Fort McCoy News July 25, 2014

DHR offers insight with benefits, retirement training

STORY & PHOTO BY SCOTT T. STURKOL
Public Affairs Staff

The Directorate of Human Resources (DHR) held its first benefits and retirement planning training session for Department of the Army (DA) civilian employees July 9 in an effort to help educate new employees on benefits that are available to them.

"The training was the result of a need identified by Fort McCoy senior leaders during their 2011 to 2015 strategic planning sessions," said Workforce Development Specialist Kathy Peterson of DHR, who organized the training. "There needed to be information provided to employees earlier and throughout their careers on benefits and retirement planning."

Photo for retirement article
Mary Shutter, human resources retirement specialist with the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center, talks to Department of Army civilian employees about government civilian retirements as part of training in building 2113.

The training included an overview of the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), retirement eligibility, health and life insurance benefits, Social Security, Thrift Savings Plan and long-term care insurance.

"The intent is to provide employees who are looking at a career in government service with information on benefits and services that may have been overlooked, or missed, during initial inprocessing and integration," Peterson said.

Human Resources Retirement Specialist Mary Shutter of the Civilian Personnel Advisory Center discussed FERS and the benefits available to government civilian employees.

"You have to know about your benefits," Shutter said. "By knowing more about what is available, you'll be able to make better decisions on what's best for you."

For DA civilian employees, Shutter said it's very important to know where there are resources available for information, and advised them to become "very familiar" with the Army Benefits Center (ABC) website at www.abc.army.mil; the Employee Benefits Information System (EBIS) website, www.ebis.army.mil; and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) website at www.opm.gov.

EBIS, for example, is a secure website providing current civilian employees access to general and personal benefits information, the ability to receive retirement estimates and enroll or make changes electronically for health and life insurance and the Thrift Savings Plan. It also provides a flexible enrollment process guiding employees through benefit plan elections.

"There is so much you can accomplish online now," Shutter said. "Knowing how to navigate these systems is important."
Shutter said having current beneficiary forms (Standard Form 1152) also is important when referring to death benefits. "Make sure you keep those updated for your personnel file," she said.

DA civilian personnel files are now in an electronic Official Personnel Folder (eOPF) with OPM, Shutter said.

"As employees, it's up to you to make sure your eOPF is correct," Shutter said. "Check it regularly and make copies when new items are added."

Ricardo Acevedo from the Social Security Administration office in La Crosse, Wis., provided an overview of Social Security benefits, when and how people qualify for them, and what employees should remember about it.

"Social Security is based on the highest 35 years of wages you've received," Acevedo said. "It's always based on the higher wages, so when you go to get benefits you will get the highest possible.

He encouraged people to go to the website, www.socialsecurity.gov, and see the tools available there for checking Social Security benefits and other related services.

A briefing about the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and how best to contribute to it was provided by Kevin Herman, financial counselor at the Army Community Service (ACS) Center.

"One way to get ahead and pay yourself first is to use TSP to the fullest extent possible," Herman said.

"Only you can determine how you want to invest and save for your future. I'd ask you to look at your own risk tolerance level and do what works best for you."

Herman said he's available to help employees better understand TSP in more detail if they set up an appointment with him at ACS in building 2111 by calling 608-388-3505.

He also directed people to the TSP resources available online at www.tsp.gov or by calling the TSP ThriftLine at 1-877-968-3778.
Bill Walters, representative for the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP), finished the training by giving attendees more information about FLTCIP, which also can be viewed at www.ltcfeds.com, or by calling 1-800-582-3337.

FLTCIP is for care outside of regular health insurance, such as in nursing homes, assisted-living facilities, adult day care centers and home care.

"People are living longer, and because of that, the federal government partnered with insurance companies to offer this coverage to employees," Walters said.

"Giving out this information lets employees know that it is available, and is something to consider."

For Brooks Lundeen, an attendee from the Directorate of Plans, Training, Mobilization and Security, the training was "very informative."

"I think this is something all employees would benefit from — especially those who are new to the federal system," Lundeen said.
This first training session was a success, Peterson said.

"Based on attendees' comments, we will offer this again, possibly in early 2015," Peterson said.

For more information about the training, call Peterson at 608-388-5872.