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Government Shutdown: Frequently Asked Questions

WASHINGTON (AFNS) --

(UPDATED: Oct. 17, 2013 at 3 p.m. ET)  Below are frequently asked questions about the government shutdown / reopening. If you don’t find the answer to a question you have about this topic, post your question as a comment below; we will research it and try to find the answer for you.

WEBSITES / POINTS OF CONTACT
- Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service: http://www.cpms.osd.mil/Subpage/FurloughGuidance/
- Office of Personnel Management: http://www.opm.gov
- Department of Defense: http://www.defense.gov/home/features/2013/0913_govtshutdown/
- Defense Finance and Accounting Service: http://www.dfas.mil/pressroom/govtshutdown/crafaq.html
- Air Force: http://www.af.mil/AboutUs/GovernmentShutdown.aspx
- Total Force Service Center: (800) 525-0102
- Air Force Aid Society: http://www.afas.org
- DoD Guidance for Implementation of Pay Our Military Act memo: Click here

NEW/UPDATED QUESTIONS & ANSWERS

Q.  Will I receive back pay?  How do I update the Time and Attendance system?
A.  (UPDATED: Oct. 17, 2013, at 3 p.m. ET)  Yes, furloughed civilians will receive back pay.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Individual civilian employees are not authorized to update their information in the Time & Attendance (T&A) system; however, Timekeepers and Certifiers can update the system.

A memo from HAF/A1 and SAF/FM was sent to all civilian employees that provides guidance to all Air Force civilians whose pay was adversely impacted by the government-wide shutdown.  The legislation signed by the President authorizes retroactive pay for all employees who were furloughed (including those in leave without pay (LWOP) status due to lapse in appropriations.  The process is being streamlined to record time and attendance to ensure civilians are compensated fully in accordance with the law on the scheduled pay date of Oct. 25.  Again, ONLY Timekeepers and Certifiers shall access the T&A systems to minimize the risk of overloading system capability during the brief window of time available.  Timekeepers and Certifiers should follow the schedule below to ensure the T&A systems are not overloaded:

- Oct. 17 from 1 to 5 p.m. Eastern Time:  West Coast bases (all bases west of the Mississippi) and PACAF (Hickam and Alaska bases) (includes ANG/AFRC units)
- Oct. 18 from 1:30 to 5:30 a.m. Eastern Time:  USAFE
- Oct. 18 from 7 to 11 a.m. Eastern Time:  East Coast bases (all bases east of the Mississippi) and PACAF Far East bases (includes ANG/AFRC units)
- Oct. 18 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Eastern Time:  Residual Corrections all bases

Timekeepers and Certifiers are to access the appropriate T&A system and change and certify all hours coded or otherwise paid as furlough or LWOP to RG.  This will include corrections for the previous pay period as well as the current pay period.  All corrections must be made to the appropriate T&A system and certified by close of business Saturday, Oct. 19, to ensure payment on Oct. 25.

This guidance does not apply to civilians who were reported as LWOP for reasons unrelated to the lapse in appropriations (e.g., dual technicians performing military duty, etc.).

Q.  What is the status of the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC)?
A.  (UPDATED: Oct. 17, 2013, at 3 p.m. ET)  CFC campaign activities in the continental United States may now resume.  For more information, visit http://www.opm.gov/combined-federal-campaign/.

 

PAY & FINANCE

Q.  Are any financial institutions helping furloughed employees?

A.  (UPDATED: Oct. 10, 2013, at 5:30 p.m. ET)  Yes, some banks and credit unions are helping their customers.  Here are some examples of what some financial institutions are offering:

- Loan for the amount of an individual's monthly paycheck (up to $1,000) without paying interest or fees
- Reimbursement for credit card late fees
- Special mortgage payment plans
- Waivers for out-of-network ATM or late payment fees
- Payment deferments
- Other case-by-case assistance

Typically, customers must have accounts in good standing and must show furlough papers, government identification and previous two pay stubs.  Not all banks and credit unions are offering assistance; check with your financial institution to see if they offer help for furloughed employees.

Q.  Can I take a TSP loan while I'm furloughed?
A.  (UPDATED: Oct. 10, 2013, at 5:30 p.m. ET)  Yes.  The TSP Executive Director has determined a government shutdown resulting in a break in pay does not prohibit employees from taking TSP loans.  Loan payments will be made through payroll deductions when the shutdown furlough lasts less than 60 days.  If the shutdown extends beyond 60 days, the employee is responsible for making the loan payment directly to TSP.

