Investigation of Asbestos at VA Medical Center in Asheville, NC

19. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 18, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: Investigation of Asbestos at VA Medical Center in Asheville, NC
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To view the investigation of asbestos at Asheville’s VA Medical Center, click on the link below.

http://www.wlos.com/news/features/news-13-investigates/stories/asbestos-at-va-medical-center-63.shtml

AFGE/NVAC’s 4th District Rallies in Durham Against VISN 6 Policies

19. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 18, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: AFGE/NVAC’s 4th District Rallies in Durham Against VISN 6 Policies
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On Friday, September 12, 2014, AFGE/NVAC staged an informational picket in front of VISN 6 Headquarters in Durham, North Carolina. The picket was extremely successful and attracted significant media attention. Please see the links below to see the media attention from the event.

Employees in VISN 6, which includes North Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia, have long been frustrated with the Leadership. VISN 6 was one of the early leaders in downgrades of low wage employees and continues to downgrade employees despite a moratorium and a lack of support from Secretary McDonald for the policy.

VISN 6 also continues to have a large number of employees while hiring in the Medical Centers continues to lag. Simultaneously, the Director and his VISN employees continue to receive an overly large proportion of bonuses. These policies hurt VA employees and the veterans we serve on a daily basis.

NVAC plans on following up with additional actions to address these concerns and expose the failures of the Leadership in VISN 6.

Media Coverage:

The Herald Sun | September 12, 2014
http://www.thestate.com/2014/09/12/3677482_va-employees-gather-to-address.html?rh=1

http://www.heraldsun.com/news/localnews/x711467854/VA-employees-gather-to-address-position-downgrades

Time Warner Cable News | September 12, 2014
http://centralnc.twcnews.com/content/news/711775/union-wants-top-veterans-affairs-official-out-of-office/

WRAL-TV | September 12, 2014
http://www.wral.com/group-protests-anti-worker-policies-outside-durham-va-office/13977528/

ABC 11 Eyewitness News | September 12, 2014
http://abc11.com/news/protesters-rally-against-durham-va/306660/

WNCN-TV News | September 12, 2014

Fox 46 Carolinas | September 12, 2014
http://mms.tveyes.com/Transcript.asp?StationID=8285&DateTime=9%2F12%2F2014+5%3A31%3A27+AM&Term=American+Federation+of+Government+Employees&PlayClip=TRUE

Federal Soup | September 11, 2014
http://federalsoup.com/articles/2014/09/11/va-workers-to-protest-at-regional-headquarters.aspx

WIN Labor Radio | September 11, 2014
AFGE Rallies Against Anti-Worker Policies Hurting Veterans Care
http://laborradio.org/2014/09/win-labor-report-audio-september-12-2014/

Update on FLSA Settlement for Computer and IT Specialists

18. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 18, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: Update on FLSA Settlement for Computer and IT Specialists
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Update on FLSA Settlement for Computer and IT Specialists
September 16, 2014
NVAC and AFGE attorneys met with the VA attorney handling the FLSA settle-ment on September 8, 2014 about the status of payment processing for claim-ants. The VA had previously informed the union that the initial list of claimants that it had prepared contained names of employees who were not entitled to re-ceive payment under the settlement because they did not work in a bargaining unit represented by AFGE. At the September 8 meeting the VA attorney stated that VA has recovered data that will allow it to accurately identify employees who are entitled to payment for overtime. The VA will shortly begin notifying employ-ees who were mistakenly identified as being eligible to inform them of the error. In addition, the VA will begin processing payment for those employees who have been previously notified by the agency, have returned the requested documents to the VA and remain eligible. If the review process conducted by the VA has re-sulted in change in the calculation of back pay due to an individual, the VA will inform the claimant of this change. VA will provide NVAC and AFGE attorneys with a new revised list of eligible employees.
The number of eligible employees is more than 4,000, and therefore, the process of notification and payment will continue for a long period of time. If a claimant has not yet been notified, that does not necessarily mean that he or she will not be notified. At this point the VA has only notified a portion of those employees and former employees who are entitled to back pay for overtime. All eligible em-ployees should be on the lookout for emails from VAFSC Payroll Support Tier 1 [I am checking on exact address]; that is the payroll office in Austin that is pro-cessing the FLSA overtime claims.
Claimants may contact NVAC attorneys at AFGE.FLSA@gmail.com to determine if they are on the list. AFGE and NVAC will not know or be able to find out when any individual employee will be notified by VA, or when they will be paid by VA. Claimants who learn that they are not on the new list and believe that they meet the criteria set out in the settlement, may request that the union submit their names to the VA for a review of the determination of their eligibility.

