New mechanism for VA to screen patients, employees for coronavirus

In today's Federal Newscast, the Department of Veterans Affairs has a new digital tool to help screen veterans, employees and other visitors for coronavirus.

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  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new digital tool to help screen veterans, employees and other visitors for the coronavirus. Veterans will use their phones to answer a few questions before entering a VA facility. VA will use those answers to either direct veterans to the building or to another designated area for more screening. The department says the COVID-19 screening tool will shorten wait times and limit potential exposure. VA says the tool has the capacity to screen 10,000 people a day.
  • A top senator has some concerns about the Labor Department’s reopening plan for its employees. Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) says Labor lacks clear and uniform guidance for employees. She called on Labor Sec. Eugene Scalia to disseminate more details to employees about their reentry to the workplace. She’s also calling on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue enforceable standards for all workers during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Furlough notices are hitting the inboxes of employees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. USCIS employees are starting to receive notices ahead of a possible August 3 furlough date. It’s unclear how long furloughs will last but USCIS told employees they’ll last anywhere between 30-to-90 days. Employees will get a second notice if furloughs run beyond 90 days. The furloughs aren’t final, but USCIS says it needs an additional $1.2 billion to keep the agency running past August 3. Otherwise over 13,000 employees will be temporarily laid off. USCIS is obligated by law to give employees 30 days advance notice before a possible furlough. (Federal News Network)
  • As some military installations were beginning to relax health protection measures against coronavirus, bases in states that are seeing a rise in the disease are shuttering again. Joint Base San Antonio in Texas is taking more precautions as the state continues to see a surge in COVID-19 cases. The base will be open only to critical personnel or to retirees, dependents and contractors conducting official business or have medical appointments. The base is also instituting a 100% ID check for all vehicles entering the base.
  • The House Armed Services Committee wants to know the impact of allowing military spouses to contribute to their service member’s Thrift Savings Plan. The House version of the 2021 defense authorization bill calls for a study into pros and cons of the idea. Proponents say the option might incentivize more people to stay in the military. Detractors say it could cause major issues for couples if their marriages end in divorce.
  • The Defense Department has changed its mind and decided to not take corrective action on a $7 billion contract to overhaul its moving system. Losing bidders had challenged the contract in a Government Accountability Office bid protest, and U.S. Transportation Command responded by saying it would take corrective action to address the issues they raised. Because of that, GAO dismissed the protests. But TRANSCOM now says it’s decided the complaints were unsubstantiated, so it won’t take corrective action after all. The bid protest complaints TRANSCOM was taking a second look at dealt mainly with a record of misconduct on the part of the winning bidder, but all three bidders have criminal histories. (Federal News Network)
  • A bill in the House would require agencies to consider the full environmental cost of doing business with its contractors. The Smarter Purchasing Act would have the Environmental Protection Agency lead agencies in a study that looks at the impact of carbon emissions stemming from federal contracting for infrastructure projects, as well as for goods and services. Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) introduced the bill and say their legislation would reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the federal procurement process.
  • The CIO shuffle continues with one at a DHS component leaving. Phil Landfried, the CIO and assistant commissioner of the Office of Information and Technology at the Customs and Border Protection directorate in DHS is retiring on June 30. A CBP spokesman confirmed Landfried’s decision to leave after 16 years of federal service. The spokesman said Sonny Bhagowalia, the deputy assistant commissioner and deputy CIO, will be take over for Landfried on an interim basis. Landfried has been CIO of CBP since 2017 when he took over for Charlie Armstrong who retired. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Treasury and the General Services Administration become the second and third shared services management offices to receive formal designation. The Office of Management and Budget announced Treasury would lead the financial management quality service management office while GSA will lead the civilian human resources and pay office. The offices will help agencies incrementally implement a sharing model, which may include technology, services or both. DHS received the first formal designation for a cybersecurity shared services office earlier this year. (General Services Administration)
  • The Postal Service is turning to automation to stay on top of its workload. The agency currently has more than 170 automated guided vehicles move than 300,000 mail trays every day. Those systems are in place at 13 processing and distribution centers, including ones in Santa Clarita, California and Dulles, Virginia. But USPS expects to have more than 300 of these automated vehicles running by October,  when the agency gears up for its peak holiday volume.
  • One small federal agency shows it’s a stickler for details on how it’s organized under statute. The Federal Labor Relations Authority revised its org chart, it says, to more closely adhere to its enabling legislation. The law states that one of three members must be designated as the CEO, responsible for day-to-day management of the staff, budget, and general admin. The result: Trump administration appointee Duffy Kiko is in charge, with Democrat Ernest DuBester and Republican James Abbott now a notch down on the chart, and equal to the office of the executive director.

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