VA protocols to respond to COVID-19 caused additional challenges

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  • Veterans Affairs pivoted to virtual care a year ago, but the change came with some significant challenges. That’s according to the VA Office of Inspector General. It found that in-person medical visits indeed dropped by 75% and most subsequent veteran contact was by telephone. But an IG survey of primary care providers found that many veterans had trouble with VA Video Connect. Patients simply lacked training and support for how to get on, and many veterans didn’t have internet access or in some cases the required devices.
  • A bipartisan bill would put the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency on alert for critical infrastructure threats. The Industrial Control Systems Enhancement Act would require CISA to monitor cyber threats in automated systems that power national critical infrastructure. House Homeland Security Committee Ranking Member John Katko (R-N.Y.) says the bill seeks to prevent more incidents like the cyber breach of water treatment plant last month in Florida. Committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and cyber subcommittee chairwoman Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) co-sponsor the bill.
  • The Department of Homeland Security needs more time to get its next version of its commodity IT contract in place. To that end, DHS announced it will extend the current version, called First Source 2, by a year. Instead of the ordering period ending March 31 2021, DHS says the order period will now end March 31, 2022. The reason for the extension is based on feedback DHS received in December at its First Source 3 industry day. DHS awarded the $3 billion multiple award small business contract in 2013. Since 2006, DHS spent more than $6 billion under the First Source program.
  • As DoD modernizes the technology behind the security clearance process, it hopes artificial intelligence can help. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency is moving the technology that underpins the security clearance process to the cloud. As part of that modernization effort, DCSA is seeking to add commercial artificial intelligence data and platform services. The agency released two requests for information asking for industry feedback on what AI-as-a-service offerings are available. DCSA is most interested in data science and visualization tools as well as a data broker service to help with tagging and governance. Responses to the RFIs are due March 30.
  • The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service disbanded a year ago. But Congress may finally give the commission’s recommendations a serious look. The commission proposed 124 recommendations last March. They describe how Congress and the executive branch could improve military, national and public service programs. Now the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee says Congress will consider those recommendations, and may include them in the upcoming national defense authorization bill. The Senate committee held a hearing on the proposals for the first time yesterday. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service is offering to buy more electric delivery vehicles, if Congress puts up billions of dollars to do so. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy says the Postal Service has until next February to decide how many electric vehicles it’ll buy in the first round of its 10-year contract with Oshkosh Defense. DeJoy says electric vehicles could make up as much as half of its first-round purchase if Congress gives the agency $3-4 billion to support the deal. Still, DeJoy says there’s more than 12,000 delivery routes electric vehicles wouldn’t be able to meet the mission. (Federal News Network)
  • The Veterans Health Administration dramatically sped up its hiring process to help it deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. But VA’s inspector general says the three-day onboarding process may have created new risks, since it let new employees start working before they’d been fully-vetted by background checks. The IG says the department needs to pay special attention to catch up on those deferred requirements, like drug screening and credential checks. VHA hired more than 55,000 new employees with those expedited processes between March and September of last year.
  • The military is now playing a key part in getting the COVID-19 vaccine out to the public. The Defense Department says it has inoculated half a million people with the coronavirus vaccines in less than a month. 17 active duty military units are now giving shots around the nation. The first unit started in Los Angeles and is capable of delivering 6,000 shots in a day. New military facilities for vaccination are opening up in North Carolina and Illinois. DoD has identified more than 6,000 active duty troops to deliver shots. Only about 3,700 of those have been called up.
  • Federal prosecutors and law enforcement officials at Fort Hood, Texas are promising a crackdown on people with outstanding warrants. But first, they’re offering alleged offenders a chance to get right with the law. The local U.S. Attorney’s office says it will offer an “amnesty” period for outstanding traffic tickets and other minor offenses they’ve been charged with on the base until April 1. The plan could let hundreds of people settle their outstanding fines without extra penalties. If they don’t, the Army warns they could be arrested during a “warrant roundup” planned for later this year.
  • The Air Force says human error is the reason an unauthorized man was able to get on to Joint Base Andrews last month and board a plane used for top ranking officials. An Air Force Inspector General report says the guard at the base gate did not properly check the intruder for identification. The man was able wander the base for five hours before being detected by security forces. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is giving federal employees another window to donate through the Combined Federal Campaign. The CFC will stay open for 30 days to give employees time to support the victims of the recent winter storms in Texas. Federal Executive Boards in Dallas, Houston and San Antonio appealed to OPM to reopen the campaign. Federal employees can donate to any one of the CFC’s 6,000 charities through April 9. (Federal News Network)

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