Newsbytes June 7, 2024

In this issue:
Concurrent Receipt Vote
Hearing on VA’s PACT Act Bonus Mess
VA PACT Act events
Court Says Coast Guard Forced Senior Enlisted to Retire

Concurrent Receipt Vote
The FRA signed a letter to Speaker Mike Johnson (La.), Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY), House Rules Committee Chairman Michael Burgess (Tex.), and Ranking Member Jim McGovern (Mass.), requesting that the House Rules Committee waive the “CUTGO rule” on the Major Richard Star Act (H.R. 1282) for inclusion in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2025 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This legislation was reported out of the House Committee on Armed Services with unanimous consent and is supported by more than two-thirds of the 118th Congress, with 326 cosponsors in the House and 73 in the Senate.

FRA urges members to contact their legislators to ask them to express their support for the Major Richard Star Act amendments to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that will be voted on by the House Rules Committee. The vote is scheduled for next Tuesday, and we need Congress to understand how important this issue is to their constituents. Please contact them immediately!

HVAC Oversight Hearing on VA’s PACT Act Bonus Mess
The House Committee on Veterans Affairs (HVAC) held an oversight hearing entitled, “Bonus Blunder: Examining VA’s Improper Decision to Award Senior Executives Millions in Incentives,” in response to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Office of Inspector General’s (OIG) report, entitled “VA Improperly Awarded $10.8 Million in Incentives to Central Office Senior Executives.”

The Committee examined how the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) and Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) officials made the calculated decision to pay 200 VA central office senior executives an average of $60,000 in critical skill incentive bonus payments. These bonuses, as authorized by Congress, were intended for high-demand healthcare and benefits support staff who are vital to VA’s operations following the implementation of the comprehensive veterans' toxic exposure law (PACT Act P.L. 117-168). Both the HVAC Chairman and the Ranking Member expressed concern about the apparent misuse of funding. OIG Inspector General Michael J. Missal stated that “nearly all eligible senior executives in VHA and VBA at the central office were awarded the incentive pay for critical skill retention with VHA providing only the most cursory justification and neither administration conducting an objective assessment of what was needed, if anything, to retain them.”

VA Secretary Denis McDonough stated in his testimony that this was a “series of massive mistakes” and went on to say, “VA erred in the way this CSI authority for career senior executives working at VA Central Office (VACO) was implemented and executed. Upon realizing the error in mid-September 2023, I promptly called each of you and explained this error. At my direction, the VA immediately canceled and began recoupment of all CSI payments made to these VACO career senior executives. The VA also began instituting additional reviews and stronger controls for all CSIs awarded to VACO career senior executives, paused all future awards to senior executives, and referred the matter to VA’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). OIG issued a report last month that described its review of the matter and made findings and recommendations. VA concurred with OIG’s findings and the Inspector General’s recommendations and immediately began implementing them. This work is still underway.”

Members can view the hearing at:

VA PACT Act events in all 50 states, DC, and Puerto Rico this Summer
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it will host the second annual PACT Act Summer VetFest — featuring more than 100 Summer VetFest events in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico — to encourage veterans and survivors to apply for the health care and benefits they have earned under the PACT Act. This is the largest outreach campaign in VA history — which has driven historic applications for VA health care and benefits. These events will take place from June through August of this year. These events will be casual, family-friendly gatherings featuring veterans and their families, veteran advocates, and the VA health care and benefits professionals who serve them. At the events, VA staff will be ready to help veterans apply for PACT Act-related benefits, enroll in VA health care, get screened for toxic exposures, and more.

For more information, go to:

Court Says Coast Guard Forced Senior Enlisted to Retire
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit upheld a lower court's 2021 decision that the Coast Guard's use of "Career Retention Screening Panels" to separate service members who were E-7 or higher was a violation of federal law. The court ruled that the Coast Guard illegally forced hundreds of senior enlisted members into retirement while arguing the move was meant to help it restructure the force.

The original case was filed by several Coast Guard retirees who had served 20 or more years and were all forced to retire between 2012 and 2014, but the complaint noted it was "brought on behalf of the hundreds of Coast Guard members who were involuntarily retired." It asked the court to void their involuntary retirements and provide back pay.

The court decision states, “The Coast Guard can, if proper procedures are followed, reduce the size of its workforce by reducing billets,” but clarified that this is distinctly different from “emptying a position simply to fill it with another person.”

With the appeal period having lapsed without any action by the Coast Guard to seek a Supreme Court review, the appellate judgment is final. Nathan Mammen, the attorney representing the Coast Guard veterans, celebrated this as “a fantastic win for hundreds of senior Coast Guard veterans who served our country for decades.”

NewsBytes is FRA's weekly legislative update. If you received this through a forward and would like to subscribe, please e-mail us  and include your name and contact information in the body of e-mail. If you are a member of FRA or LA FRA, please include your member number.


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