Joe Davidson

Your Drug Enforcement Agency

DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington April 14, 2015. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

Let us face a simple fact: There are plenty of reasons to disdain the Drug Enforcement Agency.

For some, reading through the latest list of scandals to rock the DEA is a perplexing exercise. The War Against Drugs in general has been an ill-conceived disaster, and after all the infamous zeal and excess it is, in fact, another sort of excess that brings the Drug Enforcement Agency to infamy. You know the sort: “sex parties”, suggestions of bribery, beating prostitutes bloody, that sort of thing.

Still, though, Joe Davidson’s reflection on last week’s House Oversight Committee hearing includes a striking consideration:

The lack of authority cited by the Oversight Committee holds ramifications that go beyond the DEA. For a Congress that seems increasingly uncomfortable with the sometimes lengthy due process that must be followed to fire federal employees, the light punishments for DEA agents and Leonhart’s inability to discipline them is reason for Congress to act.

“I can’t fire,” Leonhart said. “I can’t recommend a penalty .... I don’t have the authority to intervene in the disciplinary process.”

To some extent, the members of Congress seemed to hold her responsible for not exercising authority that Congress has not given her. Don’t be surprised if Congress moves to make it easier to fire not just DEA employees but also other federal employees, as it did last year with Department of Veterans Affairs Senior Executive Service members.

So why is the first thought to mind a shrugging sense of, “Sounds about right”?

And then, you know, something about how unequivocal support of law enforcement is required.

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Image note: DEA administrator Michele Leonhart testifies before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform in a hearing on sexual harassment and misconduct allegations at the DEA and FBI in Washington April 14, 2015. REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan

Davidson, Joe. “DEA agents had the fun, now boss pays the price”. The Washington Post. 17 April 2015.

A Little Bit of Good News

Transgender pride

“We’re pushing for equality for all, not just the G’s and L’s.”

Selim Ariturk, GLIFAA

The news isn’t always bad. Joe Davidson brings the good news via The Washington Post:

The State Department, which has been on the leading edge of policies affecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender federal employees, is eliminating the “transgender exclusion” from the agency’s largest health insurance program.Seal of the U.S. Department of State

Insurance policies under the Federal Employees Health Benefits program generally exclude services “related to sex reassignment.”

In practice, this transgender exclusion “denies coverage to transgender people for the same treatments available to non-transgender policy holders, without regard to medical necessity,” the State Department said in a statement. “Insurance companies often view this exclusion in the broadest possible terms, excluding care that clearly has no relationship to gender status such as cancer treatment and routine preventive care.”

But starting in January, the exclusions will no longer be part of the department’s largest health insurance plan, the one provided by the American Foreign Service Protective Association.

And then we might also offer a note for those who think this is somehow terrible news: Really? Does being transgender mean you shouldn’t have insurance coverage for vaccinations, or, say, broken bones as the result of a workplace accident? And if your answer is somehow affirmative, the next question is: What is wrong with you?

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Davidson, Joe. “State Department ends transgender exclusion from health plan”. The Washington Post. 13 October 2014.