Q.  Will the military be paid?
A1a.  (UPDATED: Oct. 9, 2013, at 8 a.m. ET)  Military members: Final guidance on making military pay under the Pay Our Military Act was received from the DOD late Tuesday, Oct. 8.  Normal pay and allowances have been processed and you will receive them in you mid-month pay.  The amount reflected in your mid-month statement will be deposited.  Air Force Financial Management leadership has received word from DFAS that the Air Force has been given authority to pay essentially all military pay and allowances except Reserves Inactive Duty Training (IDT) Participation.  Visit http://www.dfas.mil/ for more information.

Q.  Will civilians receive back pay?
A.  (UPDATED: Oct. 9, 2013, at 8 a.m. ET)  DFAS has also processed civilian payroll.  All employees will receive normal pay through September 30.  The amount of pay for Oct. 1-5 will be dependent on whether an employee is exempt, excepted from furlough or furloughed.  Pay will be received on your normal pay dates beginning Oct 11.  DFAS has also provided assurance to Air Force Financial Management leadership that civilian pay, for the period starting Oct. 6 and going forward, will be on time.  This applies only to civilians in a pay status (no longer on furlough or other leave without pay status).  According to Air Force Financial Management leadership, a large number of "excepted" Air Force civilian employees will not have the proper amount of pay in their Civilian Leave and Earning Statement issued today.  Some may realize significant reductions.  The Air Force is working to correct any errors with earnings adjusted in the next CLES distributed on Oct. 25.  Instructions will be provided to civilian employees on how to review time and attendance cards and make necessary corrections.  Instructions should be ready for distribution Oct. 9.  Air Force FM will ensure time and attendance systems are open and certification requirements are active.  Employees will have the current pay period to make retroactive corrections to their time and attendance cards.  Finally, DFAS will process payroll on Oct. 21 and employees should receive their corrected pay for the pay period including Oct. 1-5, in their paycheck distributed on Oct. 25.

Q.  Are civilians coming back to work without pay?  Will civilians be paid retroactively?
A.  DOD employees furloughed on Oct.1, 2013, then recalled to work based on the Pay Our Military Act, effective Oct. 6, 2013, will receive their regular pay and allowances through Sept. 30, as they were affected by the lapse in appropriation and were furloughed from Oct. 1-5.  Employees will receive a partial paycheck for the pay period that includes Oct. 1-5.  They will receive their regular pay and allowances for subsequent pay periods via the authority and appropriation in POMA.  Until and unless Congress passes legislation to restore their pay and allowances for Oct. 1-5, and there is a 2014 appropriation for the Department, these employees will not receive pay or allowances for the days upon which they were furloughed.  Click the link for the Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service's "Pay and Leave During the Fiscal Year 2014 Shutdown Furlough" Reference Guide at http://bit.ly/1e9lIrp.

Q.  What happens to my Thrift Savings Plan account?
A.  The TSP will continue its normal daily operations during the Federal Government shutdown.  A government shutdown fact sheet is available at https://www.tsp.gov/PDF/formspubs/oc11-5.pdf.  The fact sheet covers impacts and emphasizes that your agency should not send a Form TSP-41, Notification to TSP of Nonpay Status, to the TSP during a Federal Government shutdown.  A shutdown is a rare occurrence and is typically of short duration.  The Form TSP-41 is intended for participants who are being placed on extended leave without pay, e.g., due to illness, military furlough, maternity leave, etc.  Visit https://www.tsp.gov/index.shtml for more information.

Q.  I need financial and legal services.  Where do I go? 
A.  Financial and legal services are available to federal employees through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Services' Employee Assistance Program.  Please call (888) 222-0364 or visit http://www.FOH4You.com.

Q.  What status do the employees called back to work under the Pay Our Military Act (POMA) fall within (excepted, exempted, other)?
A.  Employees who were initially furloughed and later recalled are considered appropriated fund employees from the date of recall.  They are neither excepted or exempted.

Q.  Are employees called back to work under POMA authorized to take annual or sick leave for the pay period beginning Oct. 6, (assuming supervisor approval)?  How should those hours be recorded in EMTS/ATAAPS/DCPS?
A.  From Oct. 6 forward, all employees on duty are authorized to take leave (annual or sick) as approved by their supervisor in the ordinary course of business and should record leave using the appropriate leave code in the Time and Attendance system.  Employees still furloughed may not take leave as they are not in duty status.  If leave was taken from Oct. 1 to Oct. 4 by excepted personnel, it should have been coded leave without pay (LWOP). 

