House passes Secret Service training, VA COLA bills

From Secret Service training to expanding the Veterans Affairs Department’s authority to fire its employees, the House passed a number of bills this week that, if enacted, could impact federal employees. Below are brief summaries of some of these bills.

H.R. 1656 – Secret Service Improvements Act of 2015

Sponsored by Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.)/Judiciary Committee

Status: Passed by the House on Monday, July 27, on a vote of 365-16.

H.R. 1656 would provide additional resources for the Secret Service as well as improve protections within restricted areas.

If enacted, the bill would make the appointment of the Secret Service director subject to Senate approval and extend protections enjoyed by former Presidents and their families to former Vice Presidents and their families. The bill also increases the number of annual training hours of Secret Service agents and officers.

The bill authorizes the director to construct facilities at the Rowley Training Center  to improve the training of agents and officers. It also authorizes the director to hire no less than 200 officers for the Division and 80 agents for the Detail.


H.R. 1634 – Border Security Technology Accountability Act of 2015

Sponsored by Rep. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.)/Homeland Security Committee

Status: Passed on a voice vote by the House on July 27.

The bill amends the Homeland Security Act of 2002 to require border security technology acquisition programs at DHS to have written documentation showing they had approval from the relevant acquisition decision authority for each significant lifecycle cost estimate. Also, each program must show that it is meeting all the necessary cost, schedule and performance thresholds.

H.J. Res. 61 – Hire More Heroes Act of 2015

Sponsored by Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.)/Ways and Means Committee

Status: Passed by the House on a voice vote on Monday, July 27.

This bill exempts employees who are covered under the Veterans Affairs Department’s TRICARE health plan from being included in an employer’s calculation for determining the employer mandate under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.


H.R. 675 – Veterans’ Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act of 2015

Sponsored by Rep. Ralph Abraham (R-La.)/Veterans Affairs Committee

Status: The House passed this bill on a 409-0 vote.

H.R. 675 authorizes the secretary of the Veterans Affairs Department to raise the rates of veterans’ disability compensation. It also authorizes an increase in compensation for dependents, for the clothing allowance of some veterans with disabilities and indemnity compensation for surviving family members. All of these increases would go into effect on Dec. 1, 2015.

H.R. 1944 – VA Accountability Act of 2015

Sponsored by Rep. Jeff Miller (R-Fla.)/Veterans Affairs Committee

Status: Recommended for consideration during the week of July 27.

This bill would expand the Veterans Affairs Department’s ability to fire or demote its employees based on performance or misconduct. Under the legislation, the VA would be able to remove or demote an individual by reducing their grade or annual pay rate. An employee would have seven day to make an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board in the case of a removal or demotion. An administrative judge will have 45 days to make a final decision on such an appeal. The VA won’t be able to remove or demote an employee without approval of the Special Counsel if that employee seeks a corrective action from the Office of Special Counsel if the removal or demotion is based on an alleged prohibited personnel practice.

The bill also addresses the length of the probationary period for the appointment of an individual to a competitive service and career appointees to the Senior Executive Service. The probationary period will 18 months, although the VA secretary can extend that.

The bill directs the Government Accountability Office to study the amount of time VA employees spend on labor organizing activities and how much of the department’s space they use in these activities.


H.R. 1735- National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016

Sponsored by Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Texas)/Armed Services Committee

Status: Recommended for consideration during the week of July 27.

Both the House and Senate passed the bill. The two chambers are now resolving their differences before sending the bill onto President Barack Obama for his signature.