VA fires official at heart of falsified wait list scandal

28. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 28, 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 fires official at heart of falsified wait list scandal
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VA fires official at heart of falsified wait list scandal
Nov. 25, 2014
http://cmsimg.federaltimes.com/apps/pbcsi.dll/persbilde?Avis=M3&ID=3&maxH=34&maxW=34By ANDY MEDICI |

Federal Times Federal Management Report

The Veterans Affairs Department has fired the official at the heart of the schedule falsification and patient care scandal, according to an agency announcement.

The VA removed Sharon Helman, the director of the Phoenix Healthcare System, from her position for a lack of oversight and other misconduct, which shows the VA’s commitment to ensuring accountability in its workforce, the agency said in a statement.

“Lack of oversight and misconduct by VA leaders runs counter to our mission of serving Veterans, and VA will not tolerate it,” VA secretary Robert McDonald said. “We depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of veterans first and honor VA’s core values of ‘integrity, commitment, advocacy, respect and excellence.’”

The VA has been reeling from investigations showing the agency falsified waiting lists in order to boost performance ratings, harming its patients and forcing veterans to wait months for medical care – a scandal that originally focused on the Phoenix health care system before expanding across the country. The scandal led to the resignation of then-secretary Eric Shinseki, and to widespread reforms at the agency, including new firing authorities.

McDonald has been under intense pressure from Congress to fire more people at VA more quickly. And, in particular, there has been criticism from some lawmakers for taking so long to fire Helman, who was on administrative leave for more than 200 days.

Jeff Miller, R- Fla., chairman of the House Veterans Committee, said the agency will never regain the trust of veterans and Americans until it fires all of the senior executives responsible for the scandal.

“Sharon Helman’s removal is a positive step, but there are still many more VA scandal figures who also must be purged from the department’s payroll in order for veterans and families to receive the closure they deserve,” Miller said.

Her firing is “long overdue” and will help to restore trust between veterans and their health care system, according to American Legion National Commander Michael Helm.

“Since it came to light that as many as 40 veterans in Phoenix lost their lives while their names languished on secret lists, The American Legion has been demanding accountability from those responsible,” Helm said.

But while Helman’s firing was important the agency needs to do more to restore its reputation, including additional firings and even criminal charges for anyone who helped denied care to veterans.

“The termination of one director does not end this scandal, but it is a step,” Helm said.

Phased Retirement An Employee Perspective

25. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 25, 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:  Phased Retirement An Employee Perspective  

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OPM has created a video on phased retirement from the employee perspective.  OPM is prepared to process phased retirement applications, but agencies must have a phased retirement plan in place and the capability to process phased retirements for their employees.

 

Below is the link to a new video entitled, “Phased Retirement An Employee Perspective”:

 

http://www.opm.gov/news/media-center/mediacentervideos.aspx?vid=8033

Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Removed

25. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 25, 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: Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Removed 

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Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Removed

11/24/2014 05:29 PM EST

Today the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) formally removed Sharon Helman, the director of the Phoenix VA Healthcare System, from federal service. This decision followed an investigation by the VA Office of Inspector General in which allegations of lack of oversight and other misconduct were substantiated. This removal action underscores VA’s commitment to hold leaders accountable and ensure that Veterans have access to quality and timely care.

“Lack of oversight and misconduct by VA leaders runs counter to our mission of serving Veterans, and VA will not tolerate it,” said Secretary Robert A. McDonald. “We depend on VA employees and leaders to put the needs of Veterans first and honor VA’s core values of ‘Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect and Excellence.’”

The Department of Veterans Affairs will name a new director in Phoenix as quickly as possible. To ensure continuity of care for Veterans and leadership for VA employees during the recruitment period, Glenn Grippen has been designated interim Phoenix VA Healthcare System director.

