Monday federal headlines – June 23, 2014

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.

  • The Veterans Affairs Department is struggling to provide adequate health care to female veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The Associated Press finds nearly one in four VA hospitals does not have a fulltime gynecologist on staff. Since 2008, the department has spent $1.3 billion on ramping up women’s health care. But officials admit they need to do more for the nearly 400,000 female patients the department sees each year. That number is more than double what the VA saw before the recent wars. Many female patients are of child-bearing age. (Associated Press)
  • The new Health and Human Services Secretary is revamping oversight of to prevent mishaps during this fall’s open insurance enrollment season. Sylvia Burwell has appointed a high-level operations manager. Andy Slavitt is a vice president of the health tech firm Optum. One of its subsidiaries built the one part of the health exchange portal that worked well upon launch last October. Slavitt will oversee preparations for open season, as well as operational issues involving Medicare, Medicaid and other major programs. Burwell plans to name a CEO and technology leader soon. (Associated Press)
  • She’s been running the Social Security Administration for nearly 1 1/2 years. Now President Barack Obama nominates Carolyn Colvin as commissioner. No newcomer to the agency, Colvin became acting commissioner when Michael Astrue left in February of last year after completing his six-year term. She was confirmed as deputy commissioner in 2010. Colvin has had several stints in executive jobs at Social Security dating back to the mid 1990s. She’s also been the director of Human Services for the District of Columbia and director of Health and Human Services for Montgomery County, Maryland. Earlier, Colvin was secretary of Maryland’s Department of Human Resources. (Associated Press)
  • An IRS hearing descends into partisan spear-throwing. Commissioner John Koskinen refuses to apologize for the loss of emails from seven IRS computers said to have crashed. House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) told Koskinen no one believes his explanations. The missing emails concern how the IRS treated conservative groups applying for tax exempt status. Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) calls for a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS. Koskinen calls that a monumental waste of taxpayer funds. (Associated Press)
  • IRS Commissioner John Koskinen appears again this evening before Congress to explain how the agency lost emails that Republicans say are critical to an investigation of the IRS’ tax-exempt division. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) says he wants to understand the agency’s email systems, data-retention policies and document-production processes. In advance, he has asked 15 pointed questions about the computer system crash that the IRS says wiped out the emails. Issa asks for trouble tickets, logs and other records that would indicate how the agency tried to recover the emails. The committee has called on a White House lawyer, Jennifer O’Connor, to testify Tuesday. For six months last year, O’Connor served as counselor to the IRS commissioner. Her primary task was to help the agency comply with Congressional investigations into the tax-exempt division’s treatment of conservative groups. U.S. Archivist David Ferriero has also been invited to speak at that hearing. (House)
  • Cybersecurity, biological threats and the scattering of terrorist groups top the Homeland Security Department’s list of challenges. In its second four-year review, just out, DHS officials say the United States is entering a new era in homeland security. Secretary Jeh Johnson says it’s impossible to know exactly what will happen and when. So the department is moving towards a risk management approach and using what the quadrennial review calls a systems analysis approach to understanding future threats. But the ultimate goal hasn’t changed: building a safe, secure and resilient nation. (Homeland Security Department)
  • The military is considering opening up its discount shopping website to all veterans who served honorably. Army and Air Force Exchange Service Director Tom Shull says the change could impact 20 million veterans and bring a much-needed infusion of cash to the Army and Air Force. The Defense Department must weigh the pros against the possible cons for current patrons, local businesses, tax collections and the department itself. For now, only current service members and veterans who have served more than 20 years can shop the website. They can find discounts of 25 percent or more on brands like Michael Kors, Under Armour and Levi’s. In addition, shoppers do not pay state sales tax. (Associated Press)
  • A joint forces test shows it’s possible to intercept an intermediate range missile launched from far out at sea with another projectile launched from U.S. soil. The test was led by the Missile Defense Agency. The Army launched a missile from the Reagan Test Site in the Marshall Islands. A Navy destroyer was able to detect it and relay information about where it was headed. Six minutes later, the interceptor was launched from Vandenburg Air Force Base. The interceptor, also called the kill vehicle, was able to take out the missile without an explosion, just using the force of its motion and weight. The knockout took place in space. Missile Defense Commander Admiral Jim Syring calls the exercise an important step in improving national security. (Defense Department)