Fedweek

The annual general government spending bill now ready for a House vote includes language urging OPM’s attention to a number of long-standing issues, including customer service to federal retirees and the pace of the federal hiring process, along with some new ones.

In a report on the bill the Appropriations Committee said it is “concerned with the level of customer service provided to annuitants seeking help from OPM regarding their retirement benefits,” including “long wait times and other difficulties annuitants have reaching an OPM customer service representative.” It calls for quarterly reporting to Congress on steps OPM is taking to “improve the level of service including the number of calls answered, wait times, and numbers of individuals who could not reach an OPM operator.”

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The committee further said it is “concerned with the length of time it often takes the federal government to hire qualified employees and directs OPM to continue to find ways to reduce barriers to federal employment and reduce delays in the hiring process. Rigid rules and long delays in the hiring and interview process discourage top candidates from applying for or accepting federal positions.”

“Specifically, the Committee encourages OPM to seek input from hiring managers on the type of challenges they face, improvements that could be made to make the Federal hiring process more efficient and effective, and which hiring authorities they find most beneficial,” it says.

The committee also:

• Said it supports the Biden’s administration’s policy that use of marijuana should not automatically be disqualifying for new or continued federal employment even though it remains a controlled substance under federal law even as some states have decriminalized personal use.

• Urged OPM to approve direct hire authority and retention bonuses for the Bureau of Prisons, where many facilities are under-staffed.

• Told OPM to issue a report on the effectiveness of the Pathways Program, which offers several kinds of internship type appointments that often lead to hiring into a permanent federal job.

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