Wednesday federal headlines – July 9, 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.

  • A top VA official apologizes to employees who have suffered retaliation after complaining about poor patient care, long waits and other problems. James Tuchschmidt is second in command at the Veterans Health Administration. He says at a hearing he’s disillusioned and sickened. The apology came following a report from the Office of Special Counsel. It says it’s reviewing 67 claims of whistleblower retaliation at VA. Thirty of them have passed initial review. OSC chief Carolyn Lerner says she’s been able to block disciplinary action against several VA employees who reported wrongdoing. OSC reversed the suspension of a Hawaii VA employee. She’d reported an elderly patient tied down in a wheelchair. Her boss was suspended instead. (Associated Press)
  • The government reports about $100 billion in improper payments in fiscal 2013. Medicare is responsible for more than a third, at $36 billion. Medicaid and Medicare Advantage together account for another $26 billion. The IRS pays out about $15 billion in earned income tax credits that weren’t deserved. Improper payments are down from their peak in 2010. A House Oversight subcommittee examines improper payments today at a hearing. (Associated Press)
  • President Barack Obama asks for more than expected to deal with the crisis on the Mexican border. Members of Congress react differently to the $3.7 billion request, but say they’ll take it up quickly. Obama’s request includes money for more immigration judges and border patrol agents and facilities to house migrant children. The request also includes money for more border surveillance. Obama heads to Texas today for fundraising, but will also meet on immigration with Gov. Rick Perry. Obama proposes changing a 2008 child immigration law so that minors can be sent home more quickly. (Associated Press)
  • While Congress and President Obama decide what to do, the departments of Defense and Health and Human Services are negotiating more military space for immigrant children. The unaccompanied minors are already occupying spare space at three bases: Fort Still in Oklahoma, Lackland Air Force Base in Texas and Naval Base Ventura in California. DoD is housing nearly 2,400 kids now. A spokesman says HHS is reimbursing the Pentagon for use of the space. He says the presence of the children does not impinge on service members, and that DoD personnel don’t deal with them. The original agreement with HHS had a 120-day limit. But that could be extended. (Defense Department)
  • The Interior Department will distribute $43 million for local recreation and conservation projects nationwide. Secretary Sally Jewell heads to Birmingham, Alabama, today on a publicity tour. She’s urging Congress to pass permanent renewal of the Land and Water Conservation Fund. It was established in 1964. It provides grants to cities and states for parks, playgrounds, trails and other outdoor facilities.The money comes from offshore oil and gas royalties. Unless Congress acts, the fund will expire next year. (Associated Press)