Another issue likely remain prominent in the time ahead is employee appeal rights–with the first focus on the VA, as a precedent for other agencies. The main sponsors of bills in the House and Senate to restrict rights of all VA employees are pushing for the Senate to act on their proposal, cleared by the House last year but stalled in the Senate after passing the committee level. The bills would shorten notice and appeal time frames and end the right to appeal beyond an initial hearing officer decision, following the model of those applied to senior execs there under a 2014 law–although with the deadlines not as restrictive. The Veterans Affairs panel in the Senate hopes to produce a comprehensive VA reform bill soon, but it is unclear whether the appeals provisions will address all VA employees or will be limited to further revising the policies for executives. Much of that committee’s focus has been only on SES members, though. The VA recently sent the panel a formal plan that in some ways backs off an earlier proposal to put all execs there under the Title 38 personnel system. Those under Title 38 can appeal discipline only through in-house procedures, and not to the MSPB. The proposal would apply that change only to execs in the VA’s Veterans Health Administration. Those in other branches would remain in Title 5 and would retain the right to MSPB appeals, but those cases would go directly to the three-member merit board rather than to a hearing officer; the board would have to issue a decision within 30 days or else the department would win by default; and the board would have to give greater deference to the department’s decision that it does under its own standards.
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