VA Will Increase Pay for New Docs, Dentists

18. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 18, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: VA Will Increase Pay for New Docs, Dentists
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http://cdn.govexec.com/newsletter/images/ge-header-logo.png
VA Will Increase Pay for New Docs, Dentists
By Kellie Lunney
September 17, 2014
The Veterans Affairs Department wants to increase the annual salaries of new physicians and dentists by up to $35,000 as part of a nationwide recruitment effort to hire more doctors and improve veterans’ access to care.
The change, which the department announced Wednesday, would update existing pay tables for several categories of physicians in the Veterans Health Administration, enabling newly hired doctors to potentially earn between $20,000 and $35,000 more than the current salary ranges. The pay ranges for physicians who serve in leadership roles, including department undersecretaries and VA medical center directors, would not change. The notice outlining the new policy will be published Thursday in the Federal Register and will take effect on Nov. 30.
“We are committed to hiring more medical professionals across the country to better serve veterans and expand their access to timely, high-quality care,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald, in a statement.
McDonald told reporters last week during a press conference that he’s worried about the department’s ability to recruit and retain a talented workforce as it recovers from a major scandal and reinvents itself to better serve the country’s vets. He said the department needs new doctors, nurses and clinicians for 28,000 jobs authorized by Congress in the 2014 Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act. That law was passed in response to several whistleblower allegations that VA employees falsified documents related to patient care and has sparked a department wide management reform and public relations effort that McDonald hopes will improve services and rebuild the VA’s trust with veterans.
VA has seven pay tables for physicians and dentists with different levels or “tiers” that include a salary range for positions in those categories. Each pay table corresponds to a specialty within the medical field, or a specific executive position. Pay Table 1, for example, covers a range of medical specialties, including allergy and immunology, geriatrics, psychiatry and general practice dentistry. The current annual pay range for Pay Table 1, Tier 1 is $98,967 to $195,000. Under VA’s proposed increase, the maximum yearly salary for new physicians and dentists covered in that category would jump to $215,000. For those in Pay Table 3, which includes noninvasive cardiology, dermatology, ophthalmology and oral surgery, the maximum salary for Tier 1 would increase $35,000—from $265,000 to $300,000. Of course, reaching the maximum pay in each range depends on a doctor’s skill sets, and is not guaranteed.
Click here for a comparison of the current salary ranges for each pay table and VA’s recommended increases.
“With more competitive salaries for physicians and dentists, VHA is in a position to attract and hire the best and brightest to treat veterans,” said Dr. Carolyn Clancy, interim undersecretary for health. It’s unclear how the pay changes could affect the morale or retention of current doctors and dentists.
There are more than 40 physician and dentist specialties in the VA system, and more than 25,000 doctors and dentists who work for the department. In crafting the new pay ranges, department officials looked at salary survey data that most closely resembled the VA in terms of environment.
The pay increase for new hires is one part of a wide-ranging VA recruitment effort. The department also plans to collaborate with nursing schools on psychiatric and mental health to strengthen relationships between academia and VA facilities, expand the loan repayment program, and augment a pilot program to bring in combat medics and corpsmen as clinicians at the VA.

House Approves Stopgap Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown

18. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 18, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: House Approves Stopgap Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown
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http://cdn.govexec.com/newsletter/images/ge-header-logo.png

House Approves Stopgap Bill to Avoid Government Shutdown
By Eric Katz
September 17, 2014
The House on Wednesday approved a measure to keep government agencies open through mid-December by a 319-108 vote, and the bill will now head to the Senate where it is expected to receive final approval.
Desperate to avoid a government shutdown before the November midterm election, lawmakers opted to fund agencies at the same levels they received in fiscal 2014. The measure would appropriate $1.01 trillion between Oct. 1 and Dec. 11.
The stopgap bill is mum on President Obama’s request to grant federal employees a 1 percent, across-the-board raise in 2015, effectively allowing the pay bump to go through. Congress, which is set to recess this week until after the election, would aim to pass an omnibus appropriations bill when it returns. Lawmakers could theoretically block the pay raise at that time, though they have yet to show any interest in doing so.
Lawmakers extensively debated, as they did on Tuesday, an amendment on Obama’s request to authorize further military strikes to “degrade and destroy” the radical Islamist group ISIS as well as training and arming the opposition. The amendment was ultimately agreed to.
Democratic and Republican leaders in the Senate have indicated their chamber will vote Thursday to approve the bill as passed by the House on Wednesday. The measure would then be sent to the president, who is expected to sign it into law.
If passed by the Senate, the CR would extend the charter of the Export-Import Bank—set to expire Sept. 30—through June 2015. Bank officials said they would not have been forced to shut their doors come Oct. 1 in the absence of congressional action, but the agency’s 400 employees would have been out of a job when its portfolio reached maturity.
The CR also includes a boost in funding for the Veterans Affairs Department to investigate potential impropriety in manipulating waitlist data and retaliating against whistleblowers. It would increase appropriations to reduce VA’s disability claims backlog and allow Customs and Border Protection the flexibility to move funds around so it can maintain current workforce levels.
The measure avoids more controversial provisions, such as addressing the U.S. Postal Service’s plan to close 82 facilities nationwide in 2015. A majority of senators and 160 House representatives wrote to their respective appropriations committees asking that any spending bill delay closures for one year.

