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An employee publication of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
January/February 2016

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TDCJ reaffirms commitment to USERRA job protection for veterans

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice continued its long history of supporting U.S. service veterans by joining a proclamation in support of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994, commonly known as USERRA. USERRA protects the civilian employment of non-full-time U.S. military personnel who are called to active duty, and applies to all uniformed services and their reserve components.

USERRA guarantees that employees who leave their employer for military service can, if they resume employment within five years, return to their same career path as if they had continuously kept their job. For example, if a CO III leaves TDCJ and serves five years in the armed forces, they can return to work and be reinstated as if they never left. In this instance, the officer would be reinstated as a CO V credited with an additional five years of state service.


photo of TDCJ Human Resources Division Director Patty Garcia and Ombudsman for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve George Nami holding the signed proclamation reflecting TDCJ's continued commitment to employment rights for military veterans.

TDCJ Human Resources Division Director Patty Garcia (left) and Ombudsman for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve George Nami hold the signed proclamation reflecting TDCJ's continued commitment to employment rights for military veterans.

PD-76, Employment and Reemployment of Members of the Uniformed Services, describes in detail the rights employees and applicants who are or were members of the uniformed services are entitled to when employed with TDCJ, to include USERRA guarantees as well as the additional rights provided by state law or agency policy. For example, employees earn monthly vacation and sick leave for each calendar month of Military Emergency Leave or Military Leave. The leave is credited to leave balances when the employee returns to active state employment. An employee in a military leave status is also credited with the months of state service for the period of time he or she was in the leave status. Additionally, when an employee who is in a military leave status applies for another position within TDCJ, the leave period is counted as job-related experience for the purpose of conducting minimum qualifications screening, document screening or selecting a final applicant.

In December, TDCJ Human Resources Director Patty Garcia joined the Ombudsman for Employer Support of The Guard and Reserve George Nami to sign a proclamation reaffirming TDCJ's commitment to protecting the employment rights of veterans and providing them the benefits they have earned by their service to our nation. A copy of this proclamation will be posted on your HR bulletin board.

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New cybersecurity training video to be released agency wide

Cybercriminals, hackers and other bad actors try to use the Internet and email to access confidential TDCJ data, so it’s important for agency staff to be well trained in cybersecurity. Beginning in May, every agency employee who uses a computer will be shown a new cybersecurity training video explaining TDCJ’s Information Resource Security Program.

Clipart of laptops strung together in dim light

Every day, the agency works to protect confidential information from phishing attempts targeting agency employees and attempts to install viruses using seemingly innocent downloads. As agency employees, one of our most important responsibilities is to keep the TDCJ data and computer networks secure.

The new video, distributed through TDCJ's Human Resources Division, will show you how to recognize and avoid attempts by cybercriminals trying to access your work data through social engineering techniques such as phishing, baiting and whaling; how to create secure passwords to prevent unauthorized access to confidential information; and how to avoid physical security hazards to TDCJ data, networks and facilities.

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New consumer-directed health plan option starts September 1

image of stack of dollar bills with an 'RX' prescription logo in place of president image

The 84th Legislature directed ERS to create a consumer-directed health plan option, which includes a high-deductible health plan coupled with a health savings account for state employees.

The new consumer-directed health plan will be a health care option available to TDCJ employees and retirees who are not eligible for Medicare. It is important to note that employees can keep their current health plan if they are satisfied. The CDHP is offered in addition to the current health care coverage benefits available to state employees.

There are two components to a CDHP: a high-deductible health plan (HDHP) and a health savings account (HSA).

The key feature of an HDHP is in its name, the high deductible. Participants pay a high annual deductible before the plan pays for most medical and prescription benefits. Preventive services, such as annual checkups, screenings and vaccines, will still be covered at 100 percent. Because of the high deductible, give careful consideration to the potential advantages and disadvantages of participating in the consumer-directed health plan. For example, most people in ERS health plans are accustomed to $50 per person prescription drug deductible each year, and the deductible in the HDHP will be significantly higher.

The federal government requires high-deductible health plans to have a deductible of at least $1,300 per individual or $2,600 per family, but such deductibles are usually considerably higher. This is very different from HealthSelect of Texas and the HMOs, which have deductibles only for prescriptions and out-of-network and out-of-area services. The ERS Board of Trustees voted to adopt the amount of the Plan Year 2017 deductible at the February 23 meeting and will vote on the HDHP premium at the meeting on May 16.

A health savings account allows participants to use pre-tax funds for eligible health care expenses. Unlike the flexible health care spending account many state employees currently participate in through TexFlex, in the consumer-directed health plan the administrator of the HSA does not approve or deny reimbursements, and participants enjoy tax-free interest earnings and, in some cases, can decide how to invest their funds. Unused funds will roll over to the next year. The state will contribute to every enrollee's account, and employees and retirees can also contribute to their own HSAs, up to a certain amount set by the Internal Revenue Service every year. The ERS Board of Trustees also voted to approve the state's contribution to the health savings account at the February 23 meeting.

Whether you might benefit from the tax and long-term savings advantages of the HSA will depend on the costs incurred through higher deductibles. You should think carefully about your family's finances and health needs before enrolling in the consumer-directed health plan option. Those who wish to join the CDHP can select this coverage during the agency's Summer Enrollment period.

ERS will send out additional information regarding the CDHP through the employee newsletter News About Your Benefits, and in the Summer Enrollment packets. You can also visit the ERS website for updates.

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State employees may qualify for student loan forgiveness

image of girl in graduation cap and gown with large image of money bills behind her

Beginning in 2017, state employees who are making payments on large federal direct student loans may benefit from the new Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

Public service workers, including state government employees, who are still paying off federal direct student loans after 10 years of qualifying payments may be eligible for the U.S. Department of Education's Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. The PSLF program forgives the remaining balance on direct student loans for borrowers who, after October 1, 2007, have made 120 monthly payments under a qualifying repayment plan while working full-time for a qualifying employer.

For more information or to find out if you are eligible for this loan forgiveness program, see the Federal Student Aid website.

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Call toll-free to report waste, fraud and abuse of TDCJ resources

Waste, fraud and abuse of state resources cost all taxpayers millions of dollars each year

The Office of the Inspector General is dedicated to detecting, investigating and prosecuting reports of waste, fraud and abuse of state resources within all divisions of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

If you have any information regarding waste, fraud or abuse of state benefits, equipment, personnel or funds, please contact the Office of the Inspector General, Crime Stoppers or the State Auditor’s Office toll free.

Crime Stoppers 1-800-832-8477 Office of Inspector General 1-866-372-8329 State Auditor's Office 1-800-892-8348

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TDCJ reaffirms commitment to USERRA job protection for veterans

New cybersecurity training video to be released agency wide

New consumer-directed health plan option starts September 1

State employees may qualify for student loan forgiveness

Call toll-free to report waste, fraud and abuse of TDCJ resources

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