The House passed a last-minute bill Friday morning that will replenish the Veterans Choice Program with $2.1 billion in additional funds for the next six months. The additional Choice funds are crucial, as they buy lawmakers and the Veterans Affairs Department more time to redesign the program. But the legislation is also packed with new hiring flexibilities.
The Office of Personnel Management is receiving more applications for the phased retirement program this year than it had during the first full year of its existence, but the numbers are still relatively low, given the large number of federal employees who are or will be eligible by the end of fiscal 2017.
It’s been a busy couple of months for the Veterans Affairs Department. But VA Secretary David Shulkin said he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s pushing the VA workforce to embrace risk and begin making bold, fundamental changes to the way it does business. He said he sees the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act as one bold change that will improve the department’s employee morale and recruitment efforts.
The House will pass the VA Accountability First and Whistleblower Protection Act, clearing the way for the President to sign the bill later this week. Some lawmakers and veterans service organizations see the bill’s passage as a major win after years of debate over new accountability legislation. But federal employee groups say the bill would do more harm than good.
Both the Veterans Affairs and Justice departments believe they can easily resolve some concerns with the constitutionality of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. DoJ is concerned, however, that VA will run into the same issues that ultimately rendered a controversial provision on firing senior executives unconstitutional.
The Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, which senators introduced last week, may have more momentum than previous bills. It now has 12 co-sponsors, including four Democrats and VA Secretary David Shulkin himself. Yet some federal employee groups and experts question whether the new bill has the teeth to truly tackle long entrenched cultural problems at the department.
Members of the Senate have reached a long awaited agreement on new accountability procedures for senior executives and employees within the Veterans Affairs Department. A bipartisan group of senators introduced the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act Thursday morning. It would change current disciplinary appeals rights for both SES and rank-and-file employees.
Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), the ranking member of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Subcommittee on Regulatory Affairs and Federal Management, said she and subcommittee and Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla) will make civil service reform a major focus this year. She and Lankford are looking for ideas that attack the root causes of some of the most challenging problems facing the federal workforce.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld an appeal from Sharon Helman, the former director of the beleaguered Veterans Affairs medical center in Phoenix, Arizona, who was fired in 2014. The court said a key provision that lets VA more quickly fire and discipline senior executives is unconstitutional. The Merit Systems Protection Board will review the original decision an administrative judge made regarding Helman’s removal.
Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney sent a memo to agency leaders outlining a series of long and short term actions agencies need to take around reducing the number of employees, improving how they measure employee performance and restructure their mission areas.
Dr. David Paschane, an organizational architect with Aplin Partners, offers advice for how Senior Executive Service members can prepare for new political appointees.
Karlease Kelly, the chief learning officer at the Agriculture Department and the chairwoman of the federal Chief Learning Officer’s Council, said applying shared services to agency LMSs could bring some standardization in the services and the cost to the government.
The senior executive service faces an unprecedented time where criticism is rampant, the environment is fast-paced and the retirement bubble teeters on popping.
President Donald Trump offered a first look at his upcoming management agenda in the 2018 budget blueprint. The agenda will focus on eliminating agency reporting requirements on IT, acquisition, human capital and real property and letting “managers manage.” It also suggests the budget and reorganization executive order initiatives will drive future agency workforce cuts.