Airmen running out of time to get vaccinated before facing consequences

In today's Federal Newscast, the Air Force mandated that all airmen need to be fully inoculated against coronavirus by November 2.

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  • Retirees will see the largest cost of living adjustment in 39 years. The Social Security Administration says most beneficiaries will receive a 5.9% COLA in 2022. That means the average retired worker will receive $92 more each month starting in January. But the situation is different for those who retired under the Federal Employees Retirement System. FERS retirees will get a 4.9% adjustment next year. FERS COLAs are automatically reduced by 1% when cost of living adjustments exceed 3%. Cost of living adjustments last exceeded 5.9% back in 1982. Retirees received a 7.4% COLA that year. (Federal News Network)
  • A proposed rule would end sub-minimum wage for employees with disabilities who work on federal contracts. A provision in the Federal Labor Standards Act allows some nonprofits to pay less than minimum wage to some federal contract workers who are blind, or have a physical or mental disability. But the AbilityOne Commission proposes barring federal contractors and subcontractors from doing that. Nonprofits through the AbilityOne program sell nearly $4 billion in goods and services to the federal government each year, and employ 45,000 blind or severely disabled workers. The commission will accept comments on the proposed rule through Nov. 12. (Federal News Network)
  • The annual viewpoint survey will arrive in federal employees’ inboxes the first week of November. The Office of Personnel Management says it will keep the 2021 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey open for five weeks. It will now include seasonal and part-time employees who weren’t eligible to take previous surveys. OPM kept or altered many of the questions it asked last year about employee experiences during the pandemic. That feedback will continue to inform agency reopening and future of work policies. OPM will also conduct the 2022 viewpoint survey next spring.
  • Nearly two years after holding its first meeting, the Chief Data Officers Council seeks input on how to meet its mission. The council is asking the public how best to upskill federal employees for data literacy. It’s also asking for best practices on how to inventory agency data, and share federal data between agencies while still upholding privacy. The council will accept comments through Nov. 15. The council has more than 80 members across government, and was created through the Evidence Act.
  • The General Services Administration is seeking feedback on technologies that can reduce greenhouse gas emissions from federal buildings. GSA is issuing a request for information along with the Energy Department, which is looking into similar technologies for the private sector. GSA is specifically looking to learn more about onsite energy generation and storage systems, as well as carbon reduction technologies. GSA since 2011 has evaluated more than 80 next-generation building technologies for use in federal buildings.
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to combat domestic extremism on social media are under a microscope. A U.S. senator wants to know how DHS is addressing the online recruitment of domestic terrorists. Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) is pressing DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas on that question and more. He also wants to know whether DHS is coordinating with social media companies like Facebook and TikTok to detect terrorist threats. Peters says the department has failed to provide adequate information to Congress about its preparedness to take on domestic extremism.
  • The Biden administration’s push to improve the digital defenses of all-important industrial control systems is growing. The ICS initiative will soon expand to the U.S. water sector, the White House said this week. The administration started with the electricity sector this spring, followed by natural gas pipelines over the summer. The voluntary initiative aims to help critical infrastructure firms deploy better security technologies on their networks. The White House says the project is a key part of its strategy for defending the nation from ransomware and other digital attacks.
  • Katie Arrington used to lead the CMMC program. Now she’s suing the DoD and the NSA. Arrington, who has been on paid administrative leave since May, has filed a lawsuit against the DoD and NSA in an attempt to clear her name and accelerate the investigation into her alleged violations. Arrington had been DoD’s chief information security officer for acquisition and sustainment since 2020. In the complaint filed in the District Court of Washington, D.C., Arrington claims DoD and NSA’s suspension of her security clearance and her position in the Pentagon are “baseless or exaggerated,” and are politically motivated. She wants to return to her position if she is cleared of all allegations. (Federal News Network)
  • Fraud in federal set-aside contracting programs and on infrastructure acquisitions will be among the top focus areas for the Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force. Daniel Glad, the director of the of the strike force, told the American Bar Association that by focusing on maintaining the integrity of initiatives like the 8(a) program or the service disabled veteran owned business program, Justice will ensure that these efforts continue to serve disadvantaged and underserved communities, advance economic justice and build a more free and fair economy for everyone. In the two years since the Strike Force’s inception, Justice says it has trained over 17,000 special agents, attorneys, prosecutors, investigators, analysts, auditors, data scientists and procurement officials.
  • Time is running out for airmen to get vaccinated against COVID-19 without facing consequences. There are still about 13,000 airmen who are not fully vaccinated. The Air Force mandated that all airmen need to be fully inoculated against coronavirus by Nov. 2. The Air Force says it will take punitive action if necessary. That could include counseling or administrative actions.
  • The Army has completed a detailed study on the health of its families. Army brass already knew money, relocation and, of course, the dangers of deployments most stressed Army families. Now the Army’s Public Health Center has distilled military-specific data about holistic family health from scores of other studies and data sources. The resulting Inaugural Health of the Army Family Report is still being vetted for November publication. But researchers promise it will have 65 recommendations for improving family health.
  • The Veterans Benefits Administration is preparing to hire 2,000 more employees to help handle a growing backlog of claims. There are 204,000 claims in VBA’s backlog today. The agency says that number will grow later this month. VA identified 70,000 new claims linked to three presumptive conditions related to Agent Orange. Many of those claims will enter the backlog. VBA projects the backlog will grow to 260,000 disability claims later this month. The department will also transfer funding from the American Rescue Plan and Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act to pay for more employee overtime.
  • The Navy is rethinking the discharge status of thousands of veterans. Sailors and marines who left the service in between 2012 and the end of this year will get any other-than-honorable discharges reconsidered. Troops who left between 2001 and 2012 will also be able to reapply for discharge status changes. The change of heart stems from a court case that alleges troops with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries were treated harshly by discharge boards. Those afflictions can cause behavior changes. Other-than-honorable discharges can disqualify sailors and marines from getting veterans benefits.

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