The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has instituted a Special Salary Rate (SSR), which gives HR specialists a significant 15% raise, to help its HR department cope with the growing need for recruitment, onboarding, and retention of health care workers. The goal of this change is to solve the VA’s (Veterans Health Administration) personnel shortage and encourage new recruits.
Human resources experts (GS-0201) and assistants (GS-0203) in grades GS-4 through GS-15 are covered by the SSR, which was authorized by VHA at the end of last year. Based on information from March 2023, this salary rise is applicable to about 8,000 human resources personnel within VHA, as reported by the Office of Personnel Management.
The wider deployment of the SSR will be deliberated throughout the fiscal year, according to VA Press Secretary Terrence Hayes. The SSR went into effect on December 31, 2023, and beginning this week, qualified employees will receive a pay increase in their paychecks. The first full effect will be apparent on Friday, January 19.
Note that covered employees may not always receive the entire benefit of the 15% raise owing to extra adjustments like locality pay, so it’s crucial to keep that in mind.
The decision to increase HR remuneration is part of VHA’s broader strategy to manage its record-high health care staff. In order to meet its hiring targets, the business anticipates recruiting over 1,000 HR specialists every year. There was a 20% vacancy rate at VHA’s human resources department in 2022.
Human Resources STAR, which is headed by VHA’s Chief Officer for Workforce Management and Consulting, David Perry, is expected to teach 80-100 new HR experts every month. In areas where human resources experts are in high demand, this initiative will help fill open positions.
Additionally, Perry brought up the fact that new human resources personnel take around three years to properly understand the intricacies of the position because of the intricacy of VHA’s HR standards. Title 38 governs wages and benefits for VHA’s medical staff, whereas Title 5 governs those of the organization’s non-medical staff.
Following last summer’s successful implementation of an SSR for the VA OIT, which resulted in an average pay boost of 17% for IT and cybersecurity staff, the VA has now extended its new pay flexibilities to VHA’s HR personnel. In 2023, VA OIT said that the SSR was responsible for the increase of 1,000 new hires and better retention rates.
Title 5 of the PACT Act grants the VA the power to establish Special Salary Rates for non-medical occupations, and it also increases the VA’s ability to provide health treatment and benefits to veterans who were exposed to harmful chemicals while serving in the military. VHA plans to file SSR requests for more Title 5 professions, according to VA Press Secretary Hayes.
Additional tools and announcements are on the way, according to VA Secretary Denis McDonough, who stressed the need of using PACT Act incentives for recruitment and retention. Since the VA is a model for other federal agencies looking to get comparable powers, McDonough emphasized the VA’s meticulous management of SSR and important skill incentives.
Improving HR compensation is a step in the right direction, demonstrating the VA’s dedication to a strong workforce and solving staffing issues. This will hopefully lead to other federal agencies adopting similar tactics.