This afternoon, Secretary Denis McDonough delivered remarks regarding his Human Infrastructure plan at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina.

“You know, today marks one year since I was sworn in at VA and I don’t think there’s anything that I’m more proud of than the fact that, in the midst of the pandemic, VA didn’t weaken or slow down. No, VA got strong and took care of Vets when they needed it most,” he said, addressing VA employees nationwide via an internal livestream. “But as proud as I am of that accomplishment, I didn’t do it. You did it. And that’s why I’m here today: to recognize all you’ve done, and discuss what our country is doing to invest in you.”Secretary McDonough and entourage 2/9/22

The Secretary thanked employees and shared that, in partnership with Congress, VA is moving forward with 10 major steps to make every VA job a good job, where all employees are engaged, supported, heard and empowered to provide Veterans with timely access to world-class health care, earned benefits and the lasting resting place they deserve.

The 10 steps are:

  • Work with Congress to invest in wages by raising the Federal worker minimum wage to $15 an hour and urging Congress to pass the RAISE Act to raise them and/or empower us to pay employees what they’re worth.
  • Maximize bonuses and retention incentives by waiving limits on bonuses for work done during the pandemic and increasing retention incentives.
  • Increase opportunities to advance at VA by growing future leaders and opening the door to opportunities for higher general schedule grades and promotions.
  • Expedite the hiring process by better leveraging hiring authorities and redesigning the national onboarding process.
  • Offer greater flexibility in where employees work by maximizing opportunities to increase availability to work outside your traditional workspace whenever and wherever possible.
  • Help cover the cost of childcare by increasing the income cap from $89,000 to $149,000 per year to receive a childcare subsidy through VA.
  • Invest in measures to improve well-being by listening to employees and developing recommendations for how to address burnout, promote work-life balance and more.
  • Invest in education by funding scholarship programs for employees and working with the President on loan forgiveness.
  • Embed inclusion, diversity, equity and access (I-DEA) across VA by integrating I-DEA principles into hiring, position management and talent management, and ensuring VA is a welcoming workplace for all employees.
  • Protect employees from COVID-19 by pursuing the latest workplace safety measures, offering all employees N95 masks for voluntary use and enforcing the vaccine requirement for all health care personnel.

VA strives to be a model employer by treating the workforce with dignity and respect while providing competitive benefits and challenging and rewarding work. How we treat our workforce has a direct impact on morale and how we care for Veterans. VA cannot increase access and improve outcomes for Veterans without investing in our people.

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19 Comments

  1. Vito Vargas February 25, 2022 at 11:30 am

    This sounds very good in the face of a pandemic.

    But despite all the hard work I find myself at the short end of the stick.

    After 53 years the DOD announced that the Army base I was stationed at in 1966 was Contaminated with Agent Orange.

    That finally allowed me to file an initial AO claim.

    And as of today 415 days after I filed my claim the status has been the same for 11 months.

  2. C.F February 23, 2022 at 1:53 pm

    IN WHAT WORLD DO YOU LIVE IN BY THINKING THAT BY “WORKING OUTSIDE YOUR TRADITIONAL WORKSPACE” WOULD DECREASE BURNOUT? TO ME IT SOUNDS LIKE A WAY TO SAY YOU WILL BE PULLED WHENEVER AND WHERE EVER MANAGEMENT DECIDES. I’M CURIOUS, WHO IS RECEIVING BONUSES AND/OR RETENTION BONUSES? IT CERTAINLY ISN’T YOUR FRONTLINE WORKERS (R.N.’S,LPN’S,NA’S) WHO WERE PRAISED AS HEROES, YET NOW WERE ALL EXPENDABLE START TREATING PEOPLE WITH RESPECT AND DIGNITY AND QUIT FOLLOWING AN AGENDA. I WOULD ALSO LIKE TO ADD AS A VETERAN I PERSONALLY AM AND WOULD BE OFFENDED BY THE CODDLING APPROACH TAKEN HERE. WE SHOULD BE PROMOTING ACCOUNTABILITY AND INDEPENDENCE, NOT DEPENDENCE.

