Federal employers now have the regulations to improve benefits support for citizen soldiers.

The Office of Personnel Management has issued a final rule, FEHB Coverage and Premiums for Active Duty Members of the Military, that creates the regulations the OPM needs to pay Federal Employee Health Benefits Program health insurance premiums for 24 months for civilian employees who leave to serve on active duty in the armed forces.

The final rule implements the Veterans’ Benefits Improvement Act of 2004 and the National Defense Authorization Act for 2005, which extend the FEHB premium payment period to 24 months, from 18 months.

The federal government will pay the activated employees’ share of premiums and the government’s share both for the employees and their families, officials say.

The final rule, which will take effect April 16, is based on a proposed rule published in June 2006.

One employee union commented that the final regulation should authorize the government to pay the full cost of FEHB coverage for the entire length of a federal employee’s deployment in the unformed services.

“While we would like to offer as much support as possible to those in the uniformed services, the laws upon which our regulation is based only authorize us to offer employees up to 24 months of subsidized coverage, at the agency’s discretion, while serving in support of a contingency operation in the uniformed services,” OPM officials write in a preamble to the final rule, which appears today in the Federal Register.

A copy of the OPM final rule is on the Web at Document Link