Newly offered legislation in the House (HR-5620)—which could come to a floor vote as soon as this week–aims to speed up the disciplinary process for all VA employees. The bill revises prior proposals to take into account the questions about the legality of limiting rights in the ways enacted in the 2014 law for SES members there and in a bill the House previously passed affecting all VA employees. Under the new plan, most employees, a final decision on any MSPB appeal would be required within 60 days, while rights to appeal from there into federal court would remain. For executives, the bill would require all appeals to go to newly created senior executive disciplinary appeals boards, consisting of three departmental officials who would hear appeals and would have to issue decisions within 21 days or else the discipline would stand automatically. Further, the board would have to uphold the action if there is only “substantial” evidence to support it and the action is within the “tolerable bounds of reasonableness.” In addition: the VA could recoup any awards or relocation payments already paid on a later finding of misconduct by the employee; where executives are found to have committed work-related felonies, their annuities would be reduced for the pertinent period; those who retaliate against whistleblowers would be subject to a mandatory discipline of at least a 14-day suspension on a first offense and firing on a second; and other protections for whistleblowers would be strengthened. Some similar provisions are pending in other bills.
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