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Federal Employees News Digest : Sep 2, 2013
said. "Egan leans on this [to restrict court power], saying that because of the president's privilege, the courts cannot second-guess the decisions of the presi- dent or his administration here." "There is a chance that the Supreme Court will act on this," Mahoney told FEND. "Do I think it's likely? I cannot say." New debt ceiling deadline in October A new fight over raising the federal debt limit is likely in coming weeks as the U.S. government edges closer to default. Treasury Secretary Jack Lew notified congressional leaders in an Aug. 26 let- ter that the "extraordinary measures" the Treasury Department began to imple- ment in mid-May when the government reached its statutory debt limit will soon run their course and be exhausted, leav- ing the Treasury only with the cash it has on hand---and no borrowing author- ity---to cover the 80 million payments the department must make every month. Based on current estimates, Lew said, the department estimates that those extraordinary measures will be exhaust- ed in mid-October. In his letter, Lew alluded back to a similar missive he sent to top lawmakers in May on reaching the debt limit, not- ing: "As I stated in that letter, Congress should act as soon as possible to protect America's good credit by extending nor- mal borrowing authority well before the risk of default becomes imminent." Relying only on cash on hand, Lew said, "would place the United States in an unacceptable position." “A cash balance of approximately $50 billion would be insufficient to cover net expenditures for an extended period of time. And, on certain days, net expendi- tures could exceed such a cash balance," he wrote. "Under any circumstance---in light of its schedule, the inherent variability of cash flows, and the dire consequence of miscalculation---Congress must act before the middle of October," Lew con- cluded. To see the letter, go to: www.treasury. gov/initiatives/Documents/082613%20 Debt%20Limit%20Letter%20to%20 Congress.pdf. Study reports lax oversight of bonus pay for VA providers A new Government Accountability Office report found that the Veterans Health Administration does not exercise sufficient oversight of the performance pay and awards it pays each year to healthcare providers at VHA medical centers. GAO said that according to data pro- vided by VA, in fiscal 2011 more than 18,500—or about 80 percent—of the nearly 22,500 VHA providers received almost $150 million in performance pay, for an average of $8,049 per provider who received the pay. More than 4,000 providers, or about 20 percent, received more than $10 million in performance awards in fiscal 2011, for an average of $2,587 per provider who received an award, the study said. But GAO said VHA oversight of those payments is not adequate to ensure that medical centers comply with performance pay and award require- ments. Auditors said the Department of Veterans Affairs’ performance pay policy has gaps in information needed to prop- erly administer this type of pay. While the policy grants VA’s 152 medi- cal centers and 21 networks discretion to set the goals providers must achieve to receive the pay, the policy does not does "not specify an overarching purpose the goals are to support," according to the report. “VA officials responsible for writ- ing the policy told us that the pur- pose of performance pay is to improve health care outcomes and quality, but this is not specified in the policy," GAO stated. “Moreover, the Veterans Health Administration has not reviewed the goals set by medical centers and net- works and therefore does not have rea- sonable assurance that the goals make a clear link between performance pay and providers' performance." At four medical centers GAO visited for the study, all the providers it reviewed who were eligible for performance pay received it---including all five provid- ers among them who had an action taken against them related to clinical performance in the same year the pay was given. According to the report, pro- vider performance issues in those cases included "failing to read mammograms and other complex images competently, practicing without a current license, and leaving residents unsupervised during surgery." GAO also said VA’s performance pay policy concerning how to document cer- tain decisions related to performance pay is unclear. The policy does not, for example, offer clear guidance on what to document regarding whether a provid- er's performance-related action should result in the reduction or denial of the provider's performance pay. VA’s performance award policy, on the other hand, does clearly state the purpose of the awards, GAO said: They are given to recognize sustained performance of providers beyond normal job require- ments as reflected in the provider's most recent performance rating. GAO noted that VHA began conduct- ing annual consultative reviews in 2011 to help medical centers comply with human resources requirements---includ- ing performance award requirements. But GAO said those reviews do not yet include a standard list of performance pay elements to review, and reviewers do not have authority to require medical centers to resolve compliance problems they identify. Moreover, VHA has not formally assigned specific organizational responsibility to ensure medical centers September 2, 2013 Vol. 63, No. 7 4 Visit us on the Internet at www.FederalDaily.com continued from page 3 continued on page 5
Aug 26, 2013
Sep 9, 2013