    • jerpy February 23, 2022 at 3:23 pm

      Thanks for your comment re: promoting independence vs creating dependence.
      In the real , non VA world, if I miss an appointment 2 times, I can be “dropped” by that provider.
      Here at the VA, we continue to make appointments, using time slots, for the same repeat No Shower patients on a monthly basis, using up slots for vets who really need that spot! No consequences EVER, we call 3 times, and send a letter, patient returns call, makes a new appointment, (primarily to get medications reordered), and does another NO Show.

  3. KMS February 22, 2022 at 3:58 pm

    I have been working for the VA for 13 years now and I have never seen the “impending doom” over this facility as bad as it is now. Yes, we as a collective body of staff rose magnificently to the occasion and met the force of the pandemic with grace and overcame. I was one of the first to volunteer to open our COVID unit, I was one of the first to welcome our very first COVID patient through the doors of our unit without fear or hesitancy where others fell by the wayside. We did not fail. We met and exceeded and were lauded as “heroes” and “frontline angels” only to be slapped in the face one year later if we did not comply with the systematic a rape via needle and threatened with our jobs. To add insult to injury, we were also denied hazard pay while others who went on DEMPS were given tens of thousands of dollars to go elsewhere and left us horribly short-staffed. Several of us who would have liked to have gone on DEMPS were unable to because of family obligations at home, so we were penalized financially by caring for the victims on the home front. I have stayed here all these years because of my veterans and because of my work family. This is my home until I am forced out, I love working here, in spite of the disrespectful way that I am treated.

    • jerpy February 23, 2022 at 11:04 am

      Dear Lord! I am so appreciative of your honesty!! Are you not afraid of being black listed, eight balled, or otherwise punished for this bit of truth? You are indeed brave!

      • KMS February 25, 2022 at 1:14 pm

        No I am not afraid. I am very well know in my work life and in my personal life for my honesty and integrity. I would not say any of the above if it were not the truth. There are so many people who are so afraid to stand up for what is right because of society’s bully tactics. Because of that fear, our wonderful country is all but destroyed. At least I can honestly say “I did my part”.

  4. FC February 22, 2022 at 2:53 pm

    I do not dare get my hopes up over this because until our San Diego executive leadership team is forced to do anything, they will just continue with the same attitude that employees are expendable. We lost over 1/2 of our team during covid hit because despite doing 100% of our work virtually, despite an employee outbreak that made the local news as “How A COVID-19 Outbreak Unfolded At A San Diego VA Office”, despite the fact that our kids were home alone without us, leadership did not budge to give us even ONE DAY of remote work or flexible work options to help us. Not one. Day after day, we left our kids, commuted to work, went to our respective offices and shut the door to sit in front of a screen, often tearfully at the choice we were being forced to make and worried about getting and transmitting this unknown deadly virus, esp. in the early days of lockdown, when it was all completely unnecessary. Anyone who could get out or move to a different department did so and they are still leaving for lack of workplace flexibility. Also, we have construction happening here, so in addition to the millions of taxpayer dollars already being spent on administrative offices in the community, they took our parking away and are now spending more taxpayer dollars to rent parking garages and shuttles to bring in people like me who still do 80% of their work on the computer. I commute here 5 days/week to sit in front of a screen despite having all my team meetings on zoom and doing 80% of my work at my desk. When my kids are sick, it takes me 45-60 min to get them at school without access to my car. We are in a toxic, grey building where I sit in a windowless office that averages about 64 degrees. Lunch used to provide some relief, we could sit in an outdoor garden and sitting area where staff connected and enjoyed their lunches. However, construction took that away and no car to go out, so I sit in my office and eat alone. However, instead of looking at workplace flexibility, our leadership is now trying to figure out ways to take remote work AWAY from the very few people who still have it because it was approved under a different leadership team. So, yeah, the OPM’s telework enhancement act did nothing for us (they just “blanket” designated all jobs as ineligible) and I doubt that this pronouncement will do much either.

