Recruitment and retention of top talent is a priority at VA. With our mission to serve those who have served, we know our Veterans deserve nothing less than the best care we can provide. That care comes from talented team members like you.
But as one of America’s best employers, we also know that part of our responsibility is to make sure our employees are well cared for, engaged, supported and empowered to provide Veterans with timely access to world-class health care. To manage that responsibility, we’re moving forward with major steps to make every VA job a good job.
The PACT Act
One of the tools at our disposal is working with our national leaders to develop the Sergeant First Class Heath Robinson Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics (Honoring Our PACT) Act.
This legislation, at its core, would expand disability compensation and health care benefits for Veterans exposed to toxic substances during their military service. However, it also adds more tools to our toolbox with regard to recruitment and retention at VA facilities.
“This is a very important piece of legislation. I think it’d be very difficult to implement, but oftentimes, the most important things are difficult, and I think we’re ready for it,” VA Secretary Denis McDonough told the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs recently.
The PACT Act would give VA much-needed authority to set higher pay caps for certain health care positions.
“The first thing we need to do is retain the docs that we have, and you’re giving us new authorities to do that. Pay is a big one,” McDonough said.
The act also expands recruitment and retention bonuses for VA employees, including merit awards and pay incentives for employees with a high-demand skill. In particular, the critical-skills incentive can offer you up to 25% of your base pay as compensation for your expertise.
All this follows on the heels of the RAISE Act, passed earlier in 2022, which raised the pay caps for certain VA nurses and physician assistants. About 10,000 nurses saw a salary increase thanks to this legislation.
Easier hiring practices
Another point of improvement is overhauling the recruitment and hiring process. We know that the process can take some time, and that can be a deterrent for applicants. However, extended direct-hire authorities for health care workers will make that process easier.
“The direct-hire authority, of the many variables in the equation of bringing people on, it’s perhaps the most impactful. It accounts for probably a third of the savings we were able to get, in terms of time to hire,” said McDonough. “But the hiring and onboarding process is still so sclerotic that we’re finding things that can change.”
For example, the PACT Act will offer expedited hiring authority for college graduates into competitive service jobs. The act is also designed to give us up to $40 million a year to buy out the contracts of private-sector health care professionals in exchange for their support of our rural VA facilities.
Investing in our workforce
Over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, our employees ensured that VA did not weaken or slow down. Those efforts were on display when our workforce held the line and carried on with our mission. We saw less than half the departures of the private health care industry during the pandemic, so the work we’re doing has made a difference.
Since 2018, VA has seen annual decreases in the number of severe employment shortages, with our facilities reporting a 10% reduction in shortages in that time. In some cases, our facilities have been able to avoid any severe staffing shortages entirely.
VA only can get stronger and will continue to take care of Veterans when they need it most. Our team has risen to the occasion repeatedly, and we are doing more to invest in employees because they are the foundation that make all the excellent services we provide possible.
Work at VA
We’re taking steps to make sure that our team members are treated the way we treat our Veterans: with dignity, with honor, and as valued members of our VA community.