Reg Jones Expert's View

Reg Jones

The Office of Personnel Management recently released results of the latest Federal Employees Benefits Survey which, in their words, “is designed to measure the importance, adequacy and perceived value of the benefits available to federal employees.”

The survey was sent last year to around 50,000 randomly selected permanent federal employees who were on the payroll in 87 federal agencies. While it would be nice to report that there was an overwhelming response to the survey, only around 21 percent of the questionnaires were completed.

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That’s disappointing and maybe reflects what experts call “survey fatigue.” That’s been cited as one reason for the ever-declining response rates to the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey (which has been delayed twice this year, with mid-September the latest projected start).

Still, this survey is an important opportunity. The FEVS, while annual, touches only briefly and indirectly on benefits issues. Almost all of the followup from that is focused on issues of employee engagement, attitudes toward their workplace and managers, and other government operational issues.

In contrast, the benefits survey, while conducted only every few years, is the government’s main way to gauge what attracts people to federal jobs and what keeps them in those jobs—key issues for the government as it struggles with recruitment and retention in many occupations.

For employees, the survey serves as a way to show political leaders the potential cost to the government of all those proposals to erode those benefits.

On the other hand, even that limited number did represent a pretty close approximation of the federal workforce as a whole. Of those responding, 54 percent were male and 47 percent female. Seventy-six percent were white, 14 percent black or African American, 6 percent Asian and 3 percent American Indian or Alaska Native. Those numbers aren’t far off the government-wide figures.

According to OPM, results from the 2019 FEBS underscore the importance of and satisfaction with the benefit programs available to federal employees – with a high level of satisfaction among enrollees – 80% or more of enrolled participants rated their current program as meeting their needs to a great or moderate extent.

The 2019 FEBS results also demonstrated that benefits play a large role in recruiting and retaining federal employees. Most participants reported that the availability of health benefits through FEHB, a retirement annuity, and the TSP positively influenced their decision to join and remain in the federal government.

Here’s the of the major program whose results are discussed in OPM’s comprehensive report:

• Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program

• Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)

• Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI)

• Federal Employees Dental and Vision Program (FEDVIP)

• Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP)

• Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS)

• Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

Other topics whose opinions were included in the report were FEHB enrollee engagement in health care, tobacco use, mental/behavioral health, assisted reproductive procedures, surprise billing, benefit education and resources, retirement preparedness and the Voluntary Contributions Program.

An effort was also made to highlight key differences in the responses made by Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials.

Having laid that groundwork, next week we’ll look more closely into employee views of those benefits.

FERS & CSRS: What Happens to Your Annuity if You Come Back?

Timing Federal Retirement to Boost Your Annuity

Boosting Your Federal Annuity – Additional Service Time

FERS Retirement Bundle: 2020 FERS Guide & TSP Handbook