The federal workers, honored for their contributions to the public's health, safety and security, are contenders for eight Service to America Medals, including Federal Employee of the Year. The nonprofit organization will celebrate the finalists at a breakfast on Tuesday and will announce the winners in September at a black-tie gala in Washington.
The finalists hail from agencies across government, including four nominees from the Veterans Affairs Department. For example, Alfonso Batres, chief officer of the readjustment counseling service at the Veterans Health Administration, has spent his career building a network of community-based centers that provide vets with counseling, job assistance and medical referrals. Other finalists include:
- Diane Braunstein, associate commissioner of the Social Security Administration's Office of International Programs, who created a system for terminally and seriously ill individuals to receive approval for Social Security benefits more quickly.
- C. Norman Coleman, associate director of the radiation research program at National Cancer Institute, who developed a strategy for the United States to deal with the repercussions of a radiological or nuclear incident, and helped Japan respond to the problems with its nuclear power plants after the recent earthquake and tsunami.
- Taryn Guariglia, special agent for the Internal Revenue Service's criminal investigation, who headed the investigation of a Ponzi scheme that led to a 50-year prison sentence for a South Florida lawyer who swindled more than $1 billion from investors.
- Michael B. Smith, director of strategic sourcing at the Homeland Security Department, who saved taxpayers more than $750 million by consolidating the buying power of 22 agencies and offices within DHS.
"Amid the recent budget battles regarding the size and scope of government, the people who do our nation's work often go unnoticed," said Max Stier, president and chief executive officer of the Partnership for Public Service. "That's why the Service to America Medals are so important -- they showcase the good that our public servants do each and every day. You're seeing government at its very best."
The 34 finalists were chosen from among 400 nominations. The medals are accompanied by monetary awards ranging from $3,000 to $10,000.