Q.  How should employees called back to work under POMA code regular hours worked in EMTS/ATAAPS/DCPS?
A.  Employees should not attempt to make retroactive adjustments to the Time and Attendance system for the pay period ending Oct 5.  For pay period beginning Oct 6, employees should record their time in the appropriate Time and Attendance system using the codes reflecting their status: RG for regular hours worked, LA for annual leave or LS for sick leave.

Q.  How do non-excepted employees record their hours worked during orderly shutdown of operation, Oct. 1?
A.  At this time, non-excepted employees are not authorized to record regular hours for worked performed during the orderly shutdown of operations on Oct. 1 or thereafter if it took more than one day.  However, once an appropriation or continuing resolution is passed and funds are made available, employees can make retroactive changes to update those hours in EMTS/ATAAPS.

Q.  When should employees begin to record time in EMTS/ATAAPS for the Pay Period beginning Oct. 6?
A.  Employees can begin recording their time for the current pay period immediately, but we recommend that all personnel wait until the end of the week to start entering time in order to take stress off of the systems at the start of the pay period. 

Q.  Will employees who were required to perform orderly shutdown duties receive pay for this time and when:?
A.  Employees who performed orderly shutdown duties will be compensated for these hours when a regular appropriation or continuing resolution is passed and funds become available.

Q.  When will employees who were furloughed receive back pay?
A.  The bill awarding furloughed employees back pay has not been signed into law yet.  Even if the law is ultimately passed and signed by the President, employees would have to wait until an appropriation or continuing resolution is passed before they could be compensated for this time.

Q.  Are employees called back to work under POMA authorized to take Comp Time earned for the pay period beginning Oct. 6 (assuming supervisor approval)?  How should those hours be recorded in EMTS/ATAAPS/DCPS?
A.  Yes, they should follow the same procedures for leave and submit a request in ATAAPS (or their respective T&A system) and code as Comp Time Taken.

Q.  Are employees called back to work under POMA authorized to earn Overtime or Comp Time for the pay period beginning Oct. 6 (assuming supervisor approval)?  How should those hours be recorded in ATAAPS/DCPS?
A.  Comp time and overtime remain under sequestration guideline.  There is no blanket authorization for comp or overtime pay at this time.  The requests should be considered under a case-by-case basis under the sequestration guidance.  If OT or comp time is authorized at a later date, the employee would submit a premium hour request in ATAAPS and get hard copy 428 approval from their supervisor prior to entering the proper codes in ATAAPS (OS/OT for overtime and CE for comp time earned).

Q.  Once an appropriation or continuing resolution is passed, how will employees correct their timecards in ATAAPS/DCPS?
A.  Once we have an appropriation or continuing resolution (CR) and a bill authorizing the back pay for civilians under POMA, employees will submit retro changes via EMTS/ATAAPS.  However, to prevent a system overload issue, we recommend the following schedule for retro changes: PACAF/USAFE/ANG/AFRC first day for two days at beginning of pay period following appropriation/CR passage; AFDW/AMC/AFMC/AFSOC third day (for two days); ACC/AETC/AFGSC fifth day for two days; and COCOMS seventh day for two days.

Q.  Why didn't I accrue annual or sick leave for the pay period ending Oct. 5?  Why does my Civilian Leave and Earning Statement show "0" in these two leave categories?
A.  According to Air Force Financial Management leadership, civilian employees who were furloughed Oct. 1-4 (32 hours) may find that they did not accrue annual or sick leave.  Additionally, under the administrative furlough guidelines, most employees completed 48 hours in a non-pay status.  These two furlough requirements equal 80 hours in a non-pay status.  IAW 5 CFR 630.208(a), the accumulation of non-pay status hours during a leave year can affect the accrual of annual leave and sick leave.  When a full-time employee with an 80-hour biweekly tour of duty accumulates a total of 80 hours of non-pay status from the beginning of the leave year (either in one pay period, or over the course of several pay periods), the employee will not earn annual and sick leave in the pay period in which the 80-hour accumulation is reached.  If the above circumstances apply to you, your LES will most likely reflect "0" in these two leave areas.  Legislation is pending for retroactive pay.  If this is passed, you should be granted back pay, resulting in the restoration of the unearned leave hours.

Q.  Will EXEMPT civilians be paid in full and on time?
A.  Department of Defense employees who are exempt from the shutdown furlough (e.g., Non-appropriated Fund employees) will receive their regular pay and allowances since they are not affected by the lapse in appropriations.  Exempt employees may also take annual and sick leave during the furlough period; normal federal holiday rules apply for Columbus Day.


