Bill to let anyone who served get a vaccine at VA passes Senate

In today's Federal Newscast, the Senate has passed legislation that would let VA vaccinate anyone who’s ever served in the military, plus their spouses.

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  • The Senate has passed legislation that would let VA vaccinate anyone who’s ever served in the military, plus their spouses. The measure still needs House approval and the president’s signature before it becomes law. As of now, VA facilities are generally only allowed to provide shots to veterans who are enrolled in VA health care. The “Save Lives Act” would expand eligibility to all veterans, their spouses, their caregivers, and in some cases, their children.
  • Congress and the Biden administration need to resource, refocus, and reprioritize the Office of Personnel Management as the government’s human capital leader. That’s the main message from the National Academy of Public Administration. It released the results of a year-long review and 23 recommendations for improving OPM. The academy said the previous administration’s proposed OPM merger with the General Services Administration lowered morale and created angst and anxiety in the agency. Agency chief human capital officers say OPM is absent on the big issues. NAPA said Congress needs to revise current law and redefine OPM’s role. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies now have more choices when buying human resources and training services. The Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration created a new 8(a) Human Capital and Training Solutions or HCaTS contract vehicle and awarded spots to 41 companies. GSA and OPM said this new contract will make it easier for agencies to obtain these HR and training services while also meeting their small business contracting goals. GSA and OPM launched HCATS in 2017 to both large and small firms. Over the last three-plus years, agencies have spent $430 million on 189 task orders.
  • GSA’s Technology Transformation Services is rolling up its sleeves and getting dirty to help with technology projects. One of the major goals of the Technology Transformation Service over the last few years has been to build capacity in agile development across the government. A new tool, called the Path Analysis, is TTS’s latest offering to jump into the deep end with agencies on projects. The Path Analysis approach is a technical assessment of a specific problem that asks the agency customer to answer seven basic questions, such as ‘what is the problem you are trying to solve’ and ‘what are your pain points.’ The Path Analysis is part of how TTS and the agency are trying to address systemic obstacles to technology modernization projects.
  • One Virginia Congressman is looking for answers about recent federal retirement delays. Agencies are warning federal employees they may face delays in getting their initial retirement checks. They’ve pointed to the National Finance Center as one big reason for the delays. Now Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) wants to know why. He said the National Finance Center had a backlog of over four-thousand delayed service records requests last month. He wants NFC to explain the delays and its plans to resolve them. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service is dealing with mail and package delays, but the Senate hasn’t yet acted on nominees who could address these problems. Virginia Senators Tim Kaine (D) and Mark Warner (D) urged colleagues to fast-track confirmation for President Joe Biden’s three picks for the USPS Board of Governors. They told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) that a full board would help the agency confront these persistent delays.
  • The Army may be hiring hundreds of new civilian law enforcement officers. No final decisions have been made yet, but Army Criminal Investigation Command thinks it needs about 300 more people in its “1811” job series. The recommendations spring from internal reviews and the Fort Hood Independent Review Commission, which found the Army’s law enforcement enterprise is too small to meet its missions, and most of its investigators are inexperienced. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force is trying to change one of its least diverse areas by hiring more pilots of color. The service released a strategy to attract and recruit the best talent from diverse backgrounds for positions of manned and unmanned pilots, air battle managers and combat systems officers. The service said it will optimize diversity advancement efforts through data driven approaches. The strategy is part of a larger Air Force-wide initiative to increase diversity and inclusion.
  • The national Defense budget is expected to be a little over $700 billion in 2022. That’s a cut from the year before, but some say not enough of one. 50 representatives signed a letter to President Joe Biden requesting significant cuts to the Defense budget. While the lawmakers did not request a specific number, they did say that analysis from multiple experts suggests the Pentagon can decrease its budget without reducing support or pay and benefits to troops. The letter also notes that the Defense Department could cut its budget by more than 10% and still spend more than the next ten largest militaries combined. The Defense budget is likely to be a point of contention in the coming weeks, as a group of Republicans recently requested that Biden increase the budget by three to five percent.
  • The Freedom of Information Act requires federal agencies to disclose public documents on their websites — even if no one specifically asks for them. But not every agency takes that requirement seriously. A new study by the Government Accountability Office looked at three large agencies, and found that only one of them — the Veterans Health Administration — even had policies in place to comply with FOIA’s proactive disclosure requirements. Meanwhile, the Department of Housing and Urban Development appears to have ignored the law that requires it to post documents that have been requested three or more times.
  • About 10,000 people visit Social Security Administration field offices a week. That’s well below the 800,000 in-person visitors SSA previously saw each week before the pandemic. SSA field offices are still open for visitors by appointment only. Most employees continue to telework. But a small number of employees are working in-person at SSA local offices to handle those appointments. The agency updated its COVID-19 safety plan earlier this week. It said SSA will continue to use telework for a large extent of its work.
  • The IRS is moving this year’s tax filing season deadline, citing ongoing challenges from the COVID-19 pandemic. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said pushing the deadline to May 17 would give agency employees more time to implement new responsibilities under the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. The IRS is juggling the filing season with a third round of Economic Impact Payments and expanded child tax credits that will result in monthly $300-per-child checks for some households. The IRS and Treasury Department have sent out 90 million stimulus payments in this third round so far. (Federal News Network)

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