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MSPB chief reviews challenging year for agency

Last year was difficult year for the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). The Board, which is responsible for hearing appeals from administrative law judge decisions related to federal employee disciplinary, adverse actions and other employment law cases.

The MSPB began the year swamped with 30,000 furlough cases caused by the sequestration in 2013. And it had to deal with new, rapid appeals process for senior executive service (SES), which has already demonstrated the shortcomings of the new process.

Both the furloughs and the SES termination process are problematic examples of how ill-thought through "solutions" for questionable problems often cause more problems than they solve and cost everyone more in time and expense.

Sequestration was supposed to help Congress and the President reach a budget deal. It did, but only after thousands of federal employees were subjected to furloughs and many appealed the unfair imposition of this process, which left many with unpaid time off.

The Board has been forced to sift through the appeals, which ballooned their docket from an average of about 5,000 cases a year to more than 16,000. None of this was necessary, and in the final accounting, probably saved few tax dollars.

In the wake of the Veterans Affairs hospital scheduling scandal, Congress pushed through legislation that reduced the time for hearing cases involving SES employees to little more than three weeks.

In one case already heard in the new process, the director of a VA hospital was terminated, which was upheld on appeal, but not for the alleged scheduling manipulation. The VA was unable to adequately develop its case against the director on that allegation, and may have been forced to reinstate her if that had been the only grounds for the firing.

This suggests that while an agency may be able to fire SES level employee more quickly, they may not be able to support their grounds for termination.

Federalnewsradio.com, "MSPB inundated with furlough, VA SES cases from 2014," Jory Heck, February 19, 2015

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