The Obama administration’s recent proposal to further limit appeal rights for senior executives at the VA apparently will be used as an opening for another push on Capitol Hill to extend restrictions to the entire VA workforce. Legislation is being drafted to incorporate the administration’s proposal to move SES members at the VA into the Title 38 personnel system, a separate system for medical personnel there, that allows only for review of discipline by an internal department process and not to an outside entity such as the MSPB–a standard form of appeal allowed for almost all other federal workers. That followed recent decisions by MSPB in favor of three VA execs the department sought to discipline, even under shortened appeal rights already applying to them. Indications are that a bill regarding executives at that agency likely will be broadened to encompass all VA employees. The House previously passed a separate bill to shorten appeal times department-wide, although not by as much as for the SES there. The pending proposal could incorporate that or potentially go even farther and seek to allow only internal appeals for any VA employees. Also potentially included would be House-passed language to require discipline of managers who retaliate against whistleblowers, under certain circumstances. While those bills haven’t advanced since passing the House, the new effort is designed to be a joint House-Senate effort by the bipartisan leaders of the VA oversight committees. That could substantially increase chances of passage, especially given the administration’s new position regarding appeal rights. With more than 300,000 employees, the VA accounts for about a seventh of the executive branch workforce excluding the independent Postal Service. Employee organizations believe that enacting such changes there would create pressure to extend similar restrictions government-wide.
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