PERSONNEL

Q.  Can people still join the Air Force?
A.  Yes, we are still processing qualified applicants.

Q.  How is the Civil Air Patrol affected by the shutdown?
A.  Members of the Civil Air Patrol, the U.S. Air Force auxiliary, will continue to perform emergency and disaster response missions authorized by Air Force officials during the federal government shutdown.

Q.  Will the active duty Air Guardsmen come back to work too?
A.  Active duty Air Guardsmen were still working throughout the shutdown.

Q.  Where is the best place to get information about civilian personnel?
A.  Visit the Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory service website at http://www.cpms.osd.mil/Subpage/FurloughGuidance/; the most recent list of questions and answers is located here.

SERVICES, SUPPORT & FAMILIES

Q.  How does the shutdown affect Morale, Welfare and Recreation Programs / nonappropriated fund activities?
A.  Operations necessary to support “excepted activities” (i.e., activities/programs that will not affected by furlough/shutdown) will continue.  Examples of these excepted activities include operation of dining facilities, physical training and child care activities required to support readiness.

Q.  Will military Exchanges be open?
A.  Yes.

Q.  Are commissaries open?
A.  Stateside commissaries that closed due to the government shutdown will resume normal operations effective Monday, Oct. 7.  Stores normally closed on Mondays will reopen for business on their next scheduled operating day.  Commissaries are back to their normal operating schedules today, but it may take three to five business days to get the shelves fully stocked depending on store size.  For specific information about your base commissary and its operating hours, visit the store's website, which you can locate by searching for it by name at http://www.commissaries.com.

Q.  Are child development centers (day care centers) open?
A.  Contact your local CDC/installation for details/guidance.

Q.  Will Airman and Family Readiness or Family Support Centers be open?
A.  Staffing will be determined by installation commanders.

Q.  Will the shutdown affect the Military OneSource website?
A.  The Military OneSource website and call center will remain fully operational.  Military OneSource is a Defense-wide program that promotes the quality of life of service members and their families by delivering information, referrals, confidential counseling and other services in-person, online and by telephone.  The service is available worldwide 24 hours a day, seven days a week, at no cost to the user and regardless of the service member’s activation status.  Visit their website at http://www.militaryonesource.mil or call (800) 342-9647.

Q.  What about the Military and Family Life Counselor (MFLC) program?
A.  This program will continue uninterrupted.  The MFLCs will perform routine functions.  If an MFLC is unable to access the installation during a shutdown, they will work offsite until they are able to access the installation.

Q. Will Family Advocacy Program offices be open?
A.  Each service will determine staffing at each installation.

Q.  Where do I find the most recent information about defense contractors?
A.  Visit http://www.dcma.mil/furlough/.

 

EDUCATION, TRAINING & TRAVEL

Q.  Will Education Centers be open?
A.  (UPDATED: Oct. 9, 2013, at 4 p.m. ET)  All education centers are open for business.  However, due to funding constraints there may be some delay in services, limited customer service hours or reduced test sessions.  Airmen are advised that there is still no funding for military tuition assistance, CLEP or DANTES exams.  Students may wish to use other funding sources for these but take a risk since there is no guarantee that retroactive payments will be made.

Q.  Are Department of Defense Education Activity (DODEA) schools open?
A.  Yes.

Q.  What happens with “My Career Advancement Accounts (MyCAA)”?
A.  No financial assistance requests will be approved until further notice.  However, all spouses with an already approved financial assistance request prior to Oct. 1, 2013 will have their approved requests honored so they can attend class.  Spouse Education and Career Opportunities counselors will continue to be available to provide comprehensive education and career counseling services.  Please call the SECO Career Center at (800) 342-9647 or visit the SECO website at http://www.militaryonesource.mil/seco and continue to monitor the MyCAA portal for updates regarding when financial assistance will once again be available for approval.

Q.  How does this shut down affect PCS assignments?
A.  Currently, only those who have PCS orders in hand, prior to Oct. 1, will be allowed to proceed with their PCS, since the move has been funded by the FY-13 budget.  For all others, they should continue with the PCS process, but must wait for funding to be authenticated before they are able to complete their move.  PCS orders coded “A” for accession and “S” for separation are authorized to continue.

