justice scales on a table

MSPB: Bill to revive board advances

Legislation that would authorize the Merit Systems Protection Board for the next half-decade advanced in committee this week—finally giving hope to federal employees that the long-crippled appeals panel might someday soon be back in business. 

The House Committee on Oversight and Reform approved the bill, long in the making. 

The panel historically was founded subsequent to passage of the Civil Service Reform Act, enacted in 1978, and related executive orders that followed. In the decades since, the board served as a cheaper and faster alternative to federal courts in adjudicating appeals of adverse personnel decisions, retirement and disability benefits decisions and other functions. 

That is, until recent years, when MSPB has been stymied by long periods of more than one vacancy. That's the situation right now. Under such circumstances, the three-member panel cannot form a quorum to handle employee or retiree appeals at all. There has been a long delay in resolving the issue, and as critics complain a factor has been a lasting shortage of bipartisanship in Washington. 

“Our committee took an important step today in protecting federal employees and whistleblowers,” Rep. Gerry Connolly, who chairs the committee and has co-sponsored the bill.  “We need a functioning MSPB, and our bill will provide certainty that the Board is authorized through 2026.” 

“But this is only one piece of the puzzle,” Connolly added. “The Senate must confirm new Board members expeditiously so that we can reduce the unacceptable backlog of more than 3,000 claims pending.”

The bill, called the Merit System Protections Board Empowerment Act, is supported by a wide range of federal employee unions and advocacy organizations. These include the National Federation of Federal Employees (NFFE), the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association (NARFE), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers (IFPTE), the good government group Partnership for Public Service (PPS), the Government Accountability Project (GAP), the National Whistleblower Center (NWC) as well as the National Taxpayers Union (NTU).

2021 Digital Almanac

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