Thanks to sequestration-driven furloughs, the tiny federal Merit Systems Protection Board is swamped with a record case-load that could easily double in the next month. The average processing time to handle an employee appeal — now 94 days — will almost certainly take longer. MSPB has only a few hundred employees.
The impact of the delayed furloughs on Defense Department employees is just now being felt, with the worst almost certainly yet to come. Most Defense employees recently got their first full paycheck reflecting two furlough days in one pay period. Earlier employees in the IRS, EPA, HUD and the FAA were hit with one-day-per-pay-period furloughs.
The double-whammy that hit Defense civilians caused the number of appeals to jump. There has also been a record, emergency run by federal workers asking for interest-free loans from the Federal Employees Education and Assistance Fund. In July, FEEA OK’d more than $87,000 in loans to about 150 workers. They had to document the impact of the furlough on their paychecks. When it approves the loans, FEEA makes out the checks directly to the creditors (mortgage, power company, etc.).
During the 1980s, the MSPB had 11,000 appeals from air traffic controllers who were fired for striking. The appeals stretched over a 2 1/2 year period. But that was then…
Since the 2013 furloughs started, the board has had 11,700 appeals, (as of July 31). On July 31, the MSPB, which normally gets between 6,500 and 7,500 cases a year, got 1,900 appeals.
And this may be the slow season…
Although the IRS has decided to eliminate one furlough day, employees are likely to be hit again this month. In just a few days, Defense civilians will get their second 80-cents-on-the-dollar paycheck, and the MSPB expects a new wave of appeals. So far, Navy and Air Force civilians have filed more cases than their Army colleagues.
Grounds for the appeals vary. A lot. They include charges that there has been discrimination in the administration of the furloughs, that some employees and units were spared the forced days off or questioning why one agency (or portions of an agency) had to furlough when others didn’t.
To find out more about furlough loans or donating to FEEA, visit Federal News Radio’s Surviving Furloughs page.
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