IG: Veterans Benefits Administration wrongly denied hundreds of military sexual trauma claims

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  • The Veterans Benefits Administration wrongly denied post-traumatic stress disorder benefits to hundreds of veterans last year. The Veterans Affairs Department inspector general said VBA improperly processed and denied some 1,300 military sexual trauma claims during a six-month period in 2017. The IG said poor employee training contributed to some of VBA’s decisions, while VA issued new policy back in 2011 designed to give “liberal consideration” to military sexual trauma claims. (Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General)
  • Agencies will not face budget cuts due to sequestration this year or next as long as Congress doesn’t raise spending under its current bills. The Office of Management and Budget said both the House and Senate spending bills for 2019 do not breach the defense and nondefense discretionary caps established in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018. (White House)
  • Senators questioned federal officials about the missing national cyber strategy. If our enemies don’t know what we will do in response, they will try it — Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) warned the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday. Lankford joined a chorus of lawmakers pressing the Trump administration to both develop a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that lays out actions to deter future attacks and to name a central authority that will oversee federal cybersecurity actions. Sen. Chris Coons reiterated his desire to create a Permanent Select Committee on Cybersecurity to better coordinate cyber oversight across Congress. (Senate Judiciary Committee)
  • A man got nearly six years in prison for bilking VA out of $13 million and bribing a VA official who granted his parking contracts at VA’s Los Angeles Facility. Richard Scott plead guilty in May to underreporting revenue and overreporting expenses while operating VA’s parking lots. He’s also been ordered to pay the agency $12.6 million. The VA contracting official he paid off to work the scheme, Ralph Tillman, is also facing jail time for lying to investigators. He’ll be sentenced next week. (AP News)
  • An independent agency got an acting CEO amid ongoing turmoil at the top. Brock Bierman is now acting chief executive of the Millennial Challenge Corporation. He moved over from assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, for which he was senate-confirmed. The previous MCC chief, Robert Blau, also a Trump administration appointee, quit the corporation earlier this month. In July the Corporation sought a consultant specializing in gender and social inclusion. (Millennial Challenge Corporation)
  • Unionized postal employees can continue to take unpaid leave to campaign for political candidates. A third-party arbitrator sided with two postal unions challenging the U.S. Postal Service’s ban on campaigning last year. They argued the ban violated their collective bargaining agreements. USPS said it plans to challenge the ruling. (Federal News Radio)
  • Medicaid accounted for over a quarter of governmentwide improper payments last year, according to the Government Accountability Office, so the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services plan to launch new eligibility audits for the program. The new audits will look at the expanded eligibility for Medicaid created under the Affordable Care Act. In June, CMS released its first-ever improper payment scorecard for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Senate already cleared a 1.9 percent pay raise for federal employees next year. But at least one senator says employees at the Labor Department should get a pay “freeze.” Senator John Kennedy (R-La.) introduces an amendment to the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill to do so. Kennedy said he is concerned about the government’s failure to stop improper payments. Kennedy introduced a similar amendment earlier this year, but the appropriations committee rejected it. (Sen. John Kennedy)
  • Lt. Gen. John Murray was confirmed by the Senate to become the first leader of the Army’s Futures Command. Futures Command recently went into initial operating capability and will change the way the Army procures its weapons. Murray currently serves as the deputy chief of staff for Army G-8. (Twitter)
  • The Army said it is reinstating the enlistments of at least three dozen immigrant soldiers it had decided to discharge. In court filings, the service said it reinstated 32 soldiers who were already booted out, and stopped discharge proceedings against six currently-serving troops. Another 149 cases are still under review. The changes came in response to a lawsuit by several servicemembers who’d challenged the Army’s decisions. In some cases, they claimed the Army had discharged them for no reason at all. In others, they claimed the decisions were based on unfounded claims that they presented a security risk. (Federal News Radio)