Whistleblower complaint filed against St. Pete VA office

24. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 24, 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: Whistleblower complaint filed against St. Pete VA office   

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A whistleblower claims he was fired after issuing a scathing report about fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement at the office, which processes veteran benefit claims. FILE, CHRIS URSO/STAFF

 

By Howard Altman | Tribune Staff
Published: November 19, 2014 | Updated: November 19, 2014 at 10:07 PM

 

Just days after issuing a scathing report pointing out what he said was a “poor, inept and inaccurate” quality control process for benefit claims at the Department of Veterans Affairs St. Petersburg Regional Office, Javier Soto was told that his services as a Ratings Benefits Services Representative “were no longer needed.”

On Tuesday, Soto filed a whistleblower complaint with the federal Merit Systems Protection Board, claiming he was fired in retaliation for pointing out problems at the office, the nation’s busiest claims processing center.

Soto, who is seeking his job back, said he was fired without notice or due process and without any investigation into the concerns he raised in his report and several others like it. The complaint also said that management made the decision without consulting with Soto’s direct supervisors, or taking into account that he had no prior performance or disciplinary issues and was cited in his reviews for “following orders and working well with everybody.”

Earlier this year, Soto filed a complaint over his termination with the Federal Labor Relations Authority. That complaint is still pending. He also filed a complaint with the federal Office of Special Counsel, which closed the case out without action, but said Soto could take his case up with the Merit Systems Protection Board. Under the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989, an individual who alleges that a personnel action was taken, or not taken, or threatened, because of “whistleblowing” may seek corrective action from the board directly if the Special Counsel does not seek corrective action on his or her behalf, according to the board’s website.

Regional office Director Kerrie Witty said Wednesday that she could not comment on Soto’s complaint because she had not yet received a copy other than one sent to her by the Tribune. VA officials have said they have “full and complete confidence” in her abilities.

In his complaint, Soto said that the bottom line is how taxpayer funds are being spent.

The studies he conducted of how the office operates, “evidenced violations of law, rule or regulation and gross mismanagement, or a gross waste of funds.”

Some veterans were not paid enough because their claims were not properly investigated, others were paid too much, and in some cases, personnel illegally altered claims decisions, according to the complaint. Inconsistent quality checks exacerbated the problem.

A Government Accountability Report released Wednesday shows similar problems throughout the Veterans Benefits Administration’s claim system.

The VBA “does not always follow generally accepted statistical practices, resulting in imprecise performance information,” according to the GAO. Aside from producing “imprecise estimates of national and regional accuracy,” the VBA “reviews about 39 percent (over 5,000) more claims nationwide than is necessary to achieve its desired precision in reported accuracy rates, thereby diverting limited resources from other important quality assurance activities, such as targeted reviews of error-prone cases.”

Soto said his issue isn’t personal or a vendetta against management.

“I just want to make sure that veterans are being paid correctly and that federal funds are being used properly,” Soto said in a telephone interview. “That’s why most employees show up and what most employees care about. But management just cares about numbers to show they’ve made a big dent in the backlog and I am worried that big dent is going to come back to haunt us.”

The office, like all claims centers under tremendous pressure to reduce the time veterans wait to have their claims to be approved, has made great strides toward that goal. The backlog of benefits claims at the office — those older than 125 days — dropped 32 percent between January 2013 and 2014, while the total number of claims dropped 22 percent over the same period, said Witty. There were 18,639 backlogged claims and a total of 33,573 claims pending as of Wednesday afternoon, Witty said.

But Soto’s complaint offers a peak behind the curtain of an office that has come under scrutiny for delayed benefits claims, poor storage of files that led to delays and missing information and a recent no-confidence vote filed against Witty by employees of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 1594, the union representing about 900 workers at the regional office campus at Bay Pines and several other satellite offices, including Orlando.

In her June 30 letter to Soto informing him that he was being let go, a copy of which is contained in the complaint, Witty gave no reason for Soto’s termination other than, as an at-will employee, “your services are no longer required.”

However, the decision was the culmination of simmering tension between Soto, still the vice president of Local 1594, and management, according to his complaint. The conflict wasn’t over the quality of his work, but the many reports he issued highlighting what he said have been problems at the office and the ensuing reaction by management.

Soto, who was informed of his termination while on authorized leave, issued several studies “detailing violations of law and fraud, waste and abuse and mismanagement related to quality control in beneficiary programs awards,” according to the complaint. One report, issued in December, 2013, “focused on fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement of the field level legal decision-making process quality reviews.”

