Notes - October 15, 2003
I. Welcome (George Morris) -
George reminded everyone to sign the sign-in sheet and then he discussed the evacuation procedures in the event of an emergency. Upon internal notification via the e-mail and loud speakers that there is an emergency situation requiring a "shelter-in-place," everyone would go to the 4th floor of this building. In all other emergencies, everyone should vacate the building via the back ramp, go around the building and meet in front of the American History building on the mall for roll call.
II. Receipt Accounts Processing Change (Stephen Loeffelholz) -
A. Phase I - A task force chaired by Cliff Lee developed a set of Garnishment Requirements that were submitted to NFC in 1997. The intent for the new Garnishment process was to improve operations for the client agencies, as well as, deal with the NFC resource constraints. Beginning in PP-20, NFC is automating the 1st Phase of the third party receipt account processing which will automate many of the manual processes currently used by NFC in this area. In PP-20, the checks will be issued at the same time as net pay. In the past these checks were held for approximately 5 to 7 days while the file was manually updated to send them. (Prior to PP-20, NFC did not have the methodology to insert the address for the receipt account record into the system.) Another addition is the percentage of deduction per pay period option. NFC has added a screen to EPIC whereby this type of information can be entered and maintained in this system. In addition, agencies can view the data on the IRIS 114 screen. This screen will display the balance, receipt account address, receipt account number, the receipt account type, etc.. A limited amount of information (i.e., the receipt account type and amount) has been available on PINQ 051. The new information stored basically tells NFC where to send the receipt account check, this enables NFC to send the information on the file to Treasury at the same time that payroll is sent. As of the end of PP-19 the new IRIS 114 data fields were empty. NFC will be uploading some of the information, but will need to manually load it for over 300 employees. For now, as NFC continues to receive paperwork from the agencies, NFC staff will key the data into EPIC and the agencies will be able to view it on-line.
Steve stressed that agencies need to be aware of how this new process will affect them. Because of the time frame involved in the manual process - approximately 5-7 days, agencies could actually stop the disbursement of the third party payment after PAYE, but before the file went to TR. This will no longer be possible. The third party receipt file will go to TR with the payroll file. This means the employee will need to go through the creditor party to obtain a refund for any over deduction. In most cases, the over deduction is because the creditor agency has submitted paperwork to the agency indicating that they no longer require the money. Therefore, the new process should not be too difficult for employees since the creditor should be aware of the fact that they should not have received the money in the first place. Steve stressed that there was no reason for NFC to get in the middle of this process. On a positive note, the new procedure should help minimize daily interest accruals since the money will be submitted to the creditors 5-7 days earlier in the process than it had been in the past. This method of operation is similar to the child support payment method currently in use. NFC has begun work on a bulletin regarding this issue, but he did not have a release date yet. This particular bulletin will only address the timely payment process and not the other issues such as agency access.
Steve indicated that the method of operation being
put into place for garnishments is similar to the child support payment
method currently in use. In summary from the employee's point of view,
the creditor agencies will receive the funds faster, which may reduce
the interest rates s/he is charged, but the down side is that s/he cannot
get a refund directly from NFC after pay day.
B. Phase II - The garnishment requirements also included the ability to have agencies access and update this third party receipt account information. NFC plans to open this up to the agencies sometime after the first of the year (i.e., 2nd Quarter of FY 2004). Steve was hopeful that all clients would be up and using the system by the end of March. No changes will be made to PRES so agencies who wish to have this functionality must be an EPIC user. Agencies will need to sign-up for this capability and more information will be released on this at a later date.
III. System Information (Joe Weaver)
A. System Display & Search Facility (SDSF) - Joe provided a brief overview for those who did not attend the last CAPPS meeting. The current interface system used at NFC is JESMASTER which is made by a very small company in Canada. JesMASTER is the minority in the mainframe community. NFC is switching to IBM's SDSF which is the predominate system in the community. As of October 1st, SDSF has been available through all of the log-on protocols at NFC. A bulletin was issued covering this change. Joe advised users that effective November 15 the CULPRPT, FOCUS, and RFQS systems will have their defaults shifted from JesMASTER to SDSF. However, users will continue to have access to both interfaces through November 30th. Joe reminded users that JesMASTER expires on November 30th and thus will not be available on December 1st. He strongly encouraged agencies to test the software now. The most common problem will be not knowing how to perform the functionality in the new system.
B. Mainframe Operating System - In the Spring 2004, NFC plans to replace the current mainframe operating system zOS version 1 release 2 to zOS version 1, release 4.
