fedweek.com | senate votes on va appeal rights

The VA bill (S-1094) set to become law shortly would give that department several authorities over its employees that would be unique in the federal workplace and that could serve as a test for broader expansion.

Like the accountability and whistleblower protection provisions of the bill that are the main focus, the provisions arise from the patient scheduling and care scandal and the many investigations that resulted.

One would allow the department to “claw back” a performance award or other form of cash payment if the department “determines that the individual engaged in misconduct or poor performance prior to payment of the award or bonus, and that such award or bonus would not have been paid, in whole or in part, had the misconduct or poor performance been known prior to payment.”

Similarly, the department could order employees to repay relocation expenses already received if the department determines that the expenses “were paid following an act of fraud or malfeasance that influenced the authorization of the relocation expenses.”

In both cases, the employee would have the right to notice and the right to respond within 10 business days, with a final agency decision to be issued within 15 days of the initial notice regardless of whether the employee responds. The employee then would have seven business days to appeal to OPM, which would have to issue a final decision within 30 business days–exactly how that process would work is not specified.

The third would revoke service credit toward retirement benefits for an employee convicted of a felony “that influenced the individual’s performance while employed in the position” for the period the misconduct was occurring. That would apply to both current and already retired employees, who would receive similar notice and appeal rights.