The studies, according to the complaint, “showed an inconsistent cadre of decision review officers and rating quality control personnel, using over 14 standards of review that were inconsistent with federal law.”

The study also showed “violations of various laws” during the claims process, according to the complaint, including one law requiring that the benefit of the doubt will go to a person filing a benefits claim when there are roughly equal amounts of positive and negative evidence in support of those claims.

Management reacted to that report by placing Soto under surveillance and monitoring, according to the complaint.

In January, Soto was told that senior management requested his extended personnel file, according to the complaint, and that human resources managers were now involved in his case. Meanwhile, he continued to report “accuracy issues” and mention his previous study in monthly reviews.

During this time, he also filed grievances and other notices to management of “fraud, waste, abuse and mismanagement, in personnel systems.

But he wasn’t the only one complaining.

“We have 52 pending unfair labor practices and 65 pending grievances,” union president Valorie Reilly told the Tribune last month, including one about the placement of a surveillance camera outside the union office, removed after a Tribune story.

The question of why Soto was fired ultimately reached the House Veterans Affairs Committee, where Soto testified about his concerns regarding the poor quality control of the claims processing system. Committee Chairman Jeff Miller demanded to know why Soto was fired and after receiving information from the regional office, was not satisfied.

None of the documents answered why Soto was fired, he said.

“VA has a long and sordid history of both concealing negative information from the public and retaliating against whistleblowers,” Miller said in a statement to the Tribune at the time. “This case seems to fit that mold to a tee. It’s been more than a week since we asked VA to explain why Javier Soto was fired. To date, the department has refused to do so. Rest assured, however, we will keep the pressure on the department until we have a full accounting of the facts.”

In his complaint, Soto argues that the information provided by the regional office to the committee was “post-hoc rationalization of administrative matters long settled.”

Despite the level of dissatisfaction by employees that was reflected by the vote of no confidence, VA officials back Witty, whose annual salary of $152,536 makes her the office’s highest paid employee, according to records obtained under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

“Ms. Witty is committed to building a collaborative working relationship with the union and to continue engagement with employees to ensure the delivery of high-quality benefits and services to veterans and their families,” said Beth McCoy, VA Deputy Under Secretary for Field Operations. “The Veterans Benefits Administration maintains full and complete confidence in Kerrie Witty and the St. Petersburg leadership team. Over the last year, Ms. Witty led the dedicated, hardworking employees of the St. Petersburg Regional Office in reducing the backlog of pending disability claims by 40 percent while increasing the accuracy of the medical and other issues being decided to 96 percent. As a result, veterans are receiving decisions on their claims faster and with greater accuracy.”

haltman@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7629

VA’s Home-Based Care Program Reduces Hospitalization for Diabetes, Other Conditions

14. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 12, 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’s Home-Based Care Program Reduces Hospitalization for Diabetes, Other Conditions

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VA’s Home-Based Care Program Reduces Hospitalization for Diabetes, Other Conditions

November 2014

 

By Brenda L. Mooney

BOSTON – When it comes to providing care to older patients with co-existing diabetes and other chronic illnesses, everything old is new again at the VA.

A program offering old-fashioned house calls is showing promise in reducing the likelihood of hospitalization among older adults with multiple chronic diseases, according to a recent study published online by JAMA Internal Medicine.

In an effort to address the psychosocial and medical challenges to improving outcomes for an older population too sick to visit a typical ambulatory clinic, the VA has worked for most of the last half-century to establish viable home care programs. In 1972, it established a Home-Based Primary Care (HBPC) program to address the long-term needs of complex chronically ill and disabled patients, including those near the end of life. The HBPC program brings to the home an interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers, physical therapists to provide coordinated, patient-centered care and help avoid hospitalization.

