Smoking at VHA facilities may be a thing of the past

In today's Top Federal Headlines, a new bill in Congress looks to eliminate smoking inside and outside Veterans Health Administration buildings.

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

  • If you’re a smoker who also works for the Veterans Health Administration, you may want to consider giving up the habit. House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee Chairman Brad Wenstrup (R-Ohio) introduced legislation to prohibit smoking in any VHA facility. If passed, smoking would be banned inside VHA facilities immediately and outside VHA facilities within five years. Wenstrup said: “Exposure to secondhand smoke puts veteran patients at unnecessary risk.” Currently, VHA provides 971 outdoor designated smoking areas and 15 indoor ones, as required by the Veterans Health Care Act of 1992. (Rep. Brad Wenstrup)
  • The General Services Administration said President Donald Trump is not violating the lease for the Old Post Office hotel in Washington, D.C. GSA told the Trump Organization the President’s decision to resign from his business positions and not receive any money from the hotel satisfies the agreement, which says government officials can’t profit from the property. Numerous lawmakers and other experts expressed concern over the lease agreement. (Federal News Radio)
  • A former senior official at General Services Administration and her husband pleaded guilty to conspiracy to make false statements. The Justice Department said Helen and Robert Ballard were involved in a $200,000 scheme to get Robert Ballard hired by federal contractors and the U.S. government through false and misleading statements about his qualifications. They both face up to five years in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for July 28. (Department of Justice)
  • Time is against the White House for its fiscal 2017 budget proposal. The President wants to offset major increases to defense and homeland security spending with $18 billion in cuts to civilian agencies for the last five months of the fiscal year. But budget experts say there wasn’t enough time to pull that off. Also, the proposal won’t get enough support in the Senate. (Federal News Radio)
  • More military officials are advocating for a new round of base realignment and closures (BRAC). Lt. Gen. Gwen Bingham, assistant chief of staff for installation management, said about 33,000 Army facilities are in poor or failing conditions and about $10.8 billion would be needed to fix them. J. Randall Robinson , the acting acting assistant secretary of the Army for installations, energy & environment, also said a new BRAC would help the branch consolidate. (Army)
  • The Homeland Security Department still must wait to launch its multiple award contract for agile development services. DHS’ mega-contract for agile development services is once again embroiled in a bid protest. Ten unsuccessful bidders submitted complaints to the Government Accountability Office. DHS made awards for a second time to 11 small businesses on March 7 under the $1.5 billion Flexible Agile Support for the Homeland or FLASH contract. DHS originally made awards to 13 vendors in November, but pulled them back after losing vendors went to GAO. GAO has until late June to decide this new set of protests. (Government Accountability Office)
  • TRICARE is on the list for big personnel changes a new Bipartisan Policy Center study is recommending. The study suggests shifting bigger costs to military retirees to keep the TRICARE system from bloating too much. The study also recommends giving a reimbursement option to TRICARE dependents who choose a health care plan other than TRICARE. (Federal News Radio)
  • President Donald Trump nominater Rear Adm. Althea Coetzee to be the Small Business Administration’s next deputy administrator. She’s currently as chief of staff to the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics. Also, SBA Administrator Linda McMahon appointed William Manger as associate administrator for SBA’s Office of Capital Access. (Small Business Administration)
  • Metro riders will be seeing higher prices and less trains this summer. The Metro Board gave final approval to a budget that will raise rush-hour rail fares and weekday parking fees by a dime and off-peak rail fares by a quarter. The changes are scheduled to take effect around July 1. Also, trains will be scheduled every 8 minutes at the ends of each line rather than the every 6 minutes during rush hour. The system will also start closing  Monday through Thursday, at at 11:30 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, at 1 a.m. (WTOP)

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