The CBO has said it expects relatively little impact from an authority contained in a Senate-passed VA reform bill (S-1094) that would allow the department to recoup all or part of awards and relocation expenses it has paid to employees.

The language in the bill–which overall shortens the disciplinary and appeals process at the department–was a reaction to several high-profile cases involving relocation incentive payments, as well as to cases in which employees who had received performance awards were later accused of misconduct during that period.

The authority of federal agencies to recover payments already made in such cases has been debated but not firmly established; the language in the VA bill amounts to Congress taking a stance on that issue regarding that department, a position that could be extended to other agencies, as well.

Affected employees would get a notice of the intended collection, an opportunity to respond internally, and then to appeal to OPM.

“Based on discussions with the department, CBO expects that both provisions would be used infrequently, primarily to recoup payments made to senior VA employees who were determined to have committed a serious violation of the department’s standards of conduct,” the CBO said in its analysis of the bill.

Agencies collecting from employees for other reasons can require lump-sum or installment payments or take regular deductions from bi-weekly pay, it added.