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Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez
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Goal 4: Secure Retirement, Health, and Other Employee Benefits and, For Those Not Working, Provide Income Security

Date: Thursday, August 8, 2 p.m. EDT

Participating agencies:

  • Employee Benefits Security Administration
  • Employment and Training Administration
  • Office of Workers Compensation Programs

How to Participate

  • Enter your question directly into the live chat window found on the interactive page.

1:41 Moderator: The chat will being at 2:00. You can start submitting your questions now. There are no audio or visual components to today’s webchat.

2:00 Moderator: On behalf of the Department, the Performance Management Center and the Office of Public Affairs welcome you to the FY 2014-2018 Strategic Plan Stakeholder Webchat for Strategic Goal 4 – Secure retirement, health, and other employee benefits and, for those not working, provide income security.

The Strategic Objectives associated with this Goal are to provide income support when work is impossible or unavailable and facilitate return to work, and to improve health benefits and retirement security for all workers.

The Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA), Employment and Training Administration (ETA), and Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP) are prioritizing their activities and strategies; emphasizing those efforts most likely to help us achieve our Strategic Goal and Objectives – which are central to the Department’s mission to ensure access to opportunity for all.

This is your opportunity to influence our strategies and the implementation of our priorities and we thank you for your participation. Today, we want to:

• Collect your feedback on DOL’s proposed strategies to secure retirement, health, and other benefits and, for those not working, provide income security; and listen to your ideas on implementing our priorities.
• Consider your views and concerns as we prepare the Strategic Plan.

We are joined by Assistant Secretary Phyllis Borzi from EBSA; Acting Assistant Secretary Eric Seleznow from ETA; and Comptroller and Director of the Division of Financial Administration Sam Shellenberger from OWCP.

As a reminder, there are no audio or visual components to today’s webchat.

2:02 Comment From Stephanie Powers: I am interested in how income support would be provided to people when "work is impossible or unavailable" as stated in Strategic Objective 4.1 under Goal 4. What does this refer to? This would certainly have immense implications for people with disabilities who want to work but find it difficult to secure jobs in the competitive market, as well as people who are among the long-term unemployed and are now so discouraged, they have just stopped looking for work. Is the government preparing to help discouraged workers with some new forms of income supports?

2:02 Eric Seleznow: While the Department does not anticipate any new income programs, the Emergency Unemployment Compensation program remains in effect currently until January 1, 2014. It is unclear if Congress will move to extend the program again. The Unemployment Insurance program remains a key entry point to the workforce system. The Administration is making the long term unemployed a priority moving forward, which includes discouraged workers. To that end, the Department is actively working to leverage existing initiatives and assets in the workforce system and looking ahead to potential new initiatives. We expect to be reaching out to our stakeholders as we go through this process.

2:07 Comment From Guest: Why conduct random investigations as opposed to targeted?

2:07 Phyllis Borzi: Through these investigations we intend to gain valuable information about compliance with ERISA. Hopefully this information will better inform our programs and enable us to more effectively focus our enforcement, education and compliance assistance programs.

2:07 Comment From Guest: How soon will the Federal Black Lung Program be ready to fully accept digital x-ray imaging technology for claims processing purposes?

2:07 Sam Shellenberger: The program will be able to fully accept digital x-ray imaging technology for claims processing purposes once the final rule incorporating acceptance of the technology into the program’s regulations has been published. It is expected that the rule will be published by the end of FY 2013.

2:09 Comment From Adam: SBR money offered under UIPL24-13 represents a great opportunity help ensure proper payments and improve return to work for claimants. However, to access any of the money, states have to implement SIDES as a means of employers electronically providing claims information. Some states have already develop custom systems that provide the same functionality to employers which will allow them to timely and accurately provide information relavent to a claim. These systems serve the same purpose as SIDES, have already been paid for, and are already understood by employers. Moving to SIDES would not improve benefit delivery, would cost money to integrate into the existing claim system, and would require employers to learn a new system. Why is the UIPL so focused on one solution to the employer communication problem rather than the results? Requiring a specific solution rather than simply requiring a states implement a solution that meets specific reqiurements will prevent many states from qualifying for the SBR which will in turn make it harder to accompish the other goals that I think DOL and all states are committed to. Can you please revisit the UIPL to provide additional flexibility with regard to SIDES?