    • jerpy February 23, 2022 at 11:34 am

      We met and exceeded and were lauded as “heroes” and “frontline angels” only to be slapped in the face one year later if we did not comply with the systematic a rape via needle and threatened with our jobs.

      LPNs were good enough to be used as human guinea pigs during the midst of the “crisis” -now, that things are winding down a bit, the VA management feels they can start “removing” “relocating” “refusing employment” to the very employees who were NOT allowed any flexibility in work schedules , for example: flexibility o accommodate young children, “in-home” learning, child care provision etc. Any alteration in arrival shift start, or shift end times (even by 30 minutes) was forbidden, unless of course, one was in management, upper level leadership, or had a designated parking space.

  5. LH February 22, 2022 at 2:35 pm

    Please stop downgrading positions at the Medical Centers and sending all the higher grades to the VISN. We will never be an employer of choice if we cannot compete with the surrounding labor markets. I work in a health care rich area and employees are leaving and potential employees are declining VA jobs offered. VISN jobs are higher paid, do less work than at the facility level and get to sit at home. The model should be flipped, provide the higher salaries to the boots on the ground who come into the medical centers every day including every day during a pandemic. Admin positions (AOs, etc.), police, facilities, EMS, LPNs, NAs, HAS, logistics, SPD – come to work because, even in a pandemic, care and work needs to get done. And these are the positions that are being downgraded across the board… we can’t hire talent and we can’t keep it onboard when the pay is higher everywhere else.

  6. ANITA February 22, 2022 at 11:02 am

    I AM A LPN BEEN WORKING FOR THE VA FOR 12 YEARS NOW , THE LPN IS THE FIRST LINE STAFF FOR THE VETERANS IN MY CLINCAL SETTING, WE DO THE GETHERING AND MEDICATING, GETHERING INFORMATION FOR THE RN AND PROVIDERS , WITHOUT US THE CLINIC WILL BE AT A LOST, BUT I CAN TELL YOU THE PAY FOR A LPN IN THIS AREA WORKING FOR THE VA IS LOW , THE RAISES ARE LOW AND SLOW , I AM JUST NOW MAKING WHAT I MADE HOURLY APPROX 12 YEARS AGO PRIOR TO COMING TO THE VA.

  7. Jenifer Sheehy February 22, 2022 at 9:40 am

    I have questions about the RAISE Act. Here is how it is explained in a VA publication:

    The VA Nurse and Physician Assistant Retention and Income Security Enhancement (RAISE) Act would allow for PAs and advanced practices nurses to earn up to level one of the Executive Schedule and registered nurses to earn up to level two. In 2022, that amounts to $226,300 and $203,700, respectively. Currently, all of those positions are capped at level four, or $176,300. VA Secretary Denis McDonough has endorsed the bill and personally lobbied for its passage, calling the measure a key step to addressing the department’s workforce challenges. ”

    What does this mean exactly? It describes a pay scale that is not consistent with the actual Nursing scale. I fear that our legislators are actually working hard to compensate nurses at the executive/administrative level, and not the clinical nurses who are actually doing the work with the patients/veterans. Clinical Nurses are not on the Executive Schedule, and I do not believe there is any way to put us there. It will not do anything for morale to bonus up the administrative nurses and not the clinicians, and will challenge the true workforce further. Please explain this in the language of the Nursing pay table, which for clinicians, ends at Grade 3, Step 12. I’ve spent ten years on that rung. How does the RAISE Act fix that?