IV. W-2's for 2004 (Debby Tatum) -
Debby informed the group that NFC is gearing up to do the PP-20 user acceptance testing for the 2004 W-2's. NFC plans to mail blue W-2s for those SSN's that were provided by the agencies. NFC will set-up a call line to respond to any questions or issues that arise in the review. Agencies will have two weeks to review the blue W-2's and provide contact NFC with any concerns or issues.
A. TR - What is the last date that for submission of SSN's. A: Debby - The final, drop-dead date was last Friday, October 10th. This already included a one-week extension. FQ: But one of our clients still has not provided any information. FA: Debby and George both indicated that there will be no further extensions. NFC must begin the testing process now. We are already into PP-20.
B. TR - When is the two week comment window? A: Debby did not have a calendar in front of her but indicated that the blue W-2's were scheduled for mail-out on November 7th. It should be two weeks from that date. Jody checked the calendar and it was determined that this included Veterans Day. Debby indicated that they did discuss this and decided to start the two week window the day following the Veteran's day holiday. Therefore, the two week window will be November 12 through COB on November 26th. (i.e., comments are due BEFORE Thanksgiving break!).
C. TR - Treasury has several items that are still pending from the 1% retro and other clean-up activities that were delayed due to the 1% retro. The Treasury staff is concerned that all of these adjustments will not be completed prior to the issuance of the W-2's for FY 2004. USDA echoed Dora Lee's concerns regarding the 1% retro adjustments. A: Debby indicated that NFC also has concerns in this area and is trying to minimize the issuance of Corrected W-2's.
V. Benefits Updates (Jody Nyers) -
A. Flexible Spending Account - Jody received a copy of the brochure from SHPS via OPM this morning. Copies were made available to attendees and Jody indicated that she would share with the teleconference participants after the meeting. After the last CAPPS meeting, only two departments (TR and USDA) expressed a desire to see the bulletin prior to its distribution. Jody informed them that she needed their answer by COB on Tuesday, October 21st - no extensions - in order for the information to be placed in PP-21's E&L statement. Jody reminded clients that, if she did not hear from them, then the assumption is that they ARE interested in receiving the brochure AND it will be included. She also reminded them that employees work directly with SHPS to sign up for Flexible Spending Accounts and provided the website URL of www.fsafeds.com.
B. TSP Open Season - Jody reminded participants that the TSP Open Season runs from October 15 to December 31. The maximum contribution for 2004 is $13,000. FERS employees at the upper end of the earning bracket should structure their withholdings to be distributed throughout the course of the year in order to receive the full benefit of the agency matching contributions. This open season allows FERS employees to contribute up to 14% and CSRS employees to contribute up to 9%.
C. Catch-up Contributions - Jody notified the programmers of a problem that was reported with the catch-up contributions. In the example provided, the employee had elected $1,000, which should have terminated after two pay periods since the maximum allowable contribution for 2003 is $2,000. Unfortunately, the system withheld the $1,000 for three pay periods for a total of $3,000. This was the only case reported to Jody. She was hopeful that employees would have already contacted their HR office if they had a similar problem. Jody also reminded agencies that NFC could not program an edit that would prevent users who were not contributing the maximum amount because some employees are required to lower their pay period maximum in order to stay within the annual cap. NFC advised clients of the need for self-certification in the TSP bulletin that was issued.
Jody reminded clients that the deductions for this year's TSP Catch-up will run through PP-24 - provided the maximum of $2,000 is not reached in an earlier pay period. NFC will not be carrying this deduction into the new calendar year. Therefore, employees must enter a new form for the new calendar year. She also reminded the clients that the CY2004 ceiling was $3,000 per year.
D. CSRS Offset and OASDI - Jody reminded representatives of the few cases they may have where an employee makes the maximum contribution to OASDI and the FERS withholding amount will increase to meet the maximum contribution amount. She informed reps that if they have an employee that must be corrected, this can be done via the "master file change document" (EPIC or PRES). The user places the appropriate value in the box and the document will apply and deductions will be taken appropriately. SBA just had a situation where they needed to do this. They updated the file via this Master File Change document and the problem was resolved. NFC does have a bulletin that discusses this process and a draft version was distributed at today's meeting.
E. Health Insurance Portability Act (HIPPA) - Changes for HIPPA were implemented in PP-20. The change is being done to accommodate the entry format for the names of family members. The new format is last name (no comma) first name. If there is a suffix (i.e., Jr. Sr., etc.) the comma is inserted after the last name. This change is being done purely for formatting information. Jody requested that clients share this information with their processors who will be entering this information and distributed a bulletin that addresses these changes.