2:09 Eric Seleznow: Thanks for your comment. It is a priority for the Department to work with states to improve employer take-up using SIDES in order to prevent improper payments. The 35% target is intended to encourage states to actively promote the use of SIDES with the states employers. One of the goals of SIDES is to provide a standardized mechanism for employers to electronically communicate with state UI agencies rather than each state having their own system. If you would like to discuss this issue further, please contact Jim Garner, Deputy Administrator, Office of Unemployment Insurance, at 202-693-3029 or garner.jim@dol.gov.

2:15 Comment From Guest: How can I find out more about the new healthcare law and how it will affect me?

2:16 Phyllis Borzi: EBSA is offering a Webcast, The Affordable Care Act: How Will It Affect You? on August 29, 2013 from 1:00 to 2:00 EDT. EBSA will be joined by representatives of HHS to talk about your options in the new marketplace and any new provisions under the law so that you can make informed decisions about your coverage. To register, go to EBSA’s website at www.dol.gov/ebsa and click on the webcast at the bottom of the home page. If you are unable to participate in the webcast, the archived version will be made available on the website later. You should also go to our website and click on the link to the Affordable Care Act in the right navigation bar on our home page. On that dedicated page you will find a number of frequently asked questions (FAQs) about the new law. You may also subscribe to that page and receive regular updates when the new FAQs or other informative materials are added.
If you have a fact-specific question and you cannot find the answer on our website, you may submit your question electronically through www.askebsa.dol.gov, or call our toll free number at 1-866-444-ebsa. We have specifically trained benefits advisors available throughout the country who can respond to your questions electronically or by telephone.

2:22 Comment From Sara Sloyer: We have been so excited to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the FMLA. What are the agency’s plans for FMLA enforcement?

2:23 Libby Hendrix: WHD has reengineered Family and Medical Leave Act enforcement from a complaint by complaint approach to a more strategic approach including pursuit of corporate-wide compliance. WHD will conduct more thorough in-depth reviews of the employer’s business practices and leave policies – with the objective of making a broader impact on compliance, rather than only resolving in one individual complaint. Additionally, WHD will increase the number of onsite FMLA investigations.

2:23 Comment From Guest: How is ETA promoting improved reemployment services for unemployed workers?

2:23 Eric Seleznow: ETA has been promoting innovative reemployment service delivery strategies, improved integration of the UI program with the workforce system broadly, and a greater focus connecting UI claimants to reemployment services. For example, for reemployment services, ETA is promoting a coordinated customer-centric focus that builds on four transformational elements that facilitate system integration and connectivity: a “common front door” for the public workforce system supported by an integrated registration system; skills transferability; real-time triage; and the use of social media to expand system communication options and capacity. New technology tools and strategies in each of these areas are being piloted by 5 states and will be rolled out to additional states.

2:23 Comment From Guest: What is the EBSA Inquirer Complaint “portal”?

2:24 Phyllis Borzi: Our Web inquiry portal (www.askebsa.dol.gov) allows workers to contact EBSA electronically. They may Ask a Question, or Seek Assistance on a specific issue. They may upload documents such as letters, or copies of records directly to our inquiry system through the “portal”. You can access our Consumer Assistance page by clicking on the “contact EBSA” on our main page at www.dol.gov/ebsa. The Consumer Assistance page provides answers to common questions and gives a list of our publications. You may also ask a question or submit a compliant using our web inquiry form – i.e. our complaint “portal”. We have specially trained benefits advisors available throughout the country who will respond to your questions.

2:27 Comment From DeDe: Do you anticipate any new programs or grant opportunities being released due to the new strategic goals?

2:27 Charlotte Hayes: The strategic planning process defines the Department’s priority goals and objectives regardless of resources available. We will be working with OMB this summer and fall on the resources that will be included for Department of Labor programs in the FY 2015 budget. However, we recognize that the potential for new programs will depend upon the final resources Congress makes available for any given fiscal year, which is difficult to predict. As we learn more information on funding levels for future fiscal years, there will be opportunities for agencies to expand existing programs within the goal framework set by the Strategic Plan. In fact, the uncertainty of resources makes the Strategic Plan that much more important, as this framework guides us in our decisions to allocate resources in these challenging times.

2:27 Comment From Guest: What is OWCP doing to work with federal agencies to return injured federal employees to work?

2:27 Sam Shellenberger: In 2011, OWCP’s Division of Federal Employees’ Compensation (DFEC) began tracking the return to work success of the 14 agencies with largest number of serious workplace injuries and illness under the Protecting Our Workers and Ensuring Reemployment (POWER) Initiative. In support of the POWER Initiative, DFEC formed the POWER Return to Work Council to share best practices, review the results of analytical studies, and form a bridge between workers’ compensation and disability hiring personnel. DFEC regularly publishes agency results against POWER targets via the Web and issues individualized reports and other information to agencies upon their request.

