Congress also seems likely to return attention to two agencies that have been the focus of reform proposals, the VA and the U.S. Postal Service. The House has passed several VA-related bills designed to strengthen protections for whistleblowers there—including in some cases mandatory discipline of those who retaliate against them–and to shorten the disciplinary appeals process for all VA employees, along with numerous more minor changes. The Senate has crafted, but not advanced, proposals of its own, similar regarding whistleblower protections but less restrictive regarding appeals rights. The Senate also plans to again take up a VA appropriations bill (HR-2577) containing the whistleblower provisions and restrictions on performance awards, a measure cleared by the House but that stalled in the Senate over other issues. Given the importance of veterans-related issues in an election year, an agreement could be reached in time for passage before the upcoming recess. Chances of enacting long-proposed postal reforms improved when just before the recess the House oversight committee passed a bill providing relief from a current requirement that USPS pre-fund future health insurance costs for its retirees; carving out a separate program within the FEHB for its own employees and retirees; and requiring its retirees to enroll in Medicare Part B when eligible. However, there is less urgency to act on that issue before the elections, potentially leaving that issue to the post-election session.
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