certain life qualifying events have 60 days to enroll, modify, change, or cancel their plans. If you do not fit into one of those categories, you can change, modify, cancel, or enroll during Open Season. Open Season typically runs from the Monday of the second full workweek in November through the Monday of the second full workweek in December. OPM provides a detailed FAQ on eligibility for federal employees.

To enroll or reenroll in FEHB, elect not to enroll in FEHB, change your enrollment, cancel your enrollment, or suspend your enrollment, fill out Standard Form (SF) 2809 and submit it to Marty Sanchez-Lowery. You can also reach out to her if you have any questions.

The earliest date your insurance can be effective is two weeks after your start date, assuming you send your documents in immediately. You get access to Employee Express, where you can check the status of your health insurance, after your first paycheck. You can also call your providers directly to confirm enrollment. Questions? Ask in #benefits.

Dental

To qualify for dental insurance, you must sign up within 60 days of joining TTS, after a qualifying life event, or during Open Season. Some health insurance plans come with dental coverage, so you may not need dental insurance. Read your plan booklet to see what’s covered. You can sign up for dental coverage on Benefeds.

Vision

To qualify for vision insurance, you must sign up within 60 days of joining TTS, after a qualifying life event, or during Open Season. Some health insurance plans come with vision coverage, so you may not need vision insurance. Read your plan booklet to see what’s covered. You can sign up for vision coverage on Benefeds.

If you have an eye appointment but have yet to receive your card(s), you can look up your Vision Care subscriber ID online. To do so, log on to CHRIS (your username is first name middle initial last name with no spaces), select Employee Views from the GSA Personal Self Service menu, and select the Benefits tab. (Note: it may take 4-6 weeks for your CHRIS login to work.)

Filing an insurance complaint

If you’re having difficulty resolving an issue or getting clarification from your insurer, follow these steps:

  1. Email FEHB@opm.gov and make sure to include:
    • Name of the insurer
    • Issue that you need resolved
    • What outcome you would like
    • A huge thanks to the team that wrangles these complaints
  2. They forward the issue to the company and use the complaint to see if there’s a pattern of abuse by the company
    • The company fix the issue at this point
  3. If you do not hear back within a reasonable timeframe, follow up with FEHB@opm.gov

Leave

Please use ALOHA to request sick leave and annual leave. For any leave-related questions, please contact GSA HR’s Leave Specialist, Leila Knight. Leila’s contact information can be found by searching the staff directory or by reaching out to #talent.

For more information on Leave, including sick, religious, funeral, unpaid, parental, advanced, and religious, please reference the Leave page.

Lunch and break periods

You can take a 30-minute or one-hour lunch break. Lunch breaks are unpaid, so you need to make sure you work eight hours per day. For example, if you come in at 8:00 a.m. and take a 30-minute lunch, you’d work til 4:30 p.m. If you took an hour lunch break, you’d work til 5:00 p.m.

You get two 15-minute breaks per day. These breaks do not extend the work day, since they’re paid. If you came in through the Peace Corps, you may have different options. Contact your bargaining unit or union directly for details.

Paychecks

We are paid biweekly. You’ll receive your first paycheck about three weeks after your start date. This is because every TTS employee starts work at the beginning of a pay period. It takes a week after the end of a pay period for a direct deposit to be made. See the GSA Payroll Calendar to determine future pay cycles.

Please direct questions to the payroll help desk: 1-844-303-6515 — or email them.

To see your recent pay stubs:

  1. Sign into Employee Express. If you don’t have access yet, email kc-payroll.finance@gsa.gov to request a copy. They’ll send it to you in a password-locked zip file.
  2. Click the “View Your Earnings and Leave Statement” link in the middle of the page.
  3. Choose the appropriate pay period in the drop-down menu.

For help interpreting the many boxes on your paystub, see How to Read Your Leave and Earnings Statement.

Note that the gross income in your paycheck is a little less than your annual income / 26 paychecks. The difference lies in the way the federal government calculates hourly rates from annual salary. The federal government divides the annual salary by 2087 hours rather than 2080 hours (26 pay periods x 80 hours) to determine hourly rates.

This is because about every 11 years or so there are 27 pay periods rather than 26 pay periods (2015 was such a year for GSA payrolled employees). Here is an article which further explains this.

Retirement

Employees at TTS are eligible to participate in the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP). To start, change, or stop your contributions, you’ll need to fill out Form TSP-1.

If you ever move, you can update your address for TSP by emailing it to both the Consolidated Processing Center and the GSA Payroll Office. Payroll will notify the TSP office of your new address.

To transfer your previous retirement account into your TSP, you’ll need to fill out a Form TSP-60 for every account you want to roll over. If you need help, you can call them by dialing 1-877-968-3778. Be sure to have your TSP account number and your SSN and mailing address handy.

Note: If you have been contributing to a 401k, 403b, or a similar plan at your previous employer, your total contribution for all similar plans can not be higher than the annual limit of $18,000. The limit is not $18,000 per plan, but $18,000 in aggregate.

Training

TTS team members are eligible for many professional development and training opportunities. For more information, see Pia Scott’s class.

Transit subsidies

All GSA employees who take mass/public transit to work are eligible for transit subsidies. To receive a transit subsidy, you’ll need to fill out GSA form 3675 and get your supervisor’s signature. Use TTS (T) or 18F (TE) as your organizational code. Instructions differ slightly for each office location; see our office tour guides for more information.

GSA’s new Point of Contact for the transit subsidy program (CommuterConnections) is CO Transit Subsidy: co-transit-subsidy@gsa.gov.