In the aftermath of the federal hiring freeze, the Veterans Affairs Department says hiring managers are free to fill most positions. But there are still thousands of exceptions requiring approval from senior VA officials.
The executive order establishes the Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protections as a new entity within VA. The new office will identify barriers and duplicative processes and resources to quickly disciplining and firing VA employees for poor performance or misconduct.
President Trump issued an executive order for federal agencies to review their policies and procedures for buying American. He suspect loopholes in buy-American laws are too often used when the government buys. Agencies are to forward their legal and procedural reviews to Commerce Secretary Wilber Ross, who will in turn deliver a draft set of recommendations by the end of the year.
The Veterans Affairs Department soft-launched a new online tool that lets veterans search for VA medical facilities and their average wait times within a specific mile radius. VA said it’s a significant step in showing accountability and transparency efforts three years after wait time scandals in Phoenix shook up the agency’s leadership and organization.
Veterans Affairs Department employees are now answering 99.8 percent of veterans’ calls to the VA crisis hotline, and fewer than 1 percent of those calls are rolling over to backup centers. But the VA Inspector General and lawmakers still see some troubling challenges.
The Office of Personnel Management recently released a long-awaited report on official time for fiscal 2014. It found agencies used slightly more official time that year than fiscal 2012, the last time OPM completed a governmentwide report on the topic. The report’s release comes as Congress looks to limit federal employees’ official time use.
Veterans groups want a 10 percent overall budget increase for VA, more staffing and updated facilities to meet today’s healthcare needs.
The Veterans Affairs Department, Congress and Government Accountability Office all agree: an outdated and inflexible hiring process and serious shortcomings with the department’s human resources functions are prohibiting the agency from quickly filling at least 45,000 open health care positions.
A new bill that would limit how much time doctors, nurses and other employees at the Veterans Affairs Department could spend on union business has support now from VA itself. The department said having its employees spend 100 percent of their hours on official time is “necessary, reasonable and in the public’s best interest.”
Veterans groups are calling for an 8.3 percent increase in medical funding for the Veterans Health Administration and a 10 percent overall increase for the Department of Veterans Affairs next year. Carlos Fuentes, legislative director for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin to provide details on ‘independent budget’ recommendations and others.
Employees who handle veterans benefits claims and the disability claims backlog, as well as some cybersecurity professionals, are among the Veterans Affairs Department’s additional hiring freeze exemptions. VA Secretary David Shulkin announced more exemptions in a March 13 memo to staff.
The Veterans Choice Act provides VA with the opportunity to redefine what its role will be in 10 years.
The Government Accountability Office is questioning whether the right people, skills and leadership were devoted to the Veterans Affairs Department’s past efforts to remove VA healthcare from the High-Risk List. But current VA leadership insisted it’s paying attention and asked for patience as it continues to transform the department.
Official time has been a hot topic for House lawmakers this week. A new bill would limit official time for all employees at the Veterans Affairs Department and would set special limits for doctors and other workers involved in direct patient care.
If the 114th Congress was about dissecting the Veterans Affairs Department’s challenges, then the 115th Congress will act quickly to solve them, leadership on the House Veterans Affairs Committee said.