You’ve likely noticed that everywhere you go, there’s a “help wanted” sign. Unfortunately, that’s not just for restaurants and retail stores – it’s everywhere, including the VA.
Veterans need to get the help when and where they need it. The problem is that many VA centers across the country are severely understaffed. It’s leading to longer wait times for veterans to get appointments. Some are even being told that they have to wait months in order to be seen for a particular reason.
It’s not just about finding qualified candidates, either. It’s providing a positive work environment and plenty of benefits so that employees don’t leave in pursuit of another job.
The Veterans Administration has decided to focus on a new workforce plan so that veterans can get the help that they need once and for all. It will also help to attract and maintain qualified candidates.
VA Secretary Dennis McDonough announced that those employed by the VA can look forward to all sorts of new benefits inside of this initiative – more childcare support, more promotional opportunities, and even bigger bonuses.
McDonough spoke to employees at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston as part of the unveiling of this new program. “You’ve been doing your work while balancing the challenges of COVID-life and grieving so many vets, colleagues, family members and friends.”
It’s nice to hear someone actually acknowledging all of this. He went on to say that he knows that many have had to cover for thousands who have been sick and unable to work “meaning even longer hours and later nights.”
Too many places in the healthcare industry have refused to acknowledge the hardships that frontline workers have had to face. It’s what has led to so many people feeling burnt out – which leads to either taking sick leave or leaving the industry altogether.
McDonough has officially celebrated one year in the position of the Secretary of the Department of Veteran Affairs. He knows that the department has had to deal with a lot as a result of the pandemic.
The turnover rate for the VA nurses is at the highest it’s been in 15 years. There are job openings in virtually every VA facility across the country. There are many in-demand jobs and McDonough recognizes that it’s been difficult to recruit and retain top talent.
With the changes that are being introduced, some of the stress on current employees should be reduced. McDonough also knows that there are pay caps that prevent people from getting raises with certain promotions, meaning that they’re taking on more work without seeing any more money. As such, he already has plans to lobby Congress for better salary scales. He’s also done whatever he has been able to with executive orders.
Perhaps McDonough can convince Congress that it’s time to spend more money on its veterans. The Democrats have no problem spending money – but the money has to be used in a way where a large number of people can see the benefits – and the VA is constantly dealing with insufficient funding.
McDonough wants to “reward employees who have gone above and beyond” throughout the COVID pandemic. There will also be retention incentives so that skilled workers can stay within the department instead of feeling slighted and leaving altogether.
There’s still a lot of work to be done. However, it appears that everything is headed in the right direction. McDonough may be one of the few cabinet picks that Biden did well with.
The real reason for wanting the funding and to continue the fight is best said by the Secretary: “I promise that we’re going to invest in you, look out for you, and fight like hell for you, just like you fight for our nation’s vets.”