VA Disciplinary Bill Passes House but May Be Changed

The House has passed HR-1259, a bill to shorten the disciplinary process at the VA but the measure may face changes in the Senate. Only 10 Democrats voted in favor of the bill in the House, suggesting that Senate Democrats could block the bill, given that it will need more than a simple majority there. The bill in general shortens the time employees would have to respond to notices of proposed discipline, the period in which an MSPB hearing officer would have to make a decision, and the time employees would have to appeal a final MSPB decision into court, while giving the agency’s position more deference. It also would reduce annuities of those convicted of a felony that influenced their job performance and empower the VA to recoup awards and relocation payments for later misconduct. During voting, Democrats sought unsuccessfully to change some of those provisions, arguing that the bill as written would undercut union rights and leave whistleblowers more vulnerable to retaliation. Similar changes might have a better chance of passage in the Senate, since they reflect provisions in a bill offered last year by Senate Republicans. The effect likely will be at least to slow down progress of the bill, which is seen as a model for similar changes in employee rights government-wide.