Thursday federal headlines – May 16, 2013

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Employees of the embattled IRS might want to take a break. They’ll get one, but it’s probably not what they had in mind. The IRS has revealed more details about its plans to furlough employees because of sequestration and other budget pressures. It will stop all operations on Friday, May 24, and four other days this summer. Toll-free hotlines, taxpayer-advocate and help services and some Web-based tools will shut down. The IRS won’t process tax returns on those days. The agency says the shutdown won’t impact tax-filing deadlines. It will give taxpayers extra time to respond to IRS requests. (IRS)
  • Federal agents have busted 89 people in Medicare scams totaling more than $220 million. The departments of Health and Human Services and Justice say 400 agents spread throughout the country helped with the arrests on Tuesday. They worked through multi-agency Medicare strike force teams. In one scam, authorities say the defendants bribed Medicare patients to hand over their ID numbers so they could be used to charge bogus home health services. Officials say Medicare fraud costs the government more than $60 billion a year. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking a page from the Office of Personnel Management. It’s applying the brute force method of reducing its growing backlog of disability claims. Secretary Eric Shinseki has ordered mandatory overtime for claims processors in 56 regional offices. He says the surge will continue until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The extra time and money will be focused on high-priority claims for homeless and poor veterans, and terminally ill ones. Former Prisoners of War and Medal of Honor recipients will also get priority treatment. (VA)
  • The first head has rolled in a spreading IRS scandal. Acting Commissioner Steven Miller has resigned. President Barack Obama says he ordered the ouster on reports the IRS targeted conservative groups for extra red tape in their applications for non-profit status. ProPublica, a media site backed by liberal billionaire George Soros, says it received confidential IRS applications from 11 right-of-center groups. A prominent conservative Catholic commentator and writer told the libertarian Blaze she was audited by the IRS after taking on liberal Catholic groups. An IRS inspector general report showed ineffective management at the IRS. The report says managers allowed agents to improperly single out tea party groups for special review during a period of more than 18 months. (Federal News Radio)
  • The White House has released 99 pages of emails and notes on the U.S response to Benghazi. They reveal a turf battle between the State Department and the CIA. Neither wanted to take the blame for the attack that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens. The messages also show quibbling over the administration’s talking points. Then-CIA Director David Petraeus was unhappy with what was given to UN Ambassador Susan Rice. He wanted to reveal more details to the public. The White House requested only minor edits. The State Department had greater objections. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has a new leader. The Senate has confirmed Marilyn Tavenner as CMS administrator. She’s the first confirmed commissioner in nearly a decade. Tavenner has been acting commissioner and before that, principal deputy commissioner. Before joining CMS, Tavenner was Virginia’s secretary of health and human resources. A nurse, Tavenner spent 25 years at the Hospital Corporation of America, according to her official biography. There, she rose to Group President of Outpatient Services. She led development of a national strategy for freestanding outpatient services. (Federal News Radio)
  • Members of the intelligence community don’t have to worry about furloughs. In an email to staff, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper says intelligence employees,including some DoD civilians, funded by the National Intelligence Program are safe from furloughs. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel gave Clapper the discretion to make that decision, even as Hagel announced 11 days of furloughs for other civilian employees of the Defense Department. Clapper says he needs every professional focused on the mission. But he says they will have to do less with less under sequestration. (Federal News Radio)