President Trump has signed the latest in a series of bills targeting personnel policies at the VA, this one focusing mostly on hiring practices that could become a precedent for government-wide application, since many agencies face the same issues in hiring for positions in high-demand occupations.

A White House announcement said S-114 “empowers the VA to hire the very best people at competitive rates for senior positions so our veterans receive the best care possible. The Act expands the VA’s direct-hiring authority, which will increase the speed at which the VA can onboard qualified people for VA jobs.”

That follows the earlier signing of a separate bill strengthening management’s hand in taking disciplinary actions against employees.

The newest changes include: creating a central database of vacancies in critical-need positions so that applicants not chosen can be quickly considered for a similar vacancy; expand direct hire authority to more occupations where there is a severe shortage of candidates; expand to more occupations a requirement that VA annually assess staffing shortages in its medical branch; allow higher salaries for physician assistants; boost training for HR officials on recruitment and retention; and begin a health care management exchange program with the private sector open to employees at GS-14 and above.

It also would: require that political appointees be assessed on their performance in recruitment and retention, engaging and motivating employees, training and developing employees, and holding managers accountable for addressing poor performance; create a track for employees with certain technical skills to be promoted to higher levels without going into management; broaden opportunities for students and recent graduates to be hired non-competitively into permanent positions after completing internship or fellowship programs; require a standard exit survey to better understand why employees leave; and require the VA to produce a plan for filling vacant medical center director positions.