VA Proposes Physician Pay Increases

The Veterans Administration hopes a new pay scale will help the agency recruit new physicians and dentists and improve the services the embattled agency provides to veterans.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is boosting its pay scale in an effort to recruit more physicians and improve its struggling healthcare system.

The new pay scale involves raises ranging from $20,000-$35,000. If enacted, annual pay for covered personnel would range from $98,967 to $385,000 per year.

“At VA, we have a noble and inspiring mission — to serve veterans, their survivors and dependents. There is no higher calling,” said VA Secretary Robert McDonald. “We are committed to hiring more medical professionals across the country to better serve and expand their access to timely, high-quality care.”

The VA has been under fire in recent months after major inefficiencies and mismanagement at VA medical centers were exposed. An inspector general’s report in August cited numerous problems but stopped short of linking those problems directly with deaths of veterans.

The highest-paid doctors under the new scale would be cardio-thoracic surgeons, interventional cardiologists, interventional radiologists, neurosurgeons and orthopedic surgeons.

The VA pay scale is based on three components. The first (base pay) is statutorily set by Congress. Added on top of that is market pay (based on recruitment needs and other market factors) as well as performance pay, which is given annually in the form of bonuses.

In addition to increased pay, the agency said it will launch a new nursing academic partnership focused on psychiatric and mental health, work with other military agencies to recruit recently or soon-to-be discharged healthcare professionals, broaden a pilot program to bring combat medics to VA facilities as clinicians, and expand its loan repayment program.

According to a VA press release, 70% of US doctors received training at the VA. Each year, 62,000 medical students and residents, 23,000 nurses and 33,000 other health trainees work at the VA.

The pay raises aren’t yet permanent. Having been published in the Federal Register, they are subject to a 60-day public comment period before they can take effect.