Members of the US House of Representatives went home for the August recess on July 28 without making any final decisions on cuts to retirement benefits.
Senator Chuck Grassley (R-IA) and Representative Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) expressed grave concern over a May 3 memorandum memo from HHS Secretary Tom Price's chief of staff, Lance Leggitt, which instructed employees not to have "any communications" with members of Congress or their staffs without first consulting the department's assistant secretary for legislation. Senator Grassley and Red Chaffetz said the memo was "potentially illegal and unconstitutional" infringement on whistleblowers' rights to call attention to waste, fraud and abuse in the executive branch.
One of the advantages of being a member of the Federal Physician Association is that the Association has no restrictions in communicating with Congress and physicians who are members can contact Congress as a member and no as a government employee.
On May 11, 2017 a bipartisan group of Senators introduced the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act to reform the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) by allowing the Secretary to dismiss employees who are not performing and ensure appropriate due process protections for whistleblowers. The bill is a Congressional response to problems encountered by the VA in the last several years.
The bill increases the VA's authority to remove employees at all levels of the department, shortens the removal process and ensures an individual removed from the VA is not kept on the VA's payroll while appealing that decision. It will also make it easier for the VA to remove poor performing senior executives and replace them with qualified candidates. Additionally, any appeals by senior VA executives would no longer be brought before the bureaucratic Merit Systems Protection Board, but instead would be handled directly by the VA secretary under an expedited timeline.
The Senate has released further details of a bill regarding performance evaluations for civilian employees. Provisions in the bill would double, for those hired after the enactment date, the standard probationary period from one year to two—two-year periods already apply to certain positions—and would allow management to extend the period at its discretion.
The probationary period is a job evaluation time in which employees have far fewer rights to appeal personnel actions up to and including firing. The measure also would change the law so that periods in which employees' work performance is rated as unacceptable would not count in the time toward the employee's next within-grade raise, again effective on enactment. Further, for RIFs, the bill says the determination of which employees are to be separated "shall be made primarily on the basis of performance, as determined under any applicable performance management system."
The Federal Physicians Association has been trying to get details of the new performance management system impact of federal physicians and continues to request answers to a number of issues.
Members of the Federal Physicians Association who want more information on any of these developments should send an email to the office using the questions section below.