The VA has reported a surge in disciplinary cases against its employees in the second half of 2017, dating from around the time the agency gained new powers including a shortened period for employees to respond to proposed discipline.

The data show that as of the start of July, the agency had imposed 746 disciplinary actions–525 firings, 27 demotions and 194 suspensions of more than 14 days. By year’s end, the totals had far more than doubled to 1,865–1,362, 73 and 430, respectively.

The enhanced powers for management at the VA are widely seen as a precedent for wider application in other agencies. Employee organizations argue that strengthening management’s hand will result in an increase in improper actions including those based on favoritism, bias and whistleblower retaliation.

The data do not reflect the outcome of any appeals employees filed on those or other grounds. The same law also shortened the time VA employees have to appeal to the MSPB and lowered management’s burden of proof in some types of cases. While MSPB hearing officers continue to hear cases, the full merit board has not been able to rule on appeals of those decisions because it has lacked a quorum since this time last year.