VA Needs Better Relocation Incentive Tracking, Flu Season Approaches and More

A weekly round-up of pay and benefits news.

A government watchdog said the Veteran Affairs Department should do more to track the effectiveness of a program that helps relocating employees sell their homes.

A Government Accountability Office report released Tuesday said VA has taken steps to tighten its internal controls over its use of the General Services Administration’s Appraised Value Offer program in response to a 2015 report from the agency’s inspector general. But the agency does not adequately track the program’s usage in order to better inform future decision-making on its deployment.

AVO is a program that federal agencies can use to recruit and relocate employees for mission critical positions where a GSA contractor will help find a purchaser for the employee’s home—or purchase it outright.

In 2014, Diana Rubens, senior executive director of the Veterans Benefits Administration's Philadelphia office, was accused of abusing her authority to secure a transfer from Washington, D.C., to her current position, along with nearly $310,000 in relocation costs, including more than $200,000 through AVO.

Rubens was demoted while she under investigation, but that decision was overturned by a judge in 2016.

Last year, VA made a number of improvements to its administration of the program. Officials now must obtain approval for the use of AVO before it starts a recruitment campaign, and applicants must provide written justification that the job fills a critical need and that previous attempts to hire for the position—without AVO—proved fruitless.

Additionally, use of AVO in recruitment for jobs at the Senior Executive Service level require a secretarial waiver and trigger notification of Congress.

While VA tracks the number of times AVO is used, the amount of money spent through the program and whether employees who use AVO are members of the SES, it does not have the ability to track its overall effectiveness. Agency officials told auditors that they do not have “the resources or capabilities to track such data.”

“VA officials stated AVO is beneficial for hard-to-fill SES positions and for mission critical skills occupations,” GAO wrote. “However, VA does not track data to determine whether AVO improves the recruitment and retention of employees.”

The report’s authors said that by better tracking the usage of AVO, VA officials can make better decisions about where and when to deploy the program in its efforts to improve recruitment, particularly in rural areas, regions with a high cost of living and places that have experienced physician and nurse shortages.

“As VA continues to seek ways to address its recruitment and retention challenges, collecting such data could be useful in identifying trends and options for targeting certain occupations or skill sets that may improve the agency’s use of home sales to support relocation,” GAO wrote. “Without tracking these data, VA will be unable to determine whether the use of AVO is improving recruitment and retention.”

VA concurred with GAO’s recommendation to improve its tracking of the program, and said it is “working to improve its reporting capabilities” to better analyze the agency’s use of AVO.

Elsewhere in the federal bureaucracy, officials at the Office of Personnel Management and the Health and Human Services Department are encouraging federal workers to get vaccinated ahead of flu season.

Acting OPM Director Kathleen McGettigan and HHS Secretary Tom Price sent a joint memo to federal employees laying out the dangers of influenza and the importance of annual inoculations against the virus.

“[The flu] causes between 140,000 [and] 710,000 hospitalizations, 12,000 [and] 56,000 deaths, and costs billions to the economy [every year],” they wrote. “Although proper etiquette for coughs and sneezes, frequent hand-washing, and other good health behaviors can help, experts agree a flu vaccine is the best way to protect against the flu.”

They noted that the flu vaccine is available as part of the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, and that most FEHB plans cover shots administered at pharmacies and other retail stores, in addition to the traditional doctor’s office or clinic. Patients can get the vaccine without co-pays if they go in-network.

McGettigan and Price said many federal agencies offer the flu shot on-site, and they encouraged workers to ask their supervisors for information about if and when such an opportunity will be available at their workplace.

Meanwhile, OPM announced Wednesday that it had authorized an emergency leave transfer program for employees affected by Hurricane Irma. The program allows federal employees to donate unused annual leave so that employees impacted by the storm can take time off to recover without needing to use their own paid leave. OPM authorized a similar effort for feds affected by Hurricane Harvey.

"OPM continues to support federal agencies in the regions devastated by Hurricane Irma, and the issuance of this recent ELTP is just one of the ways our agency is helping our colleagues in need,” McGettigan said in a statement. "Our thoughts are with those affected and we wish them continued safety and a quick recovery."

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.