OPM Director highlights the importance of mental health

According to OPM, over 46,000 people took their own lives in 2020.

According to OPM, over 46,000 people took their own lives in 2020. SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY/Getty Images

The news comes as a part of a roundup of recent pay and benefits developments.

Office of Personnel Management Director Khiran Ahuja is drawing attention to Seasonal Affective Disorder, suicide prevention, and  the steps federal workers can take if they need help with their mental health.

“As the days become shorter and colder, it can be common for one’s emotions, thoughts, and behaviors to change, Ahuja stated in a memo released last Friday. “Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD, is a form of depression which is triggered by seasonal changes and most commonly begins in late fall and resolves in early Spring. SAD impacts an estimated 10 million Americans annually, and is often accompanied by symptoms including, but not limited to, feelings of sadness or hopelessness, fatigue, and suicidal thoughts.”

According to OPM, over 46,000 people took their own lives in 2020, and the number of people who contemplated or attempted suicide is much higher. 

“In support of the Biden-Harris administration’s focus on addressing the mental health crisis within our nation, OPM is prioritizing worksite health and wellness programs that improve the quality of life for Federal employees,” Ahuja stated in the memo. “While there is no sole cause, people are more likely to contemplate suicide when unresolved life stressors, relationships, and health issues create overwhelming feelings of hopelessness and despair.” Ahuja encouraged employees to call the 988 Suicide and Crisis Hotline, a 24/7 nationwide hotline accessible by dialing 988.

“In addition, OPM would like to remind agencies to support employees in achieving a healthy work and home life balance. Historically, the month of October has been recognized as National

Work & Family Month , a commemoration that seeks to foster healthy work cultures by promoting workplace flexibilities,” Ahuja stated. “These flexibilities can be integral in facilitating a well-balanced professional and family life for employees. In efforts to prioritize the mental and emotional health of Federal employees, OPM reminds agency leaders and managers to check in routinely with employees to gauge their well-being and share the various resources and flexibilities available to them.”

The memo provides resources for workers to consider if they are feeling mental distress. The Employee Assistance Program at every federal agency can provide counseling and mental health care to workers, and FEHBP plans offer options for mental health care and counseling. Many EAP counseling services work in conjunction with FEHBP plans. 

Lastly, the memo included a list of leave options and workplace flexibilities available to federal workers, from paid and unpaid sick leave to telework and other alternate options.

“Providing federal employees information to be aware of potential signs of suicide, as well as the resources available to support and care for their well-being, is instrumental in safeguarding against this public health crisis and assisting affected employees through negative emotions that may arise as the seasons change,” Ahuja stated.

IRS: 401(k) Limit Increases to $22,500 for 2023

The IRS announced hikes to the 401(k) and IRA limits for 2023. The employer-sponsored 401(k) limit will increase by $2,000 to $22,500. The increase  applies to employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan. The limit to annual contributions on traditional and Roth IRAs increased to $6,500. 

The catch-up contribution limit for employees ages 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the TSPn is increasing to $7,500, up from $6,500. These employees can now contribute up to $30,000 starting in 2023. 

The IRA catch-up contribution for people ages 50 and older remains the same, at $1,000. The catch-up limit for employees aged 50 and older in SIMPLE plans increased to $3,500 from $3,000.

Income ranges for determining eligibility to make deductible contributions to traditional IRAs, to contribute to Roth IRAs, and to claim the Saver's Credit all increased for 2023 as well. Taxpayers can deduct contributions to a traditional IRA if they meet certain conditions. If during the year either the taxpayer or the taxpayer's spouse was covered by a retirement plan at work, the deduction may be reduced, or phased out, until it is eliminated, depending on filing status and income.

The phase-out ranges for 2023 are:

  • For single taxpayers covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is increased to between $73,000 and $83,000, up from between $68,000 and $78,000.
  • For married couples filing jointly, if the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is increased to between $116,000 and $136,000, up from between $109,000 and $129,000.
  • For an IRA contributor who is not covered by a workplace retirement plan and is married to someone who is covered, the phase-out range is increased to between $218,000 and $228,000, up from between $204,000 and $214,000.
  • For a married individual filing a separate return who is covered by a workplace retirement plan, the phase-out range is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains between $0 and $10,000.

For Roth IRAs, the phase-out range for taxpayers is increased to between $138,000 and $153,000 for singles and heads of household, up from between $129,000 and $144,000. For married couples filing jointly, the income phase-out range is increased to between $218,000 and $228,000, up from between $204,000 and $214,000. The phase-out range for a married individual filing a separate return who makes contributions to a Roth IRA is not subject to an annual cost-of-living adjustment and remains between $0 and $10,000.

The Saver’s Credit income limit for low- and moderate-income workers is $73,000 for jointly filing married couples, up from $68,000; $54,750 for heads of household, up from $51,000; and $36,500 for singles and married individuals that file separately, up from $34,000.

SIMPLE retirement plan contributions will increase to $15,500 from $14,000.

This article was published first on GovExec, a FederalSoup partner site ("OPM's Director Highlights the Importance of Mental Health, and More.") 

NEXT STORY: OPM: New way agencies can help feds with Public Service Loan Forgiveness

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