The VA has announced what it calls a “human infrastructure plan” involving a range of financial and other benefits to employees, partly in response to increasing turnover due to the pandemic’s stresses on the workforce and rising salaries available in the private sector for medical personnel.
On the financial side, this is to include waiving limits on bonuses for work done during the pandemic and increasing the limit on retention incentives from 25 to 50 percent of salary; raising the income cap from $89,000 to $149,000 per year for eligibility for child care subsidies of up to $500 a month; and “funding scholarship programs for employees and working with the President on loan forgiveness.” The VA meanwhile is supporting legislation pending in Congress to increase pay caps for certain medical professions.
Other priorities include (in its words) to: increase opportunities to advance at VA by growing future leaders and opening the door to opportunities for higher general schedule grades and promotions; expedite the hiring process by better leveraging hiring authorities and redesigning the national onboarding process; offer greater flexibility in where employees work by maximizing opportunities to increase availability to work outside your traditional workspace whenever and wherever possible; ensuring VA is a welcoming workplace for all employees; and invest in measures to improve well-being by listening to employees and developing recommendations for how to address burnout, promote work-life balance and more.
It also references “offering all employees N95 masks for voluntary use and enforcing the vaccine requirement for all health care personnel.” The VA is not covered by a federal court injunction against President Biden’s general Coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal employees because it had earlier put in place its own similar mandate.
The VA mandate affects some 370,000 employees in its Veterans Health Administration, a tenth of whom asked for exceptions for medical or religious reasons. There has been no outcome of those requests—the VA unlike other agencies is also free to continue processing them—or of disciplinary actions.