Senate approves bill to pay back wounded veterans, sends to White House

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

In today’s Top Federal Headlines, thousands of veterans who separated from service after suffering combat-related injuries may get money back, after the government improperly taxed their severance payments.

  • The Senate sent legislation to the White House to pay back combat-injured veterans who were improperly taxed. It directs the Defense Department to identify injured veterans who had their severance payments taxed, and find out how much they are owed. The National Veterans Legal Services Program estimates nearly 14,000 veterans lost money as a result of wrongful taxation. (National Veterans Legal Services Program)
  • The Office of Personnel Management has extended Open Season. Feds get an extra 24 hours to enroll or make changes to their dental and vision plans. In a tweet, OPM said it extended the deadline for FEDVIP dental and vision actions until midnight Dec. 14. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Department’s top personnel official said Congress is burdening the Pentagon with the amount of acquisition reforms in the 2017 defense authorization bill. Defense undersecretary for personnel Peter Levine said the number of reforms mixed with headquarters staff cuts mandated by the NDAA make it impossible for DoD to fully address them. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency is testing out a new, more interactive way to evaluate and buy IT capabilities, and it’s a radical departure from the usual procurement process. DIA is shopping for a new system that’ll let its analysts easily layer multiple sources of cloud-hosted intelligence data over maps and make quicker decisions. Instead of releasing a traditional RFP, the agency asked companies to send in one-page white papers outlining their ideas. On Thursday, eight finalists will get half an hour each to show them off in more detail in a web conference with DIA’s senior leaders and subject matter experts. It’s the first time the agency’s tried the approach, but hopes to repeat it at least once per quarter.
  • The Senate passed two new bills to help the next administration better manage real property. The Donald Trump administration will have to create a real property council to come up with a management plan, metrics, and goals for agencies. A Public Buildings Reform Board will recommend government property to consolidate reconfigure or sell. The U.S. Postal Service will look at postal buildings and determine whether agencies could potentially re-purpose them. (Federal News Radio)
  • Inspectors general will have an easier go at management oversight under a new law. The Senate unanimously approved the IG Empowerment Act, which the House passed earlier. It gives inspectors general fast and complete access to agency records. Through the IG council and individually, IG’s have complained for years about lack of access. The bill stops short of giving them subpoena power. But Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz said the law will enhance IGs’ independence and effectiveness. (Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency)
  • A former Pennsylvania congressman gets 10 years on racketeering charges. Former Rep. Chakah Fattah (D-Pa.) served 22 years in Congress before he lost the Democratic primary in April. The Justice Department said his case stems from a $1 million loan he took out for a failed campaign for mayor of Philadelphia. He then siphoned money from federal and charitable grants to repay it. (Department of Justice)
  • The cost of maintaining federal websites is going way up. The General Services Administration is sticking with the same vendor to manage the dot-gov domain registry, but it’s costing the government a lot more money. Verisign won a contract that could be worth as much as $21 million  to continue to administer the domain registry for federal, state, local and tribal governments. Verisign used to manage the registry for about $650,000 a year. Under the new five-year deal, Verisign will help public sector organizations register new website domains, host the dot-gov portal and provide help desk services. (General Services Administration)
  • Applications are now being accepted by the Departments of Agriculture, Defense, and Interior for the 2017 Sentinel Landscape designation process. The Sentinel Landscapes Partnership was created in 2013 to help preserve land around military bases. There are currently six existing landscapes, in which the agencies say they are seeing results from conservation efforts. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)

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