F. Re-employed Annuitants - Jody distributed a handout that was developed by PPSPS. She encouraged clients to share the document within their agencies and use it as a reference when processing re-employed annuitant actions. The document provides guidance on how the employee should be properly coded to ensure that benefits are accurate and appropriate. NFC will be modifying PINE Edit 387 to accommodate this criteria. In addition, a special employee pay code (06) was established to help ensure accurate coding.
VI. Employee Express Update (George Morris) -
The Employee Express (EEX) meeting scheduled for Tuesday, October 14th was canceled due to the Fall 2003 testing at Macon next week. However, George was able to provide updated information on the following issues:
A. He indicated that Treasury would be testing for the entire NFC community since they were the only NFC serviced client scheduled to attend the EEX testing session the week of October 20th.
B. He indicated that EEX was establishing certain system changes relative to Court Ordered Child Equity Act. The proposed procedure allowed employees under court order to input FEHB changes, and that the servicing POI then had to go into the Macon system and determine if the inputted change should be released or canceled. NFC serviced agencies do not participate in this functionality. NFC currently transmits a fixed code "C" designating the employee as under a court order. This prohibits the employee from using EEX to modify his/her FEHB coverage and requires them to go to their servicing personnel office (which has a copy of the orders) to ensure that any changes made are in compliance with those orders.
C. George also indicated that part of the Fall 2003 testing involved the EEX Earnings & Leave statement module design. NFC clients were not participating in this since NFC prepares their E&L's and provides the Employee Personnel Page (EPP). He also indicated that a variety of other issues relating to non-NFC clients (e.g., VA, HHS, etc.) were also being tested. He pointed out that one other thing that applies to the NFC client base was the development of a cross-link for USDA employees to the retirement calculator system that Eleanor Ratcliff worked to establish before she left USDA..
VII. OPM Classification Standards (George Morris) -
George reminded clients that they were approaching the end of the implementation windows for several of the OPM classification standards that have changed in recent years. He has contacted classification representatives directly in those agencies with several affected employee to discuss their plans. As these proposed termination dates are quickly approaching, he will coordinate as much as possible with these individuals. He will send a separate message to CAPPS apprizing the clients of the status of these closure dates for titles/series. These notifications will specify each individual series and when NFC will place a termination date on the tables for that series. George indicated that he will provide a "heads-up" on these terminations and allow a BRIEF period of time for the agency to respond. However, some of these series' have been discontinued for two to three years. There will be no significant extensions. George indicated that the largest area of concern is the IT area, and this one will be kept open a little while longer. He strongly encouraged clients to contact their Classification staffs now regarding these title/series closures to avoid possible serious problems with pay later.
VIII. User & Work Group Updates
A. Awards (JO Bonner) - The next meeting is scheduled for November 12. Due to the CAPPS meeting in the morning the meeting has been shifted to the afternoon and will be held from 1:00 to 3:00. There were no pay plan additions to the 849 - Senior Career Employee Rank Awards so the package is being submitted with only the SL/ST pay plans.
B. EPIC (Jody Nyers) - The next meeting is scheduled for October 23rd at 10:00 a.m.
C. FESI - FDIC requested the dates for the FY 2004 FESI testing windows.
POST MEETING UPDATE: The 2004 FESI windows are #1 = February 9 to March 12; #2 = June 14 to July 16; and #3 = October 18 to November 19.
D. Leave Share (JO Bonner) - no update
E. RIF (Deborah Berry) - Deborah did not attend therefore there was no report
F. T&A (JO Bonner) - The next meeting is scheduled for November 13th from 9:30 to 11:30.
IX. Next Meeting -
The next CAPPS meeting will be held on the 2nd Wednesday of November, (i.e., November 12, 2003) at 10:00am. This change is due to the NFC Customer Briefing being held on November 18-19, 2003. An agenda for the briefing will be forthcoming.
A. TR - Since OPM has provided the draft for the FSA insert and selected clients need to send it to their bureaus, how much time do they have to respond? A: Jody indicated that responses are due no later than Tuesday, October 21st. This date is firm because the brochures must be printed, bundled, and shipped to New Orleans for PP-21's E&L statement. We are already into PP-20.
B. TR - Did Laurie Bodenheimer from OPM provide any additional information on the Pennsylvania (PA) state tax issue regarding the FSA's? A: Jody indicated that she had not heard from Laurie on this issue. However, the issue still stands that unless the employee can prove that their child care facility is a Federally funded facility, the employee cannot claim tax exempt status for the state of PA for FSA deductions. It is the employee's responsibility to know whether or not they qualify and appropriately claim it on their state taxes. NFC will not be programming based on SSN for this. Jody also indicated that she had faxed the listings of affected employees to the CAPPS representatives after the last CAPPS meeting. FQ: Did Treasury have anyone on this listing, because they did not get the fax? FA: Yes, Jody verified the fax number and agreed to re-fax it after the meeting.
