Friday federal headlines - May 17, 2013

Friday - 5/17/2013, 10:37am EDT

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear Federal Drive hosts Tom Temin and Emily Kopp discuss throughout the show each day. The Newscast is designed to give FederalNewsRadio.com users more information about the stories you hear on the air.

  • Ousted IRS leader Steven Miller goes before the House Ways and Means Committee today. Lawmakers will grill him about the agency's treatment of conservative political groups that applied for tax-exempt status. Members are also complaining that the IRS never told them about the targeting, despite repeated questions. One of Miller's top deputies, Joseph Grant, says he'll be retiring in two weeks. Meanwhile, President Barack Obama has named Danny Werfel to be the acting IRS chief. Werfel is the controller of the Office of Management and Budget. And the president says "no" to the idea of a special prosecutor with other investigations into the agency going on. (Federal News Radio)

  • The Defense Department wants to give military service members who perform more than one valorous act the Medal of Honor, instead of the current "V" device. DoD's request to repeal a decades-old law that restricts a service member to receiving only one Medal of Honor is part of proposed legislation introduced by Rep. Buck McKeon (R-Calif.). Medal of Honor recipients receive $1,000 a month in special pay as part of their award. But this new proposal specifically rejects the idea of providing twice the pay for anyone who receives more than one medal. (Air Force Times)

  • Federal credit unions are offering special programs for federal employees facing furloughs. The Treasury Department's credit union, for one, is offering special loans, loan extensions, lines of credit and loan modification and refinancing. Meanwhile, a group offering emergency loans to furloughed feds says there hasn't been much demand. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund says it granted one loan to an FAA employee furloughed before Congress passed a measure letting that agency reprogram money. FEEA says it gets requests daily but applications are slow. Feds must have short paychecks to qualify. That hasn't happened yet at most agencies. (NAFCU)

  • A team of researchers from the University of Alabama at Birmingham were able to trigger malware hidden in mobile devices from 55 feet away in a crowded hallway just by using music. They were also successful using lighting from a television, computer monitor and overhead bulbs and vibrations from a subwoofer. Phys.org, a science and technology newswire, reports the research was presented at recent security symposium in China. (Phys.org)

  • The Pentagon formally recognized that there are transgender veterans. The head of OutServe-SLDN — a national organization for LGBT service members, veterans and their families — told BuzzFeed this represents a shift in the way transgender people are viewed within the institution of the United States military. LGBT advocates say this is a first step in the process to open transgender military service. (BuzzFeed)

  • The Senate has confirmed physicist Ernest Moniz as the new Energy secretary. The vote was unanimous. Moniz, an MIT professor, also served as an Energy undersecretary in the Clinton administration. He'll replace Steven Chu. Senate committees have approved two other Cabinet nominees, along party lines: Thomas Perez as Labor secretary and Gina McCarthy to lead the EPA. Perez is now the head of civil rights at the Justice Department. McCarthy is the EPA's assistant administrator. Meanwhile, Senate Republicans say they won't support five nominees to the National Labor Relations Board. (Federal News Radio)

  • The House Appropriations Committee is considering spending bills that look more like the White House's budget plan than one the chamber passed earlier this year. A big winner would be the Department of Homeland Security. It would not face the same big cuts as other domestic agencies. In fact, spending on the Border Batrol could go up. A subcommittee approved a plan that would give DHS the ability to hire 1,600 more agents. Meanwhile, committee leaders are calling for cuts in labor, education and health programs, foreign and housing aid, the EPA and transportation. (Federal News Radio)

  • A new Senate bill tackles the benefits claims backlog at the Veterans Affairs Department by letting vets begin by going around the VA's system. The measure is sponsored by Minnesota's two senators, Al Franken (D) and Tim Walz (R). It would let patients see their local doctors for an initial diagnosis thus avoiding long wait times at VA hospitals. The lawmakers say that will help the department conserve resources and make more accurate rating decisions. The measure would require VA to award interim benefits to disabled vets based on those initial diagnoses. (Sen. Al Franken)