Virginia Congressmen want more telework flexibilities regardless of pandemic

In today's Federal Newscast, three Virginia Democrats are looking for more telework flexibilities ahead of upcoming construction on Washington Metropolitan Tran...

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  • Three Virginia Democrats are looking for more telework flexibilities ahead of upcoming construction on Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority lines this summer. They’re urging the Office of Personnel Management to issue guidance allowing for maximum telework for impacted federal employees, regardless of the coronavirus pandemic. OPM issued similar guidance during past Metro construction projects in 2016, 2018 and 2019. Congressmen Don Beyer (D-Va.) Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) say the intent behind past OPM guidance was helpful. But it often came days before Metro construction began, giving agencies little time to make adjustments. Construction begins May 23. (Rep. Don Beyer)
  • A vast majority of teleworking federal employees say they’re more or equally as productive at home as they were at the office. A Federal News Network survey found 90% of employees are teleworking more or about the same number of hours as they would at the office. Some say connections to their agency’s networks have been slow while working from home. But 59% say they’ve haven’t experienced many IT challenges. Employees were far more mixed about their agency’s potential to expand or embrace more telework in the future. 52% say their agencies’ views on telework would change after the current pandemic. But 48% say their agencies’ wouldn’t change or they’re not sure. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Special Counsel is out with new Hatch Act guidance for teleworking federal employees. OSC says employees shouldn’t wear campaign shirts or hats with political symbols when they’re on a video call for work. Their profile pictures for work-related messaging apps should steer clear of political slogans too. The same rules also apply for federal employees using social media on the job. (Federal News Network)
  • This federal physician would have been fired, only he left the government before the ax fell. Dr. Choudhury Salekin worked for the Veterans Affairs department in Tennessee. In 2014 he ran for Senate, using the VA logo on his campaign materials, pushing colleagues to campaign or to watch his videos. The Office of Special Council charged him with 15 Hatch Act violations. The Merit Systems Protection Board confirmed 11. But he’d left the VA and so faces the worst the government can do, a thousand dollar fine and five years debarment from federal service.
  • Virtual hearings are an option now for all veterans waiting for a spot before the Board of Veterans Appeals. Veterans Affairs says virtual hearings have been a successful replacement for in-person meetings during the coronavirus pandemic. The board held 640 virtual hearings to date. It now has the capacity to hold 250 video hearings a week. The board says virtual hearings will allow VA judges to decide veterans’ cases more quickly.
  • More than a month into the pandemic, hiring continues at the Justice Department. Its Office of Justice Programs has brought onboard 10-to-15 new employees, as well as two new program directors who are political appointees. Katie Sullivan, the head of the Office of Justice Programs, has directed those political appointees to reach out to their offices via videoconference to get better acquainted with the teams they’ll lead. (Federal News Network)
  • The rollout of pandemic stimulus payments still has taxpayers raising questions. The House Ways and Means Committee asks the IRS to explain why it cancelled a recent webinar to field public questions about stimulus payments. Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) said constituents have flooded his office with questions that only the agency can answer. Those include questions about taxpayers not getting the right dollar amount, and how they can resolve these issues with the IRS. Neal request the IRS reschedule the webinar, and set up a similar briefing for small businesses.
  • President Trump is looking to name a permanent inspector general for the Department of Health and Human Services. This comes after Trump recently butted heads with the acting IG over reports that found testing delays and shortages of supplies at hospitals during the coronavirus pandemic. The president is looking to nominate assistant U.S. attorney Jason Weida to serve as the next permanent IG. If confirmed by the Senate, he’ll take over for Christi Grimm, who became the agency’s principal deputy IG in January. HHS hasn’t had a permanent watchdog in nearly a year. (White House)
  • Some military commissaries could limit the amount of meat shoppers can buy per visit. New rules in response to meat processing plant closures caused by coronavirus limit fresh beef, pork, chicken and turkey to two items per shopper per visit. The Defense Commissary Agency says stores can raise or lower the meat limit depending on their supplies. The Defense Department says the overseas supply chain of meat still remains strong and the commissaries should be able to support the demand.
  • The Defense Department is looking to award a new contract to provide dental services, claims processing and customer support services to active duty service members. The $1.2 billion contract will provide care to more than 1.5 million troops in 248 military dental treatment facilities worldwide. DoD will release the request for proposal on its Active Duty Dental Program 3 in mid-May.
  • Nearly four years after Congress called for new regulations around contract bundling, they are finally ready. The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council is finally proposing a new requirement for agencies to publish a notice of substantial bundling of work previously reserved for small businesses. The draft rule would require a seven day notice of the bundling before an agency could release a solicitation. The proposed rule also requires an agency to notify the public if they are consolidating contract requirements and that notice must be published with the new request for proposals. Congress called for these new rules in the 2016 defense authorization bill. Comments on the draft rule are due by June 26.
  • 27 individuals and teams of outstanding federal employees are finalists for the 19th annual Service to America Medal awards. The Partnership for Public Service released the names of the finalists as part of Public Service Recognition Week, which started Sunday. The Partnership will announce the winners in ceremony later this fall. The 27 finalists come from 23 agencies, including four from that National Institutes of Health and three each from the departments of State and Justice.

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