Q.  I have questions about the G.I. Bill.  Who do I contact?
A.  Visit http://www.gibill.va.gov/ or call (888) 442-4551.

Q.  What is the way forward with civilian personnel permanent change of station (PCS) moves?
A.  Due to a FY-14 budget reduction in the centrally managed civilian permanent change of station (PCS) account of approximately $20 million, many PCS orders are placed on hold beginning Oct. 1, 2013.  This action is otherwise known as a “PCS pause.”  The PCS pause primarily affects discretionary moves for centrally managed civilians.  On average, the central civilian PCS account funds approximately 1,750 moves each fiscal year at a cost of about $50 million.  Therefore, we are having to change the way we do business.  All “must move” civilian PCSs will continue.  These include overseas returnees, Civilian Development Education placements, SES moves, priority placements, and Air Force Central Salary Account funded Career Broadeners, Palace Acquire and Copper Cap placements.  All other centrally managed position funded moves are considered discretionary.  Starting Oct. 1, discretionary moves (everything not included in the "must move" category) will not be funded until further money becomes available.  In an effort to sustain as many moves as possible during FY-14, we ask that you scrutinize the need for movement of personnel.  Permanent placement of Central Salary Account trainees/employees at the training location and extending overseas returnees are just a few things that could make a big difference.  For planning purposes, we are working to implement policy to begin January 2014 which will re-institute a mandated waiting period before being eligible to enroll in DoD National Relocation Program, reduce allowable days for Temporary Quarters Subsistence Expense (TQSE) and House Hunting Trip (HHT).  As this is a policy change and may affect bargaining unit employees, we will be working with bases in the next month for Impact & Implementation notification/bargaining.  To reiterate, this pause will affect all "discretionary" civilian centrally managed PCS for any order NOT processed by the end of FY-13.  Therefore it is imperative that orders requests already in the queue are worked in the remaining days of this fiscal year.

 

OTHER QUESTIONS

Q.  What is the difference between an administrative furlough and shutdown furlough?
A.  There are two types of furloughs.  An administrative furlough is a planned event by an agency which is designed to absorb reductions necessitated by downsizing, reduced funding, lack of work, or any budget situation other than a lapse in appropriations.  Furloughs that would potentially result from sequestration would generally be considered administrative furloughs.  A shutdown furlough (also called an emergency furlough) occurs when there is a lapse in appropriations, and can occur at the beginning of a fiscal year, if no funds have been appropriated for that year, or upon expiration of a continuing resolution, if a new continuing resolution or appropriations law is not passed.  In a shutdown furlough, an affected agency would have to shut down any activities funded by annual appropriations that are not excepted by law.  Typically, an agency will have very little to no lead time to plan and implement a shutdown furlough.  More info about furloughs is available at http://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/furlough-guidance/.

Q.  Why is the Air Force recalling most nearly 104,000 civilian Airmen placed on emergency furlough?
A.  In accordance with a memo Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel released Oct. 5, the Air Force will recall most of the nearly 104,000 Air Force civilian Airmen placed on emergency furlough due to the government shutdown.  However, a significant number will not yet be able to return.  In his memo, Hagel stated that immediately after President Barack Obama signed the Pay Our Military Act into law, he directed DoD’s Acting General Counsel to determine whether he could reduce the number of civilian personnel furloughed due to the shutdown.  After consulting with attorneys from the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense, the secretary said the Pay Our Military Act does not permit a blanket recall of all civilians.  However, he said, DoD and DoJ attorneys concluded that the law does allow the DoD to eliminate furloughs for employees whose responsibilities contribute to the morale, well-being, capabilities and readiness of service members.  Read the entire memo at http://www.af.mil/Portals/1/documents/news/POMAimplementationguidance.pdf or view the entire news release here.

Q.  What about Public Affairs offices?
A.  Since we don't have an FY-14 appropriation, existing guidance remains in effect; both military and civilian PAs should only support and perform excepted activities, and current restrictions on community engagement still apply.  PAs will provide trusted counsel to leaders, communicate to Airmen through all news and information channels, and enhance morale, readiness and operations through a steady flow of information and imagery -- making PA an "all hands" operation over the coming days and, possibly, weeks.

Q.  Will Air Force public websites be updated?
A.  Yes, but only with shutdown-related information.  Once the furlough/shutdown is over, public websites will resume posting of other Air Force information.

Q.  Why are there no television broadcasts for Airmen overseas?
A.  American Forces Network returned to service Oct. 6, but it will take a couple days to get the full channel lineup on the air.  AFN will broadcast each additional channel as it becomes available.  Keep up to date at http://www.facebook.com/myAFN.

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