Federal Employee Benefits under Attack

Workers throughout the federal government face risk of job loss and reduced benefits as the government (seemingly) systematically works its way through various departments, trimming federal benefits and federal employment.

Federal Employee

Federal Employee Probationary Periods Extended

Legislation takes hits at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Internal Revenue Service and the Department of Defense. Legislation is currently under consideration that would extend the probationary period for federal employees from one year to 18 months or two years.

Currently, many federal employees must undergo a yearlong temporary status before they qualify for permanent hiring (and access to federal benefits). If this proposal passed, many federal employees, including postal workers, could have to wait two years.

This probationary period also makes it easy for employers to fire the “temporary” employees. Once a federal employee passes their probationary period, it is much more difficult to let the employee go. Other side effects include delays in pay raises and delay in length of service and veteran considerations. This legislation specifically applies to employees at the VA and the Pentagon, but could eventually affect federal employees in other capacities.

Federal Employee Bonuses Stripped

Additionally, employees at the Veterans Affairs Office are likely to lose bonuses if they are known to have participated in a recent whistleblowing scandal that involved veterans on electronic waiting lists. The concern from the American Federation of Government Employees is that the bill, which allows the removal of these bonuses, provides too much freedom in the acting out of the bonus stripping. While the AFGE did not argue against stripping bonuses from those who manipulated the system, they fear that managers could abuse the policy.

The VA is not the only one facing bonus issues. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved a 2106 fiscal budget for the IRS that is nearly $500 million less than the budget for this year. This decrease also comes with a stipulation that prohibits the use of the money for bonuses or the rehiring of former employees unless under the strictest of considerations.

VA Appeals Reduced

Federal Employees facing termination, demotion or the loss of a bonus will still have the right to appeal the decision. However, a new bill reduces the length of time the employee has to appeal the decision to only 7 days. In the past 7 days has been a minimum, with most federal employees qualifying or up to 30 days to file an appeal.

The bill stipulates that if the employee files an appeal in time, then the judge must return a decision within 45 days or else the original decision stays in force. Additionally, federal employees at the VA would have the option to appeal the judge’s opinion.

While proponents of the bill claim the purpose is to create a fair process for Veterans and tax payers by removing poorly-performing employees, others argue that the legislation tramples on an employee’s right to fair notice and eliminates the opportunity for them to challenge adverse action. Additionally, opponents fear that a 45-day limit on the judge would make it more difficult for fair judgement.

 

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