The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is planning to rehire former retired medical professionals to increase staff levels to fight the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. On Thursday, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) took no time to grant the VA the authority to hire former employees of the department and join the department as full-time re-employed annuitants. Additionally, the authority has allowed the chief human capital officer or executives of other agencies to waive the salary offset that is usually required to re-employ any of the retired federal employees temporarily.
Brenda Roberts, the OPM’s acting associate director of employee services, said in a letter to the Veteran Affairs chief human capital officer on Thursday, “This VA authority will help the department in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. The VA Department must look after patient needs at a large number of medical centers, cemeteries, community-based outpatient clinics, community living centers, Veterans Benefits Administration offices, spinal cord injury units, headquarters, and other Veteran Affairs program offices operating nationwide.
The re-employed annuitants get their annuities under Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS), and a paycheck as a federal employee, which often balances the annuity amount. Agencies have the authority to waive this salary offset requirement for part-time re-employed annuitants. They need to get permission from the OPM to grant salary offsets for re-employed full-time annuitants.
Previously, the OPM granted dual compensation waivers in case the agency demonstrated that it is facing severe challenges while recruiting or needs an emergency hire, or needs to keep a specific person under unusual circumstances. The OPM’s waiver is applicable for more than a year, until March 31, 2021. On Tuesday, the VA said they planned to start hiring activities this week. The department has invited retired laboratory technicians, physicians, pharmacists, nurses, respiratory therapists, and other medical professionals to fill up a registration form for reemployment.
On Tuesday, Veteran Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie said that this action plan would help the department get more work power. He thanked the OPM on behalf of all veterans for quickly taking action and inviting their retired healthcare workers to come back to VA during this hard time. Across the United States, the VA has 170 medical centers and more than 1,000 outpatient care centers. The department has been dealing with a shortage of staff, especially in the medical profession, for a couple of years.
According to the latest data, the Veterans Health Administration had 40,985 vacancies within its medical facilities at the end of the first quarter in 2020. These numbers of vacancies have always scared some members of Congress and are a big reason to worry today. During the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, the Veterans Health Administration is the one serving the backup hospital system of the nation. The OPM said the new dual compensation waiver of the VA would help the department to hire annuitants using the appropriate authorities. The department should use USAJOBS.gov to update the post positions for Veteran Affairs re-employed annuitants.
The OPM said agencies need to adjust the work schedule of annuitants without giving any advanced notice or procedures. Annuitants getting a salary offset waiver may not contribute to retirement or take part in the Thrift Savings Plan. This rule allows you to pay annuitants under a temporary, time-limited, or term appointment on a full-time work schedule for up to 40 hours/week.
In 2014, Congress authorized agencies to grant dual compensation waivers on their own to re-employed annuitants working for 20 hours per week. This authority was expected to expire at the end of 2019, but Congress extended it until 2024.