Military medical facilities move to get more doctors in front of the coronavirus fight

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  • Military medical facilities are postponing all elective surgeries, invasive procedures and dental procedures due to the response to coronavirus. The policy will go into effect at the end of March and will last for two months. Exceptions will be made for procedures needed for troops to maintain deployability and in situations when postponing a surgery will harm the patient. The Defense Department says holding off on surgeries will keep more doctors available to respond to coronavirus and expose less people to the disease.
  • Agencies have received new advice from the Office of Personnel Management: You can virtually or remotely onboard new employees during the coronavirus pandemic. OPM says agencies should consider offering the oath of office to new employees virtually, and offer them again in person once the public health crisis ends. Agency HR specialists can review onboarding and other documents virtually. These exceptions are temporary. OPM says agencies should offer oaths again in person once the public health crisis ends. (Federal News Network)
  • A year-long review of OPM can now officially begin. The National Academy of Public Administration says it signed a contract to begin a congressionally-mandated study of OPM and its statutory mandates, organization and challenges. The study panel will also bring together other stakeholders who use OPM services or interact with the agency. NAPA will pick five of its own fellows to sit on the panel. NAPA’s recommendations are due to Congress next March. Congress mandated the OPM study in its most recent annual defense authorization bill.
  • Puzzling at least one employee group, the Social Security Administration delayed permission to telework until Monday. This week, though, SSA’s administrative law judges are being told to report to the office. That’s according to their union president, Melissa McIntosh, who is an ALJ. Starting Monday, the judges will hold hearing and otherwise work from their alternative duty stations, their homes, that is. McIntosh says judges were already telework enabled, with remote access to electronic case management systems. They’ll conduct hearings over the phone without video. (Federal News Network)
  • The Merit Systems Protection Board is extending mandatory telework for all employees until at least April 10. This means the MSPB can’t process new proceedings filed by mail, delivery or fax. MSPB says it’s communicating with affected parties to find ways to continue initial adjudications and hearings remotely. Some mediation schedules and hearings are also impacted. The agency can process new claims submitted through its e-Appeal Online system.
  • After pushing back the federal tax filing deadline, the IRS has suspended nearly all face-to-face contact between employees and taxpayers. The agency has closed its Taxpayer Assistance Centers for in-person tax help until further notice, but limited over-the-phone tax help is still available. The agency warns call wait times will be higher than usual because of local office closures. The IRS also has a limited capability to respond to physical mail during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • A week into the Trump administration’s directive to maximize telework, the Department of Homeland Security’s systems are handling increased traffic. Acting CIO Beth Cappello says she’s optimistic with DHS’ systems handling more employees working from home. The agency has spent the past few years testing the resiliency and capacity of its IT systems to ensure continuity of operations. Still, there’s workplace culture issues to overcome. Cappello worked from home last week so other employees would feel encouraged to do the same. (Federal News Network)
  • DHS is taking the next step to fix human resources IT systems. The Homeland Security Department wants to know what software-as-service offerings are available in industry for talent development and training. This draft statement of work is the second step in DHS’s effort to update its human resources technology systems. DHS says this is the first of four draft statements of work coming in the next few months under its HRIT program. DHS expects to release the final solicitation for training and development services in May and make an award by August.
  • The Postal Service will now handle all passport applications by appointment only. Customers can look online to find nearby post offices that offer passport services and schedule an appointment. USPS has also launched a COVID-19 Response Command to oversee the agency’s pandemic guidance. Chief Information Officer Kristin Seaver will serve as the head of the response command.
  • An industry association is taking the concerns of small businesses in the wake of the coronavirus straight to the Defense Department. The National Defense Industrial Association is conducting a survey on behalf of DoD’s Office of Acquisition and Sustainment. The survey is asking about impacts and concerns of small businesses dealing with the pandemic that DoD officials should know about in the coming months. Survey responses are due Friday.
  • The International Association of Machinist and Aerospace Workers says more than half a million aerospace jobs may be in jeopardy due to the coronavirus. In a letter to Congress, IAM asks Congress to pass a relief package to keep domestic supply chains strong. IAM says 13,000 workers have already been laid off because of the economic slump. The aerospace industry is made up of about 900,000 jobs and $25 billion in annual economic activity.
  • The Pentagon is taking even more precautions in the face of coronavirus and it may affect how work. The Pentagon increased its health lockdown to the second-highest level possible, closing eight entrances to the building and limiting who can come into it. The Defense Department announced it is now at Health Protect or HPCON Charlie. Protection measures for that indication include decontamination and severe restrictions of movement. Defense industry groups say they are working closely with DoD to ensure contractors can do their jobs. (Federal News Network)

* Federal News Network would like to correct an earlier report that contained an error concerning the National Contract Management Association. NCMA’s World Congress in Dallas in July is still scheduled to be an in-person event. An earlier report indicated NCMA had cancelled all in person events.

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