Services offered by the program, which served more 31,000 patients a day as of the end of last year, include:

  • Primary care visits at home by a physician, nurse practitioner or physician’s assistant
  • Care management through a nurse practitioner, physician’s assistant, or nurse
  • Coordination of patient services by a social worker
  • Therapy visits from a physical, occupational, or speech therapist
  • Mental health services
  • Nutrition counseling from a dietitian
  • Medication management assistance

The recent study led by researchers from the Boston VAMC found that HBPC is associated with a decreased probability of hospitalization among elderly veterans with diabetes mellitus. “In accountable care models, HBPC may have an important role in the management of older adults with multiple chronic diseases,” the authors suggest.

Seeking to characterize the association between HBPC enrollment and hospitalizations because of an ambulatory care–sensitive condition among older veterans with diabetes, the researchers conducted a retrospective cohort study of 56,608 veterans who had been admitted to VA and non-VA hospitals from Jan. 1, 2006, through Dec. 31, 2010. Study subjects were veterans 67 years or older who were fee-for-service Medicare beneficiaries, were diagnosed as having diabetes mellitus and at least one other chronic disease, and had at least one admission to a VA or non-VA hospital in 2005 or 2006.

The main outcome, determined through follow-up, was defined as admission to VA and non-VA hospitals due to an ambulatory care–sensitive condition. Outcomes were analyzed using distance from the veteran’s residence to a VA facility that provides HBPC as a variable, according to the report.

Of the patients in the study, 1,978 were enrolled in HBPC and tended to be older, mean age 79.1 compared to 77.1 for the larger group, and more likely to have chronic disease, e.g. 59.2% had congestive heart failure vs. 53.5% for the larger cohort. Final analysis indicated that HBPC was associated with a reduction in the probability of hospitalization of 5.8% in one year.

“Home-based primary care harks back to a nostalgic time when physicians forged close and long-term relationships with their patients and their families because they routinely cared for them in the home during times of illness,” according to a related commentary by Alex D. Federman, MD, MPH, and Theresa Soriano, MD, MPH, both of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York.2

Because of the study, Federman and Soriano add, home-based care “research just took a promising step forward.”

That is likely to be critically important in the future at the VA and elsewhere. According to the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, an advocacy group, Americans 85 or older with multiple chronic conditions will increase to 9 million by 2030. Furthermore, beneficiaries with five or more chronic conditions represent the fastest-growing segment of the Medicare population.

  1. Edwards ST, Prentice JC, Simon SR, Pizer SD. Home-Based Primary Care and the Risk of Ambulatory Care-Sensitive Condition Hospitalization Among Older Veterans

With Diabetes Mellitus. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Sep 15. doi:

10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.4327. [Epub ahead of print] PubMed PMID: 25221986.

2. Federman AD, Soriano T. More Promise for Home-Based Primary Care. JAMA Intern Med. 2014 Sep 15. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2014.3399. [Epub ahead of print]PubMed PMID: 25222031.

VA Secretary Defends Actions to Hold Individuals Accountable

14. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 12, 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 Secretary Defends Actions to Hold Individuals Accountable

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VA Secretary Defends Actions to Hold Individuals Accountable

Late Breaking News

WASHINGTON—VA is moving as “aggressively and expeditiously as possible by the law” in holding individuals accountable in the wake of the patient wait list scandal, but must wait for the investigations to be completed before it can act, the VA secretary told reporters this week.

“It’s obviously in my best interest to move as quickly and aggressively as possible in changing that culture and one of the ways you do this is to hold people accountable for their behaviors, particularly when those behaviors violate the values of the organization,” VA Secretary Robert McDonald said.

McDonald further noted that while legislation passed this summer shortens the appeals process, it did not give him special authorities to simply terminate individuals.

“The law didn’t grant any kind of new power that would suddenly give me the ability to walk into a room and simply fire people,” he said. “I wouldn’t do that anyway. Our constitution provides for due process.

McDonald’s comments come as lawmakers have questioned whether the agency is moving quickly enough in holding individuals accountable. House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Chairman Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) criticized the agency this week for not firing Phoenix VA Health Care System Director Sharon Helman.

“If VA wants to rebuild its reputation with veterans and the prospective health care employees it says it needs, then it should stop making excuses for the villains of the VA scandal and get serious about purging them from the payroll,” he said in a written statement.

