Attorney Debra D'Agostino recently appeared on the Federal Drive radio
show with Tom Temin to discuss Veterans' Affairs’ latest proposal
to move all their senior managers into Title 38. Title 38 is a classification
that was created specifically for doctors and medical workers who provide
direct care for patients, not for executives.
VA Secretary Bob McDonald's reasoning for the shift is that the bigger
Title 38 salaries would make it easier to attract suitable candidates
from the private sector for the growing number of VA manager vacancies.
However, Attorney D'Agostino believes the reasoning goes beyond that,
citing recent discipline issues the VA has publically mishandled.
As she explains, those employed under Title 38 are paid more, but they
also give up certain rights during an adverse action. There is an appeals
process, but the final "court" of that process is the VA secretary.
Most notably, those under Title 38 do not have access to the Merit Systems
Protections Board (MSPB), which allows those facing an adverse action
more rights and appeal options. Attorney D'Agostino believes that
having more power over the discipline process (and removing due process)
might be attractive to an agency that has had several recent executive
conduct scandals. She also noted that the Title 38 salary boost was not
significant enough to really compete with private sector numbers.
"Off With Their Heads"
Attorney D'Agostino also admits, however, that the language in Secretary
Bob McDonald's proposal isn't specific enough to point to hidden
agenda and, in fact, seems to leave room for a discipline process that
differs from the standard one in place for Title 38. "My big concern
with this proposal is that it is incredibly vague as to what is going
to happen if there is an adverse action," she told Tom Temin.
In the end, Attorney D'Agostino felt that the proposal would do little
to help the VA with their discipline issues, if implemented. "This
does very to get at what the problem is," she said. "This kind
of off-with-their-heads mentality doesn't seem to be fixing anything."
To hear all of Attorney Debra D'Agostino's interview on Federal
Drive with Tom Temin, visit the
Federal Drive site here.