POST MEETING UPDATE: This was faxed on 10/07/03, 10/15/03 and 10/16/03 - receipt was confirmed by Dora Lee on 10/16/03.
C. TR - Has Laurie provided any additional information on the FSA situation with Puerto Rico? A: Jody indicated that Laurie had not provided any additional information on this subject either.
D. TR - Is there any way that agencies can have a remark placed on the E&L statement of employees who are indebted to indicate that the 3rd party payments will be going out to the creditor with their regular checks? A: Steve had already left the meeting so George indicated that PPSPS would have to check with him on this issue. He also pointed out that the agency may be stirring up more questions/problems since the majority of employees do not realize that there is a time delay. JO pointed out that if NFC is willing to put the remarks on the E&L it will require special programming which will result in significant extra cost. FC: TR indicated that they were not interested in paying for this type of programming.
POST MEETING UPDATE: PPSPS confirmed that if an agency wanted NFC to place a message on the E&L statement of this select group of individuals, it would require special programming. The special programming would require a reimbursable to cover the cost of this special programming.
E. TR - Has encountered a problem where the PINE system is inserting a percentage figure on the Presidential Rank Awards (NOA 878) and is not going by the authority on the input document? A: JO indicated that this procedure is correct for the Presidential Rank awards. These awards were changed to a specific percentage a few years based upon a public law and the system was updated to reflect those changes. One authority indicates that the award should be 20% of annual salary and the other 35%. FQ: Okay, TR will have to cancel the ones they have because they were trying to put in the documentation for a prior year - the award was paid manually last year - and the system is basing the percentage on the current salary on not the salary that was in effect at the time of the award. They will simply process it as another type of award for documentation purposes. FC: JO indicated that the system should not be entering a dollar value that was inappropriate for the time the award was given. This may be something that was not addressed when the system changes were programmed. She requested that TR provide her with the specific examples with SSN's so that the issue could be researched and possibly submitted to New Orleans for correction.
F. SBA - When a relocation bonus is processed through the system you can see it on the PINQ 032 screen. It appears that the employee's regular pay and the relocation bonus are done at time same time and this affects the taxes. Does this apply during the same check? A: JO recalled that this payment is included in the employee's base pay and does affect the tax withholdings. Several agencies including USDA had brought this up a few years ago. She inquired if USDA recalled any resolution on this issue. The USDA representative indicated that the processor can choose between two tax options when processing the relocation bonus.
G. Can NFC modify ABCO so that it operates similar to NFC's other log systems (i.e., MANLOG or SPPS) which permit the agency to obtain information on when an employee's refund has been granted. If paperwork is submitted to grant an employee a refund, there is no follow-up within ABCO to see that the payment was issued. A: Agencies can find this information on the PINQ 032 screen after PAYE runs under the label of NFC-29 or on the salary PINQ 032 screen under "other deductions." Jody suggested this issue be brought up at the Customer Briefing next month. Gaynel did not know if ABCO was scheduled for update anytime in the near future. She indicated that items for the Customer Briefing should be submitted to: NFC.CustomerSupport@usda.gov
H. PPSPS distributed a document that provided guidance on the information NFC needs in order to properly troubleshoot problems the agency encounters. The troubleshooting process is much smoother when all of the pertinent information is included in the initial problem report. When clients send information to the PPO mailbox, they should keep in mind that this is not going directly to a staff member of the Information Center or PPSPS. Agencies may want to send urgent issues to a specific party. In addition, agencies need to educate their staff on when to forward an issue to NFC. More and more of the NFC inquiries are regarding day-to-day processing issues for which the representative could easily find an answer if they opened a manual or checked a web page. This means that your urgent issues are waiting in the queue as NFC staff works its way down the stack of incoming messages. Agency staff should be handling their own processing issues and not calling NFC on them. PPSPS explained that this does not make good business sense for the clients or NFC. TR provided a good recommendation that agency representatives sanitize any e-mails from PPSPS or CSB that provide detailed names and numbers intended for the CAPPS representatives. If these e-mails are not sanitized, then everyone in the agency will contact NFC for resolution in lieu of the agency reps. George indicated that if an agency is trying to clarify an address or GLC (TMGT 016) that is not in table, he must have the county designator or a complete street address in order to perform the proper research for the table updates.
I. FYI - Jerry Lohfink has been selected to replace John Ortego as the Director of the National Finance Center.
NFC North - JO Bonner, George Morris, and Jody Nyers.