Thursday federal headlines – June 5, 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.

  • Federal employees keep losing their furlough appeals because of a narrow legal standard developed by the Merit Systems Protection Board. The board has upheld agency decisions in all of its more than 30,000 furlough-related cases. It considers whether a manager singled out an employee for a furlough. But it does not consider how an agency spends its money. At least one employees tried to argue that her agency could have forgone furloughs if leaders had managed spending differently. (Federal News Radio)
  • The new acting head of the Veterans Affairs Department will tour the hospital at the heart of the VA’s healthcare scandal. Sloan Gibson is scheduled to visit and speak with officials at the Phoenix facility. He says the VA has reached out to the 1,700 area veterans who, the inspector general says, were kept off a waiting list for treatment. Meanwhile, nearly twice as many veterans may have been denied care at a VA center in New Mexico. VA officials say up to 3,000 patients were assigned to a doctor who never saw them. They say it was part of a strategy to balance demand with a shortage of doctors. The VA monitored patients’ health and gave them emergency care. The officials briefed Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-N.M.). (Associated Press)
  • Reform of the Veterans Affairs Department may have to wait another week. Senators say they’d hoped to vote on a compromise bill today, but negotiations are still going on. That makes a vote today less likely than it seemed earlier this week. Tomorrow’s out , at least a dozen Senators fly to France to participate in D-Day anniversary ceremonies. Two VA bills have been introduced, one by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and one by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.). Both provide a mechanism for veterans facing long waiting times at VA hospitals to seek treatment elsewhere. Acting VA Secretary Sloan Gibson is scheduled to meet today with staff at the Carl T. Hayden VA Medical Center in Phoenix. That’s where the wait-list scandal started. (Associated Press)
  • Some federal health officials think it’s time to relax the rules on releasing patient drug abuse and treatment information. The Wall Street Journal reports, leaders at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration worry the rules may prevent patients from getting modern care. They say today’s integrated approaches require information sharing among providers using electronic health records. But the 40-year-old rules mean even patients themselves have a hard time releasing their information. Samhsa officials think they can make the required changes administratively, without Congress having to rewrite old laws. (Wall Street Journal)
  • The intelligence community is moving beyond sharing data among its dozen or so agencies. Now officials are looking for ways to share the interpretations of data they, or their algorithms , come up with. And, they’re looking to set standards for how that higher level information sharing can take place. Dirk Rankin is the chief technology officer of the National Counterterrorism Center and co-chairman of the Data Aggregation Working Group. The data group started up after the Christmas Day bomber episode, and accelerated after the Boston Marathon bombing. Rankin says members are assembling a software took kit and architecture for this level of machine-to-machine sharing. (Federal News Radio)
  • If your agency needs office supplies, you won’t be able to buy them strategically. That’s because the General Services Administration has suspended governmentwide use of the Office Supplies 2 strategic sourcing contract. It expired last week. GSA wanted to extend the contract until it can award the follow-on deal, OS3. But a gaggle of protests stopped that plan. Protesting companies say GSA hasn’t evaluated the effects of the extension on small business. Coast-to-Coast Computer Products says agencies can meet their requirements using other vehicles. The Government Accountability Office has to decide on the protests. It will make a decision by Sep. 28. (Federal News Radio)
  • Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel prepares for a Capitol Hill hearing on the rescue of Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl next week. The House Armed Services Committee wants Hagel to speak about the five detainees freed from prison in Guantanamo in exchange for Bergdahl’s release. Traveling in Europe, Hagel says he knows of no U.S. soldiers dying while attempting to find and save the prisoner-of-war from the Taliban. The Army is reviewing the circumstances surrounding Bergdahl’s disappearance from his unit in Afghanistan. (House/Defense Department)
  • The Citizenship and Immigration Services is accepting renewals in a controversial program for illegal immigrants who came to the United States as children. That’s so people enrolled in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program don’t fall out of status while political leaders debate immigration laws. Since the program began in 2012, more than half a million immigrants have been accepted. They must reapply every two years. The agency is still considering first-time enrollees. (Associated Press)