DoD releases shutdown guidance to employees, warns of furloughs

Tuesday - 9/24/2013, 11:35am EDT

The Defense Department issued a memo Monday providing guidance to prepare its employees for a potential government shutdown.

This memo comes five days after the Office of Management and Budget released a similar memo. OMB said it does not think a government shutdown is necessary, but asked agencies to still be prepared for such a contingency.

"A lapse would mean that a number of government activities would cease due to a lack of appropriated funding. While military personnel would continue in a normal duty status, a large number of our civilian employees would be temporarily furloughed," the memo from DoD said.

The memo included several questions and answers regarding a government shutdown, furloughs and how these will affect feds' work, pay and retirement.

The following questions and answers are taken directly from the memo.

Who are "excepted" employees and "exempt" employees?

  • "Excepted" employees: The term "excepted'' is used to refer to employees who are funded through annual appropriations who are nonetheless excepted from the furlough because they are performing work that, by law, may continue to be performed during a lapse in appropriations. Excepted employees include employees who are performing emergency work involving the safety of human life or the protection of property or performing certain other types of excepted work.

  • "Exempt" employees: Employees are "exempt" from furlough if they are not affected by a lapse in appropriations. This includes employees who are not funded by annually appropriated funds. Employees performing those functions will generally continue to be governed by the normal pay, leave, and other civil service rules.

  • Neither "excepted" nor "exempt": Employees who are funded through annual appropriations but are not designated as excepted are barred from working during a shutdown, except to perform minimal activities as necessary to execute an orderly suspension of agency operations related to non-excepted activities. These employees will be furloughed.

Will employees who are furloughed get paid?

Congress will determine whether furloughed employees receive pay for the furlough period.

May an employee not excepted from the furlough take previously approved paid time off during a shutdown furlough?

No. All paid time off during a shutdown furlough period must be canceled because the requirement to furlough supersedes leave and other paid time off rights. The Antideficiency Act (31 U.S.C. 1341 et seq.) does not allow authorization of any expenditure or obligation before an appropriation is made, unless authorized by law.

Will employees get paid for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough?

No. An employee (including excepted employees) who does not work on a holiday will not receive pay for a holiday that occurs during a shutdown furlough.

Will an employee continue to be covered under the Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB) program during a shutdown furlough if the agency is unable to make its premium payments on time?

Yes, the employee's FEHB coverage will continue even if an agency does not make the premium payments on time. Since the employee will be in a non-pay status, the enrollee share of the FEHB premium will accumulate and be withheld from pay upon return to pay status.

What resources are available if a federal employee needs financial assistance during a government shutdown?

Some agency employee assistance programs (EAP) include financial consultation services. In addition, employees may want to contact their financial institution, credit union or learn about their options through the Thrift Savings Plan.

I recently retired from federal service. Will my retirement application be delayed by a government shutdown?

If your agency or payroll center submitted your retirement application to OPM, you will begin receiving interim annuity payments while OPM retirement specialists process your application. Because OPM Retirement Services is funded by the Trust Fund it manages, OPM Retirement Services employees will still be working normal operating hours during a government furlough.

If your agency or payroll center has not yet submitted your retirement application or the application is incomplete, you will likely experience some delay as OPM must wait on other agencies to submit all of the information needed to process your retirement. Some of these agencies may not be operating during a government furlough.

Click here to read the memo and additional questions and answers.

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