EEOC reversed nearly 45 percent of claims dismissed by agencies

18. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 16, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: EEOC reversed nearly 45 percent of claims dismissed by agencies
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FierceGovernment
Workforce
Report: EEOC reversed nearly 45 percent of claims dismissed by agencies
September 16, 2014 | By Ryan McDermott

Nearly 45 percent of agency decisions to dismiss employee discrimination claims were overturned by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in fiscal 2012. That’s up 15 percent from four years prior, a Sept. 15 EEOC report says.

In the equal employment opportunity process for federal employees, federal agencies initially process complaints of employment discrimination. Agencies can dismiss complaints without investigation on a variety of procedural grounds, the report says.

Those dismissal decisions can be appealed by complainants to the EEOC. If the decision is reversed, the complaint is remanded back to the agencies for investigation.

The EEOC reversed about one-third of all cases agencies dismissed between fiscal 2008 and fiscal 2012 on average without any hearing or investigation. The rate of reversals increased from about 30 percent in fiscal 2008 to 45 percent in fiscal 2012.

“Preservation of access to the legal system is one of the commission’s critical priorities,” said Carlton Hadden, director of the EEOC’s Office of Federal Operations. “Our report analyzed decisions which resulted in a reversal of dismissals, to identify any common errors. By doing so, we hope to reduce the number of incorrect procedural dismissals by federal agencies.”

Despite the number of claims dismissed by agencies being overturned, an August EEOC report found the amount the federal government paid out in Equal Employment Opportunity claims rose more than 18 percent in fiscal 2012 over the previous year.

Agencies paid about $51.4 billion in benefits to EEO complainants in fiscal 2012 through administrative judges’ decisions. That number came in at $43.5 million in fiscal 2011. Another $10.8 million was paid out due to appeals decisions. That number is up from $9.2 million in fiscal 2011.

For more:
– read the EEOC report

Press Release for VA Office of Inspector General (OIG)

18. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 15, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: Press Release for VA Office of Inspector General (OIG)
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The United States Attorneys Office – District of Connecticut
News and Press Releases
September 11, 2014
FORMER FEDERAL EMPLOYEE WHO STOLE GOVERNMENT PROPERTY FOR HOME IMPROVEMENT PROJECTS IS SENTENCED
Deirdre M. Daly, United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut, announced that VENITA GODFREY-SCOTT, 48, of New Haven, was sentenced today by U.S. District Judge Robert N. Chatigny in Hartford to four years of probation, the first six months of which GODFREY-SCOTT must spend in home confinement with electronic monitoring, for stealing government property that she used for various home improvement projects. GODFREY-SCOTT was also ordered to perform 120 hours of community service and to pay restitution in the amount of $15,000.

According to court documents and statements made in court, GODFREY-SCOTT was employed by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (“VA”) at the Medical Center in West Haven as a supervisor in the Facilities Management Service, which is responsible for carpentry, paint, locks, doors, and other minor construction projects at the Medical Center. From approximately 2010 until 2013, GODFREY-SCOTT directed VA employees that she supervised to perform home improvement projects at her private residence, including a deck in her backyard, carpet installation, and various kitchen, bathroom and basement improvements. GODFREY-SCOTT directed the employees to use materials, supplies, tools, and vehicles belonging to the VA, and also had the employees purchase necessary materials at local stores using her government-issued credit card. She sometimes directed the employees to work on her home improvement projects during their regular work hours while they were being paid by the VA. The total loss to the government as a result of GODFREY-SCOTT’s criminal conduct is estimated to be between $15,000 and $20,000.

On May 14, 2014, GODFREY-SCOTT pleaded guilty to one count of theft of government property.

