Unions want VA to educate employees on pandemic resources

In today's Federal Newscast, five unions say VA should immediately develop a joint COVID-19 training task force to design education courses for employees.

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  • Five unions representing employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs are pressing Secretary Denis McDonough to do more to educate workers on the rights, benefits and services available to them during COVID-19. The American Federal of Government Employees, National Association of Government Employees – Service Employees International Union, National Federation of Federal Employees and National Nurses United say VA should immediately develop a joint COVID-19 training task force to design education courses for employees. The unions said VA hasn’t done enough to make sure employees know the rules around requesting administrative leave instead of personal or sick time. Many employees also are unaware of when and how they are eligible to file claims under the Federal Employee Compensation Act.
  • The Veterans Health Administration needs stronger mechanisms for following up with veterans who have high risks for suicide. That’s according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. The IG found that nearly a third of patients determined to have a high risk for suicide were not flagged quickly enough at randomly selected VHA facilities throughout 2020. Providers at these facilities also failed to conduct the required number of mental health follow-up visits, according to the report. The IG recommends that VHA provide employees with suicide risk training within 90 days of hire, and that each facility complete at least five outreach activities each month. VHA concurred with these recommendations.
  • The Census Bureau is looking to measure the impact COVID-19 is having on the small business workforce. The latest phase of the bureau’s Small Business Pulse Survey is asking companies how COVID is having an impact on employee availability and access to supplies. The survey also will ask about changes in remote work policies, employees’ access to COVID tests, and price increases. The bureau will send the survey to nearly a million small businesses over nine weeks.
  • The number of supply chain risk management programs continues to increase. Over the last four months, six agencies kicked off new supply chain risk management efforts. NIST issued a RFI today asking for help integrating cyber supply chain risk management into its Cybersecurity Framework. The General Services Administration, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Social Security Administration, Department of Homeland Security and the Army Contracting Command issued separate RFIs or acquisition notices seeking feedback, services or just plain alerting vendors of plans to increase its focus on cyber supply chain risk management. On top of all of that, the 2022 Defense authorization act included eight provisions around supply chain risk management. All of this activity begs the question of when the Federal Acquisition Security Council will bring some semblance of oversight and governance to these programs. (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS is now letting taxpayers create online account without facial recognition. Taxpayers looking to create an IRS Online Account now have the option to verify their identities through a live, virtual interview. That’s after the IRS got pushback from Congress for requiring taxpayers to go through a facial recognition process provided by the vendor ID.me. Taxpayers can still opt-in to having their identities verified automatically using facial recognition technology through ID.me’s self-assistance tool. But the IRS said this is a short-term solution. It’s working with the General Services Administration to roll out Login.gov as an identity authentication tool after this year’s filing season ends. (Federal News Network)
  • Now that the Marine Corps has moved to Office 365, it wants Marines ideas on how to use it better. The service is launching an innovation challenge that asks service members to build applications on top of the Microsoft Software-as-a-Service platform. Initial ideas are due at the end of this week, and the Corps plans to pick three winners at the end of June. The Marines say they want to use the challenge as one way to lead the military services in maximizing their use of productivity tools.
  • A Marine is in trouble with the federal government for faking vaccine cards. The Justice Department is charging a Marine with one count of conspiring to commit forgery and one count of conspiring to defraud the Department of Health and Human Services. The sergeant allegedly made more than 300 fake coronavirus vaccine cards and made thousands of dollars doing it. The scam had been going on for about a year. The alleged scheme coincided with the Defense Department’s requirement that all service members get the coronavirus vaccine. If convicted, the Marine could face up to 10 years in prison.
  • The Government Accountability Office is looking for women who have served in U.S. Special Operations Command. The government watchdog is conducting a review on sexual assault, discrimination and retaliation in the ranks. GAO says the conversations will be kept confidential and participants will not be asked to describe details of the incidents. Those interested can email SOCOMWomen@gao.gov.
  • The Air Force is expanding multi-domain training to all airmen. The service will phase out the multi-domain warfare officer career field, which was created in 2018, and extend its training into Air Force-wide developmental education. The move is designed to ensure airmen can apply their skills to all-domain operations, as opposed to one specialty. Airmen currently part of the multi-domain career field will receive new assignments in the spring, pending their eligibility.
  • A new update is coming to a landmark cybersecurity guide used by federal agencies. The National Institute of Standards and Technology wants feedback for an upcoming revision to its Cybersecurity Framework. The NIST publication was last updated in 2018, and the agency wants to know how it could be improved in the face of new cyber threats and technologies. The framework’s standards and processes are relied upon by governments and companies around the world. But NIST wants to know how usefulness the current iteration is, and whether any features should be changed, added or removed. The agency is accepting comments through April 25.
  • The Defense Intelligence Agency made a major award under its big SITE III contract. DIA awarded General Dynamics Information Technology a potential 10-year, $829 million deal for the Customer Care Center task order. GDIT says the work involves providing remote and on-site services to support networks at DIA locations around the world. That includes using automation and deploying the agency’s first customer experience team. 144 companies won spots on the 10-year, $12.6 billion SITE III contract.

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