Meanwhile, McDonald also told reporters this week that VA has made progress in getting patients off of wait lists.

The agency has scheduled more than 1.2 million more appointments in the past four months than in the same period last year. Furthermore, the new patient primary care wait time has been reduced by 18%. The agency is also completing 98% of appointments within 30 days of the veterans’ preferred date, McDonald explained.

McDonald said that VA facilities have extended clinic hours on the evenings and on weekends, hired more doctors and nurses in order to be able to extend those hours and have asked people to work overtime. In addition, mobile units have been brought to places like Phoenix to provide care.

“These results have been effective in getting people off of waitlists and into clinics,” he said.

AFGE/NVAC October/November Newsletter 2014

14. November, 2014|newsletter|No comments

(November 6, 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 October/November Newsletter 2014

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In an effort to “Going Green” P  the National VA Council will begin to distribute appropriate portions of the Mass Mailing electronically (see attachment).  The electronic correspondence  will NOT include “union only” information (via government computers).   Internal  information will continue to be distributed via mail.  By emailing this information, in lieu of printing and mailing the documents, we will be able to reduce our distribution costs and our paper consumption.

Please be sure to the share this information with all your members.

Additionally, all the Demands-to-Bargain, Memorandums of Understanding, and Surveys can also be searched and located on the National VA Council’s webpage (www.afgenvac.org).

We look forward to creating new ways to reach out to our membership and continually improving our means of communication.









Kaiser Permanente and NNU

4. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 4, 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: Kaiser Permanente and NNU

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Nurses plan major strike to protest Ebola worker safety

Walk-outs expected to occur mostly in California

10:57 AM – November 3, 2014

As many as 18,000 nurses plan to strike on Nov. 12 to protest what they say are inadequate protections for health care workers treating Ebola patients.

The strike is being organized by the National Nurses United (NNU)—one of the country’s largest nursing unions—and will primarily affect 66 Kaiser Permanente facilities in California, as well as Providence Hospitalin Washington D.C. The union says it is demanding full-body hazmat suits, powered air-purifying respirators, and more rigorous training for nurses across the country.

Hospitals consider withholding treatment from Ebola patients

Rose Ann DeMoro, executive director of NNU, says nurses are “being asked to put themselves in harm’s way unprotected,” and hospitals are treating them as “expendable.” The strike comes as NNU is negotiating with Kaiser Permanente and Providence Hospital for new labor contracts for its members. The negotiations have stalled in recent weeks.

 

Providence Hospital released a statement saying it would remain open during the strike, and was “committed to maintaining a collegial and productive atmosphere for continued negotiations with the NNU.”

Kaiser Permanente says its equipment and procedures for treating Ebola patients meet federal standards. “The claims [the union] is making about Kaiser Permanente’s Ebola preparedness, in an attempt to justify a strike, are simply untrue,” says Gay Westfall, Kaiser’s senior vice president for human resources.

Following the infections of two Dallas nurses who treated the first U.S. Ebola patient, CDC has revamped its protective guidelines for health care providers. However, NNU argues the guidelines should go further and be a formal national standard, rather than just advisory (Sovern, CBS San Francisco, 10/31; Tsai, Contra Costa Times, 10/30; Bernstein, Reuters, 10/30; Reed, Washington Business Journal, 10/31; National Nurses Unitedrelease, 10/30).

More coverage of the Ebola outbreak

What you need to know about Ebola

 

The Daily Briefing has been tracking the Ebola outbreak since early 2014, and the Advisory Board’s experts have created myriad resources for hospitals to help them prepare for the potential cases and reassure their communities about the disease.

Here’s an overview of our top coverage and resources.

READ MORE


Daily Briefing

The stigma that Bellevue staff now face outside the hospital

What to consider when filing a grievance

3. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 3, 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: What to consider when filing a grievance

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Federal Times

ASK THE LAWYER

Debra L. Roth

 

Federal workers are fortunate.  They have several legally defined processes available to them to complain about workplace treatment, theoretically free from reprisal. Most employees in the private sector have none. One such process, the administrative grievance process, has been viewed poorly by feds in the past. But I think it works— sometimes.

