WASHINGTON, D.C. – In Case You Missed It: yesterday, during a Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee hearing titled “The VA Workforce: Assessing Ways to Bolster Recruitment and Retention,” U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) pressed Veterans Affairs (VA) officials on ways VA can better recruit and retain medical professionals to ensure that veterans are receiving high-quality care and VA workers are receiving the benefits they deserve. Brown also inquired how VA is assisting its medical professionals who are suffering from trauma and burnout throughout the pandemic.
“On Friday, I was in Chillicothe visiting the Medical Center and the leadership team raised the nursing shortage with me. They need to find and hire more nurses, LPNs especially,” said Brown. “We know there’s a national shortage of nurses right now, and because of the tight labor market I hope VA is doing everything it can to review local pay scales to address any discrepancies between VA and community facilities to adjust VA workers’ pay and retain them.”
Brown asked Ms. Bonjorni how VA plans to ensure that VA employees are afforded the pay increases they deserve and that are comparable to the private sector, to ensure VA is able to recruit qualified, skilled professionals.
“In the case of LPNs, we have the flexibility to adjust salaries based on the salary surveys that we conduct in VHA and we also buy national survey data annually. We are always looking at the data. We are happy to look at that facility in particular to see if there is a challenge there. But our shift to regional human resources structures is really helping us see the entire market so we can make those adjustments on a more swift basis. We anticipate continued increases – we have seen an increase of about 50 percent in the total number of requests of adjustment to salaries across the nation. We will take a closer look at Chillicothe,” said Jessica Bonjorni, Chief of the Veterans Health Administration’s Human Capital Management.
With concerns of the recommendation to the AIR Commission to close the CVAMC, Brown asked the officials on ways they plan to recruit healthcare staff who fear the facility might close.
“You have hit a point we’re very cognizant of and we’ve been very clear that to message to our workforce that you’re critical now and you are going to be critical in the future and that there will be a place for you and that anything that will happen will not happen soon,” said Gina Grosso, Assistant Secretary for Human Resources and Administration/Operations, Security and Preparedness, Department of Veterans Affairs. “We have tried to make our employees understand that, so that they know that there is a place for them.”
“You have hit the nail on the head. We also are looking to continue to retain every single employee that we have. Our goal is to have all of them to stick with us. So, we are exploring a variety of potential asks that we may have – that we may need some flexibility to help keep people if they need to perhaps locate to another facility, if their facility is closing. We will keep you informed,” said Jessica Bonjorni, Chief of the Veterans Health Administration’s Human Capital Management.