DFEC will revitalize its Vocational Rehabilitation program by enhancing the marketing tools available to place injured employees; working closely with Federal employers on reemployment best practices, which may include piloting new hiring and placement strategies; and establishing a candidate bank of FECA claimants for potential employers in both the public and private sectors.

To more easily track and manage an agency’s injury cases, DFEC’s Agency Reviewer Imaging is available to Federal agencies via DFEC’s on-line portal (ECOMP) enabling Federal employers to view claims of their employees from their desktop.

2:29 Eric Seleznow: The goal is to have a single, non-duplicative system for employers to communicate to state UI agencies that is standardized nationally.

2:29 Comment From Adam: Why couldn't you set the 35% goal but allow it to be met by SIDES or other comparable electronic communication system?

2:35 Comment From Guest: Please provide examples of strategies ETA will implement to reduce the UI improper payment rate.

2:35 Eric Seleznow: The Department has been actively engaged with states to implement an aggressive strategic plan to reduce the UI improper payment rates. Examples of some of the strategies ETA will continue to pursue are provided below:
• The Department supports the UI Integrity Center for Excellence to provide states with data analytics tools to rapidly alert them of fraud schemes and increase state staff capacity by developing and providing centralized training on fraud solutions and integrity strategies.
• To prevent improper payments in one of the highest root causes of UI improper payments (when claimants continue to claim when they return to work), the Department is actively promoting increased state cross-matching of UI claimants with the National and State Directories of New Hires to identify individuals who have returned to work and immediately notify them to contact the state. As of June 2013, a total of 47 State Workforce Agencies (SWAs) have implemented new standard cross-matching procedures and immediate claimant notification processes.
• Developed new integrity performance measures and established a requirement that all states address UI integrity as part of their State Quality Service Plans (SQSP).
• In partnership with states, developed a technology tool to improve timeliness and accuracy of information provided by employers to state UI agencies to support quality determinations of eligibility for UI benefits and prevent improper payments.

2:37 Comment From Guest: Do you have any tools for workers to prepare for retirement – especially those close to retirement?

2:38 Phyllis Borzi: On our web site at www.dol.gov/ebsa we have a dedicated page for employees to assist them in preparing for retirement. We provide information for New Job Entrants, Mid-Career Workers, workers close to retirement and individuals already in retirement. Go to Consumer Information on the left side of our main web page and then to Retirement Savings.

2:46 Comment From Steve Sanders: Presently the monthly black lung benefit for an individual is $625.30 and for a husband and wife the monthly benefit is $938.60. Is the Department considering increasing the benefit?

2:46 Sam Shellenberger: Black lung benefits were established by the Black Lung Benefits Act of 1977 and tied to the general schedule (GS) salary levels. Increases occur when cost of living adjustments have been authorized in the annual appropriations process.

2:48 Comment From C. John: Are there any considerations of combining UI and Affordable Care Act Health insurance from an employer standpoint?

2:49 Eric Seleznow: Thank you for your question. We appreciate your interest in streamlining government processes for employers. However, we are not aware of any current efforts to combine these programs.

2:50 Comment From Guest: How will document imaging affect claims handling under the Longshore Act and its extensions? Will Imaging increase the burden on employers/carriers?

2:50 Sam Shellenberger: The OWCP Imaging System (OIS) will allow the claims examiners to increase the efficiency of claims processing by allowing desktop access to the entire claim file. This will enable Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation to more efficiently monitor and ensure the accuracy and timeliness of benefit payments. OIS will also improve the transfer of files between offices. OWCP will also benefit from the reduction in required claims file storage space.

2:52 Comment From Guest: What outreach does the Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation (DEEOIC) have planned for the coming year?

2:52 Sam Shellenberger: The DEEOIC established a Joint Outreach Taskforce Group (JOTG) made up of senior leadership and employees of DOE, NIOSH and DOL. This group gathers monthly, quarterly and annually to discuss ways in which the three agencies can work together to conduct joint outreach meetings and develop joint outreach materials. In FY 2013, the group intends to finalize an instructional video about the EEOICPA, which will include presentations from all three agency leaders. This video will be provided to the Resource Centers and available on the three Departmental web sites. Currently, the DEEOIC is planning to conduct outreach in conjunction with our partner agencies in Iowa, September 5 & 13, 2013, California, September 17, 2013, and in New England in October.

2:52 Moderator: Thank you for your participation. If you want to provide further feedback, please submit your ideas and comments to DOLstratplan@dol.gov.

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