 

The administrative grievance process is available to employees who are not in a bargaining unit. For those in a bargaining unit, the grievance process is defined by the Collective Bargaining Agreement. I’m talking here only about the administrative grievance process.

 

Here’s generally how it works: Agencies each have a written directive or policy outlining its grievance process. These grievance procedures uniformly define what events are covered and what are not. It’s easy to learn first what workplace events are covered by accessing your agency’s administrative grievance procedures and reading the section on covered versus exempt matters.

 

Second, is timing. Every grievance procedure sets a timeframe by which you must file your grievance. The timeframe runs from the “effective date” of the action (if you are grieving a suspension or reassignment for example) or from the date on when you learned of the matter being grieved, which is earlier. Timeframes generally run from seven to 14 days, depending on your agency. But don’t take my word.

Once something occurs that you believe is unfair, read the procedures to determine how long you have to file a grievance. Often I speak with employees who are upset about a workplace occurrence, but have waited too long to file a grievance.

 

Because the equal employment opportunity (EEO) process has a longer timeframe, it tends to be a process employees view as easier to access. But accessing the EEO process versus the grievance process can be a critical misstep.

 

First, the most essential difference is the element of proof. If, for example, you are upset with a reassignment and invoke the EEO process, you now have the added burden of proving that the reassignment was because of a personal category protected by law, such as your race, color, gender, religion, etc. Proof of an illegal motive is difficult, and in almost all cases in the EEO process fails. However, trying to convince the agency that it made a wrong decision to reassign you because it’s “a do nothing job” designed to punish you because you got into an argument with your boss, or some other unfair reason (not an EEO reason) is easier to prove.

 

Second, the EEO process can be an abyss. It starts with the “informal” EEO counseling process that usually lasts 90 days and often produces no resolution for the employee. From there it moves to the filing of a formal complaint to be investigated and then to the EEOC for a hearing if it remains unresolved. It could be one to two years before anyone in management is willing to deal with your EEO complaint, and by then your life has changed and you may not even be in the same job. In contrast, the administrative grievance process, when not being abused by management, can respond to your grievance in a few weeks to months.

 

Third, if you have a good substantive basis for challenging a workplace event, and not just argument on procedural or technical missteps, then you have a shot at prevailing. Often employees lose grievances over a letter of reprimand or a suspension because they focus on one or more missteps by the agency in how it dealt with their disciplinary action. Those arguments always fail. If, however, you address the underlying event or conduct candidly and with accountability, my experience is one in which agencies are willing to consider what you have to say. All in all, the administrative grievance process when used appropriately is worth consideration. N Debra L. Roth is a partner at the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth in Washington.

 

Source: Debra L. Roth

She is general counsel to the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association, host of the “FEDtalk“ program on Federal News Radio, and a regular contributor to Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show.

GSA amends surplus property rule to detail groups eligible for donation

3. November, 2014|president's briefing|No comments

(November 3, 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: GSA amends surplus property rule to detail groups eligible for donation

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GSA amends surplus property rule to detail groups eligible for donation

By Ryan McDermott  

 

The General Services Administration amended the Federal Management Regulation to change the way it deals with surplus property, a final rule in the Oct. 30 Federal Register says.

The changes include the addition of certain veterans organizations as eligible donation recipients and removing and reserving certain regulations that are no longer required.

The new rule clarifies that GSA can donate property to veterans organizations, for purposes of providing services to veterans. Eligible organizations are those whose membership comprises substantially of veterans and are recognized by the Veterans Affairs Department.

GSA clarified what surplus property doesn’t need to be approved by the GSA’s state agencies for surplus property.

Donations by the Small Business Administration to small disadvantaged businesses are permitted without GSA approval, although collaboration and agreement between the SBA, SASPs and GSA is encouraged, the rule says.

The rule also outlined how SASPs can figure out what property is available for donation.

The SASP must perform on-site screening and the screener must coordinate with the individual holding agency or organization. The screener should also ascertain the identification required and any special procedures for access to the facility or location.

For more:
– read the Federal Register rule

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Read more about: Federal Management RegulationGSA
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