A recent decision from the Justice Department is prompting the VA to stop using the authority it has under current legislation to fire senior executives more quickly. The Senate Veterans Affairs Committee said the news comes after an inquiry over whether the VA planned to make any policy changes after the DOJ decision, which ultimately ruled that a key provision in the VA Choice Act is unconstitutional.
Danny Pummill, the acting undersecretary for benefits at the Veterans Affairs Department, is retiring, the agency announced June 16. Pummill had delayed his retirement to step into the role of acting undersecretary when the previous benefits director suddenly resigned last October.
Some documents related to veterans’ disability claims are getting thrown out at Veterans Affairs regional offices, but the VA and its inspector general disagree whether the problem is a systemic issue or one that can be explained by human error.
The Interior Department’s Office of Inspector General says the National Park Service is not properly handling employee mismanagement related to dozens of sexual harassment complaints, ethics violations and procurement misconduct.
The Army is deliberating how to handle non-deployable soldiers while studying soldiers’ brain function and performance in the field.
The congressionally-appointed VA Commission on Care suggested a major overhaul to the Veterans Health Administration. According to the commission’s draft report, due to Congress by the end of the month, VHA employees should have their own personnel system.
The Veterans Affairs Department officially fired three more senior leaders at the Phoenix VA Health Care System, the hospital where reports of wait time manipulation first started two years ago. Two of the three VA executives can appeal their removals to the Merit Systems Protection Board.
The Justice Department says a specific provision in the Veterans Choice Act, which ultimately renders that the disciplinary decision from administration MSPB judge is final for certain senior executives, violates a clause in the Constitution. U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch says Justice will continue to uphold vast majority of the Choice Act.
The acquisition shop at the Veterans Affairs Department released 10 guiding principles to better buy products and services. While vendors are relatively optimistic about the VA’s new approach, they’re concerned whether contracting officers in the field are embracing those principles.
One congressman and the Veterans Affairs Department’s number two both suggested the VA doesn’t need another policy or rule to help the agency turn around years of mismanagement and a “culture of fear” at some medical centers.
TSA Administrator Peter Neffenger yanked Kelly Hoggan from the job as assistant administrator for the Office of Security Operations. But Neffenger says he wants to use Hoggan’s talents somewhere else in the agency.
The Senate is still debating whether it should overhaul current programs at the Veterans Affairs Department that give veterans access to private health care or revise certain pieces of it. At the same time, the VA said it’s close on finalizing a new appeals process, but the committee is concerned the VA’s plan does little to address the current backlog of 450,000 unresolved claims.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald said his department is different enough from other federal agencies that a separate personnel system is appropriate for VA senior executives. McDonald also said the department is working on new performance standards to measure veterans’ satisfaction with VA medical facilities and the time it takes to receive an appointment.
On a quest for more innovative technology, more agencies are opening up satellite offices in Silicon Valley. But some start-ups and venture capitalists say working with the federal government is a hard sell, because the procurement process takes too long and presents too many unknowns.