Cincinnati - Feb 2020: VA Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. Image: Jonathan Weiss/Shutterstock.com

The Senate has scheduled voting as soon as this week on a number of enhanced salary, bonus and incentive payment authorities for the VA it has attached to a bill (HR-3967) to enhance benefits for veterans who were exposed to toxic chemicals from military burn pits.

Those provisions include: requiring the VA to establish standard qualifications and performance metrics for HR positions and produce a plan for improving hiring for those positions; allowing expedited hiring of recent college graduates for certain positions; enhancing various special pay, bonus and awards authorities department-wide; and raising pay caps on certain positions.

Also: ordering the VA to assess staffing shortages in rural clinics and other health care facilities and produce a national plan to improve recruiting and hiring in rural areas; and allowing VA to pay to buy out contracts of certain health care providers in exchange for commitments to work at rural VA facilities for at least four years.

Following Senate passage the bill would move back to the House, which earlier approved similar provisions regarding the burn pit issue. The House likely would accept the added personnel provisions since it has separately advanced several bills toward the same ends.

Forthcoming Presumptive Conditions for Veterans Exposed to Burn Pits, Agent Orange, and Radiation
The Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act, or PACT Act, will provide for 23 presumptive connections for Veterans exposed to burn pits. The Act will also include new benefits for Veterans who were exposed to radiation during the Cold War. Additionally, hypertension and monoclonal gammopathy will be added to the list of presumptive conditions for Agent Orange exposure during the Vietnam War.

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