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The National Taxpayer Advocate Nina Olson said in her blog that the Level of Service (LOS) measure used by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) paints a misleading picture of the taxpayer experience because it does not fully reflect taxpayers’ ability to speak with a telephone assistor and get the answer they need. She said a survey by her office found almost 40 percent of taxpayers who contact the IRS by phone failed to receive the information they wanted. IRS inspires a mere 13 percent of taxpayers to seek its expertise, which ranked last among federal agencies. (National Taxpayer Advocate)
President Donald Trump’s pick to run the Census Bureau has told lawmakers he’s confident in the agency’s protection from cyber threats in the upcoming population count. If confirmed, Steven Dillingham would head up the first decennial count in which households can submit their responses online. And, that has some on Capitol Hill concerned. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) said a data breach at the Census Bureau would permanently hurt the public’s trust in the government collection of sensitive personal data. Dillingham said the agency has worked closely with the departments of Homeland Security and Defense to beef up its cyber defenses. (Federal News Radio)
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has authorized an emergency leave transfer program for federal employees impacted by California wildfires. The program lets employees transfer unused annual leave to employees in any agency who have been affected by a major disaster or emergency. OPM said agencies should determine who might be impacted by the California wildfires, and who might be in the best position to donate unused leave. Employees who want to donate leave should contact their agencies. (OPM)
A Utah man has been arrested in connection with suspicious envelopes mailed to the president and senior Defense officials. The Pentagon said yesterday it had identified a white substance inside the envelopes as castor seeds, a precursor to the poison Ricin. On the same day, the FBI arrested a former Navy sailor, William Clyde Allen, connecting him to the alleged attacks on the president, the Defense secretary and the chief of naval operations. (Federal News Radio)
Volunteers placed 5,520 American flags across the National Mall yesterday to raise awareness of veteran suicide. Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) placed one flag for each military or veteran suicide since the start of the year. VA released a report last week showing veterans account for 14 percent of all suicides in the United States, yet make up only 8 percent of the population. (Stars and Stripes)
Veterans Affairs (VA) has unveiled a new program to study whether long-term employment can be used to treat post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The VA is partnering with multiple cities, states and non-governmental organizations to offer individual placement and support for employment to veterans. VA research has found that PTSD negatively affects veterans’ ability to hold a job, and veteran participation in the workforce has declined in the past 35 years. (VA)
Veterans Affairs has awarded 13 new leases for medical facilities across the country. It’s part of VA’s ongoing effort to improve how it works with the private sector to lease new space. VA stood up a new business transformation effort earlier this year, designed to speed up procurement time, and increase competition, cost savings and time to market. New legislation authorized VA to begin to a comprehensive review of all of its facilities. (VA)
Just in time for Veterans Day, VA said it will make its vets.gov platform even more user friendly. VA said it will integrate several disparate websites to give veterans and their families a better user experience. It involves VA’s plans to brings together all the services the department offers under one platform. The current set up is confusing and forces veterans to understand how the agency is structured to understand which site to go to. VA’s digital service team first began modernizing the website three years ago. Since then, it has seen tremendous growth and user satisfaction. (Federal News Radio)
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ “deploy or get out” policy took effect on Monday, giving notice to 126,000 service members who have been in non-deployable status for 12 consecutive months, that they could be processed for administrative separation. Each service uses different terminology and standards to determine if a service member was deployable. The Navy calls it “limited duty” or “light duty,” while the Army uses “on profile” to describe service members who cannot deploy. The Pentagon is trying to standardize the description, but no matter what you call it, Secretary Mattis made it clear in announcing the new policy last February. Unless you are wounded in combat, he said, you need to deploy or you need to find something else to do. (Air Force)
Medical experts told Congress last year that the military needed a better way to gauge the severity of head injuries, as doctors can miss many of the signs of brain injury. Now, the Army’s Rapid Equipping Force has unveiled two devices that can objectively measure head trauma and bleeding in the brain. The devices perform simple triage and check the brain’s electrical activity. (Federal News Radio)
Would bonuses help the IRS meet its taxpayer service goals?