Pandemic leave update

The Postal Service wants employees who took leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to know how it will affect their retirement deductions.

The law, also known as the FFCRA, requires some employers to provide employees with emergency paid sick leave and expanded family and medical leave for child care.

The leave benefit went into effect April 1 and continues through Dec. 31.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management recently clarified that FFCRA leave is not eligible for Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) and retirement deductions.

Consequently, any TSP and retirement deductions withheld while employees were on FFCRA leave will be refunded to the employees in the fall, retroactive to April 1.

Retirement refunds — which will show on the employee’s Oct. 2 paycheck — will not affect the creditable service time toward an employee’s retirement eligibility.

Employees who want to keep the TSP and retirement contributions must contact their supervisor to change the FFCRA leave to annual or sick leave. Employees receiving TSP refunds may also, as always, increase their future TSP contributions through PostalEASE.

The change must be in line with leave policies, covered by earned leave balances, and be entered in AdjustPay before Sept. 11 to prevent refunds of TSP and retirement deductions.

The COVID-19 Blue and LiteBlue pages have more information about the FFCRA.

Do your part

Worker sits in front of computer screen

Postal Service employees must complete their annual cybersecurity training this month.

Threats to digital information are growing in frequency and sophistication worldwide. Protecting USPS employee, customer and supplier data from these threats is a priority for the organization.

Here’s an overview of the courses:

• CyberSafe Fundamentals (parts 1 and 2). This course provides the fundamental skills and knowledge needed to adhere to cybersecurity practices and policy for the protection of USPS electronic information.

• CyberSafe 201: Data Protection. This course provides best practices for handling sensitive and sensitive-enhanced information to keep USPS electronic data secure.

Employees can access these courses now through HERO. The deadline for completing both courses is Sept. 30.

Employees who don’t meet the deadline are subject to limited ACE system access until all the courses are completed.

Refer to the CyberSafe at USPS Blue training page or send an email to CyberSafeComms@usps.gov for more information.

Sweet sorrow

In a moving finale, the Postal Service concludes its “Thank You for the Thank-You’s” video series with more expressions of gratitude from customers.

USPS launched the series April 8. Each weekly 30-second video shows photos of notes, posters and other messages that employees received during the coronavirus pandemic.

The 20th and final video, released Aug. 13, includes the usual mix of handwritten notes and drawings. The video doesn’t feature sidewalk chalk drawings — a signature of the series since its debut — but it does show baked goods.

Under a plate of plastic-wrapped cookies, brownies and cake slices, a note reads: “We can’t thank you enough for continuing to serve our community faithfully before the pandemic as well as during it. Your hard work and dedication [are] appreciated.”

The video’s final shot is a mailbox that has been opened to reveal the word “superstar” shown inside.

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov.  Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.

Knowing the facts

Diagnosis medical form

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month, a time to learn more about one of the most common cancers found in American men.

Prostate cancer develops slowly when cells in the prostate gland become abnormal.

The cancer is normally confined to the prostate gland, where it may be controlled with minimal treatment. However, in some cases, prostate cancer can be aggressive and spread quickly.

All men are at risk for prostate cancer.

Factors that may increase the risk of the disease include older age, obesity and race. African American men have a greater risk than men of other races.

Healthy lifestyle choices — such as regular exercise, maintaining a healthy weight and eating nutritious meals — may lower the risk of prostate cancer.

Symptoms vary for individuals. Some men don’t experience any signs or symptoms, especially during early stages.

With advanced stages, these symptoms are possible:

  • Pain or burning during urination
  • Weak or interrupted flow of urine
  • Frequent urination, especially at night
  • Blood in urine or semen
  • Pain in the pelvis, back or hips

There is no definitive test that completely screens for prostate cancer, although blood tests and digital rectal exams are the most commonly used screening tools.

Different types of treatments are available, including surgery and radiation therapy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Cancer.gov websites have more information about prostate cancer, while the USPS Wellness LiteBlue page has general information about physical and mental health.

Share your feedback at uspslink@usps.gov.  Your comments could be included in the “Mailbag” column.