*** The Senate approved a resolution late on Jan. 10 to ensure that federal workers affected by the shutdown would be paid when funding is restored. Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) threatened to block the Senate's adjournment resolution unless assurances were made that feds would be "made whole" for their furloughs and unpaid work. After Trump told Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) he would sign such a bill, it was passed by unanimous consent.
"This is not the same thing as knowing when the shutdown will be over," Kaine said in a Facebook post, "but it is the right thing to do for us to show these hardworking Americans we’re there for them."
*** The Department of Veterans Affairs is changing gears on an effort to rebid a troubled contract to allow agency benefits systems to process claims under the Forever GI Bill. Veterans had trouble claiming housing allowances included with an educational benefit when systems couldn't compute payments. VA had to shift to manual processing, leading to a backlog that attracted the attention of lawmakers and the media.
Congress quickly passed a bill, signed into law on Jan. 3, which put the spotlight on VA's deadline of Dec. 1, 2019, to replace the system and required the establishment of a "tiger team" to oversee the process.
Before the law passed, VA was moving to correct the problems. Last November, the agency announced it was pulling the IT contract from Booz Allen Hamilton, and on Dec. 10, the agency released a request for information to industry for a contractor to take over the troubled contract. VA held an industry day in December and a representative from Booz Allen attended.
On Jan. 10, the VA announced the procurement would not be set-aside for service-disabled veteran small businesses and said that a vendor would be selected from the VA's Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation contract vehicle known as T4NG.
*** Federal employees whose appropriately scheduled annual leave was affected by the shutdown may be able to roll it over into the New Year.
Office of Personnel Management acting Director Margaret Weichert issued guidance to agency heads clarifying that as long as leave was scheduled in advance of the Nov. 24, 2018, deadline, agencies should restore any of this "use-or-lose" leave lost at the end of the 2018 year resulting from the appropriations lapse to both furloughed and excepted employees.
"Employing agencies are responsible for determining whether an employee met the advance scheduling requirement, based on OPM regulations and agency policies and procedures," the guidance reads. "We remind agencies, however, that any previously restored annual leave that was due to expire at the end of the 2018 leave year ... and was subsequently forfeited, may not be restored again -- even if the forfeiture was due to the lapse in appropriations."
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