VA Hiring, Official Time Bills Introduced

Newly offered legislation in the House (HR-3158) is designed to boost the VA’s ability to recruit and retain employees by: strengthening its direct hire authority, particularly in rural areas; improving its ability to attract college students and recent graduates through its Pathways Program; establishing a database for vacant and hard-to-fill positions; and expediting hiring for leadership positions by making the application process more attractive to private sector employees.

The bill is the latest in a series of proposals aimed at the persistent problem of vacancies at the department due to competition from other employers for health care professionals.

Also introduced was S-1477, to prohibit the use of official time for labor-organizing activities by VA employees unless all veterans seeking hospital care or medical services from the VA are able to receive an appointment within the 30-day wait-time goal set by a 2014 law.

Sponsor Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., said that VA employees annually spend 1.1 million work hours in official time status and that 346 employees–about one in one thousand at the department–are on official time status full-time. Numerous other bills affecting official time are pending in Congress, as well.