This matter was investigated by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General, the Department of Veterans Affairs Police and the General Services Administration Office of Inspector General Northeast Regional Investigations Office. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Neeraj N. Patel.

IRS Can Now Withdraw Money from Your TSP Account to Collect on Tax Debts

15. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 11, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: IRS Can Now Withdraw Money from Your TSP Account to Collect on Tax Debts
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GovExec Today

IRS Can Now Withdraw Money from Your TSP Account to Collect on Tax Debts
By Eric Katz
2:54 PM ET

The Internal Revenue Service can now officially dip into federal employees’ retirement savings to recoup delinquent tax debts.
The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board on Wednesday issued a final rule to implement a bill President Obama signed into law in early 2013 making TSP accounts subject to federal tax levies. Lawmakers who supported the measure said it corrected a loophole that gave federal employees “special treatment” private-sector employees did not receive.
The board issued a proposed rule in June, which was essentially unchanged in its final iteration. The rule requires FRTIB to notify enrollees that the agency received a levy and that it will be withdrawing funds from the account to pay off the debt.
The IRS has to have “gone through a number of steps” before dipping into a federal employee’s retirement account, according to Kim Weaver, a TSP spokeswoman. The board then has the full account at its disposal to pay debts owed to the tax agency. The levy must be paid in a one-time sum and cannot come from an account that is not yet vested.
The rule would also allow FRTIB to withdraw from a TSP enrollee’s account if the enrollee is required by federal court to pay criminal restitution. When the agency receives a tax levy or criminal restitution order, it would immediately place a freeze on the participant’s account until the payment is made.
The IRS can dip into civilian, military and beneficiary accounts. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated the law will result in an additional $24 million in revenue over a 10-year period.
About 318,000 federal employees and retirees — not including those who established payment plans — owed the IRS $3.31 billion in back taxes at the end of fiscal 2013. A Senate panel in May cleared a measure that would fire “seriously” tax delinquent feds, as well as prevent agencies from hiring new workers with outstanding tax debts. The House failed to pass a similar bill last year.

IG let Veterans Affairs officials alter report to absolve agency in Phoenix deaths

15. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 9, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: “IG let Veterans Affairs officials alter report to absolve agency in Phoenix deaths”
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Click on the link below to view the Washington Examiner’s article entitled, “IG let Veterans Affairs officials alter report to absolve agency in Phoenix deaths”.

http://washingtonexaminer.com/ig-let-veterans-affairs-officials-alter-report-to-absolve-agency-in-deaths/article/2553035#!

Press Release for Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG)

15. September, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(September 8, 2014)

In order to further improve the lines of communication and to respond to the concerns between the National VA Council and you our members, I have established a National VA Council Briefing. This NVAC Briefing will bring you the latest news and developments within DVA and provide you with the current status of issues this Council is currently addressing. I believe that this NVAC Briefing will greatly enhance the way in which we communicate and the way in which we share new information, keeping you better informed.

Alma L. Lee
National VA Council, President

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In This Briefing: Press Release for Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG)
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Press Releases for Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General (OIG)

Co-owner of Defunct Company Admits Defrauding Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Sept. 4, 2014
KANSAS CITY, KAN. – The co-owner of a defunct Missouri construction company pleaded guilty Wednesday to defrauding a federal program that set aside contracts for businesses owned by service-disabled veterans, U.S. Attorney Barry Grissom said.
Michael J. Parker, 40, Blue Springs, Mo., pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit fraud against the United States, one count of major program fraud and one count of wire fraud. In his plea, he admitted that he and his father, co-defendant, Warren K. Parker, made false claims in order for their company, Silver Star Construction LLC of Blue Springs, Mo., and Stilwell, Kan., to obtain more than $6.7 million in contracts from the Veterans Administration and more than $748,000 in contracts from the Department of Defense. The contracts were awarded under the Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program.
After an extensive investigation, federal agents determined that in fact Warren Parker never was classified as a service-disabled veteran by the Veterans Administration or the Department of Defense.
Sentencing will be set for a later date. Both parties have agreed to recommend a sentence of 51 months in federal prison and restitution.
Co-defendants include:
Warren K. Parker, who was sentenced to 87 months.
Mary Parker, who is set for jury trial Oct. 6.
Thomas Whitehead, who is awaiting sentencing.
Silver Star Construction, LLC, which is set for trial Oct. 6.
Grissom commended the Small Business Administration’s Office of Inspector General; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service; the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General, Criminal Investigation Division and the General Services Administration’s Office of Inspector General; and Assistant U.S. Attorney Tris Hunt for their work on the case.