The House passed a last-minute bill Friday morning that will replenish the Veterans Choice Program with $2.1 billion in additional funds for the next six months. The additional Choice funds are crucial, as they buy lawmakers and the Veterans Affairs Department more time to redesign the program. But the legislation is also packed with new hiring flexibilities.
The House will vote this week on a bill that would replenish the Veterans Choice Fund with an additional $2 billion. But to offset the costs, VA would continue to collect housing loan fees and would trim pensions for some veterans living in nursing facilities that are covered under Medicaid.
According to the Veterans Affairs Department’s new reports detailing all major disciplinary actions for its workers, VA is on track to fire fewer people in 2017 than it has during the past six fiscal years. Federal employment experts say the new adverse action reports lack some significant details about VA’s efforts to improve accountability and transparency.
The Department of Veterans Affairs has posted its first list of employee removals, suspensions and demotions showing 525 VA staffers have been fired since President Trump took office in January.
The Veterans Affairs Department faces many challenges with its decision to abandon the Veterans Information Systems and Technology Architecture (VistA) and adopt a commercial, off-the-shelf electronic health record. But with a high dollar amount and big stakes comes as even larger culture change, federal IT experts said.
The Veterans Affairs Department will immediately get rid of 71 vacant or nearly empty facilities. VA will eliminate another 71 buildings within the next six months. It’s part of the department’s long term effort to trim its inventory of outdated, underutilized or vacant buildings within the next two years.
In today’s Federal Newscast, the Defense Department is targeting procurement rules in response to President Trump’s executive order to evaluate existing regulations and recommend their repeal, replacement or modification.
It’s been a busy couple of months for the Veterans Affairs Department. But VA Secretary David Shulkin said he wouldn’t have it any other way. He’s pushing the VA workforce to embrace risk and begin making bold, fundamental changes to the way it does business. He said he sees the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act as one bold change that will improve the department’s employee morale and recruitment efforts.
The Veterans Affairs Department once again needs congressional authority to transfer funds from one account to another to keep the Veterans Choice Program running for the rest of fiscal 2017. VA Secretary David Shulkin says the issue emphasizes the need to redesign the program, yet Congress has its concerns about the viability of Choice in the near and long term future.
The House will pass the VA Accountability First and Whistleblower Protection Act, clearing the way for the President to sign the bill later this week. Some lawmakers and veterans service organizations see the bill’s passage as a major win after years of debate over new accountability legislation. But federal employee groups say the bill would do more harm than good.