The Amarillo VA Healthcare system has waited almost 6 years since a 2010 law was passed in order to provide back pay, pay rate changes and other pay incentives to be applied, due to software issues. This only happened after the Federal government advised them on how to make changes to the system to allow for the changes.
The Original Act
The Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2010, signed into law by POTUS Obama heavily favored and supported veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan service. Its main focus was on the caregivers of these veterans, mental health services, women veterans, vets in rural areas, veterans that are homeless and for veteran research and education. It also implemented pay raises for a number of VA employees, but the VA was not advised on how to implement these with a switch over of computer software that was also taking place in the VA at the time.
The Local Amarillo VA
Spokesperson Barbara Moore for the Amarillo VA stated “we just got the guidance on how to fix that locally” and they further received instructions on how to make the manual calculations to offer the retroactive portion of the raises.
Employees of the VA and in Amarillo specifically have had a number of complaints that relate back to this 2010 legislation. Not only did they not receive pay raises from the legislation, but raises with promotions, incentive bonuses and differentials for night and weekend work was not being paid for existing employees. New employees were seeing these raises creating even more tension in the workplace.
A Software Issue
Essentially the issue at the heart of the matter was one of technical implementation of the new VA Time and Attendance System that is slowly being implemented across the VA system of healthcare nationwide. Unfortunately this software did not account for changes in policies from legislation. The software was not broken says Moore, but simply that “these formulas and calculations [were not] built in when we got it.”
The federal Office of Personnel Management released an update to the software and there were complaints immediately that some nurses in the system that were new-hires were getting paid more than their more senior counterparts. The OPM acknowledges that as soon as that was the case they started working to resolve the issue.
Recent Changes Equal Large Issue
The American Federation of Government Employees filed a grievance on 14 December 2015 that was recently settled. It was this action that prompted complaints, because there were a number of nurses that were supposed to get a promotional bump in pay and never received it as a result of this software issue.
Now that the issue is known, changes to the software have been instituted as well as manual directions on how to over-ride the system. Back pay retroactive to any agreements or legislation will be paid as administration catch up on these issues. Since the system is complex and multifaceted, Moore says, these issues could crop up in other VA locales across the country. If you are being affected by this issue, contact your supervisor immediately about your fair share.