VA and House Veterans Affairs Push to Limit VA SES Appeal Rights
Last week during a budget hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee, Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald proposed moving VA Senior Executive Service (SES) members from Title 5 to Title 38 status.
This change would alter the grievance and appeals process for senior executives when a disciplinary action is filed. It would allow a senior executive to be demoted or fired without cause and that decision would be final. They would not be afforded an appeal to the independent agency that adjudicates appeals – the Merit Systems Protection Bureau (MSPB).
At the hearing, Secretary McDonald said, “It seemed to us that the merit board judges didn’t understand Congress’ intent or our intent in punishing those employees.”
The chairman of the House Committee on Veterans Affairs Rep. Jeff Miller (R-FL) has also been a critic of the recent MSPB’s rulings.
“MSPB coddles and protects misbehaving employees rather than facilitating fair and efficient discipline,” he said in a statement. “And as long as we have a system in place that requires a similar standard to discipline federal workers as it does to send criminals to prison, accountability problems at VA and across the government will only continue.”
“By passing the Choice Act, Congress and regrettably this Administration, intended the appeal procedures to be nothing more than a ruse of fairness. Because as soon as the VA’s disciplinary actions were found not to be sustainable as a matter of law, the VA proposed now to move all career executives into Title 38, where they would become at-will and have no independent appeal review of actions taken against them. That will surely lead to the politicization of the delivery of care and benefits throughout the entire VA workforce, as these at-will executives will now serve at the complete pleasure of the political arm of the VA.”
The MSPB also weighed in with a statement of its own:
“Indeed, as MSPB noted in its August 21, 2014 Report to Congress, the 2014 Act made only two changes to the MSPB adjudication process: 1) it shortened the time under which appellants must file appeals and which MSPB administrative judges must issue decisions; and 2) it removed the full Board from the MSPB adjudication process. The 2014 Act did not change any statutory burden of proof to be applied in these appeals. Therefore, unless the law is changed, these statutory burdens of proof continue to apply, as they do in all other appeals filed at MSPB.”
Posted in From the Hill