MSPB breaks records in fiscal 2015

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) processed a record number of cases this past fiscal year while maintaining high levels of customer service and employee morale.

It processed nearly 30,000 cases in fiscal 2015 and was highly rated by both the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and the Partnership for Public Service, according to the 2015 summary report released on Feb. 29.

The MSPB processed 28,509 cases in the last fiscal year, a 63 percent increase from 2014. Regional and field offices issued 25,367 initial decisions, a 55 percent upturn and also a record. The board members at MSPB headquarters processed 3,120 cases, three times more than the previous year.

Many of these cases were furlough initial appeals submitted in 2013. According to the report, nearly 20,000 furlough appeals were processed by regional and field offices in 2015. By Jan. 31, 2016, the MSPB had processed 97 percent of these appeals.

One of the reasons MSPB was able to increase their productivity so drastically is due to congressionally supported appropriations in fiscal 2014 and 2015, allowing them to increase their workforce by 12 percent, according to the report.

The report warns, however, that “approximately 20 percent of MSPB employees and about one-third of our [administrative judges] are eligible to retire in the next two years.”

Despite these impending workforce challenges, morale at the MSPB appears to be up.

“MSPB ranked eighth — and was second-most improved — in employee engagement compared to other small agencies,” said MSPB Chairwoman Susan Grundmann in a statement included with the report. “In addition, MSPB was ranked eighth in 2015 and was the 5th most improved among small agencies in the Best Places to Work (BPTW) rankings released by the Partnership for Public Service in December 2015.”

The report also cited the Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act of 2014 as a challenge. The act, which gives the VA more leeway in demoting or firing employees, also mandates that the MSPB must deliver a decision on any appeals within 21 days. Because of the strict timeline, other cases have taken a backseat to VA Senior Executive Service appeals.

The report also includes projections for the future, warning that possible governmentwide budget reductions after 2017 could lead to an increased number of appeals in furlough, reduction-in-force and early retirement cases. The report cites the 2013 furlough workload as precedent.

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