  8. Crystal February 21, 2022 at 10:16 pm

    I have been with the VA Hospital for 30 years, when your 30 pin and certificate come via INter office mail that tells me they don’t give 2 hoots about us employees. I personally have never seen it as bad as it is. Moral stinks, the people that have been hired in the last 6 or so years appear to just be here for a paycheck and they are not here for veterans. We used to work for veterans now we all work for the “business”. We got a new director 4-5 years ago and I have yet to meet her. I am an AOD and they down graded this position a few years ago to a GS7 and there in no way that a 7 is even close to what we should be getting. We used to be able to give a veteran a ride home if he was D/C late or came to ER and wasn’t admitted but had no ride home, No Problem but now we are prohibited from such actions, in fact I have seen Dr’s buy a fellow a Lyft ride home otherwise he was going to be at the VA until Monday (this was late Saturday night), no one give a hoot. They also do not value an employee with 30 years or more of experience, I sent a messaged to the brass asking them to visit with me and I could teach them how to stop inventing the wheel every 5 years. Thanks for letting me vent.

  9. K February 19, 2022 at 6:48 am

    Thank you for sharing.

    It’s refreshing to hear the steps and initiatives VA will engage in to invest in our workforce.

    Will the initiatives for healthy work-life balance and salary include all healthcare professionals and personnel?

    Thank you!

  10. Paul Warholak February 11, 2022 at 8:28 am

    Accountability serving veterans is a must ! Vets from the Korean war era, or at any other time should never be short changed or passed over because of protocol…! We must take care of our own ! For the past few mos. at VA Hudson Valley Montrose Campus, in NY, our gymnasium & swimming pool has been either closed or restricted leaving many veterans like myself no form of recreational therapy to help through the winter. This is unacceptable.! Our needs are everyday, and our government owes us respectable & complete care !

  11. PAO February 10, 2022 at 8:51 am

    10 Steps should be numbered not bulleted.

    Couldn’t agree with Adam Stump more, Denis McDonough is a political appointee and not a Veteran. He has been the worst VA Secretary I have worked under and he targets employees politically in order to terminate them with enemy lists. This Veteran and VA employees want McDonough to resign. He has no love for federal employees or for Veterans. He is a political shill.

    [Editor: With AP approval on choice, we use the bulleted list function in WordPress: https://twitter.com/apstylebook/status/1415407776726142979?lang=en ]

  12. Vincent Jones February 10, 2022 at 1:55 am

    I hope that you take a note of those employee who work to make sure that the hospital is clean and sanitized. To me, these are the most important people in the hospital. Without them, no surgeries could be performed nor can any new patients be admitted because there are no clean rooms to put them into. Do not forget them.

    • AC February 19, 2022 at 8:55 am

      I say Thank You for every member on the team for all that they do to keep our environment clean and safe!

  13. PAUL TENENBAUM February 9, 2022 at 5:46 pm

    HOW CAN I SEND AN EMAIL MESSAGE TO SECRETARY DENIS MCDONOUGH AS WAS THE CASE WITH SECRETARY ROBERT
    BOB MADE IT KNOWN THAT HE WOULD TAKE CARE OF SOLVABLE PROBLEMS. HE DID. WITH THE FORMER PRESIDENT THIS WAS NOT THE CASE. WE, THE VETERANS, IN MY CASE THE KOREAN WAR, WITH TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY SUSTAINED IN 1952, BUT DUE TO THE ARMY NOT HAVING “THE METHODOLOGY” THIS INJURY WAS NOT UNDERSTOOD UNTIL 2012. DR. LEWIS FRENCH
    AT WALTER REED HOSPITAL WHERE HE TREATED INJURED IRAQUI VETERANS, PROVIDED ME WITH INFORMATION THAT THE ARMY SHOULD HAVE KNOWN, YET THEY DID NOT ACKNOWLEDGE THE INJURY. I HAVE HAD THE REQUIRED INFO AND SO DID
    THE VA. THE ARMY REFUSAL TO ACKNOWLEDGE THE INJURY HAS COST ME THE PURPLE HEART.

  14. Adam Stump February 9, 2022 at 4:28 pm

    I recently left VA and can tell you these are words with absolutely no actual intent behind them.

    He said “Increase opportunities to advance at VA by growing future leaders and opening the door to opportunities for higher general schedule grades and promotions.”

    I used to be the senior writer for Secretary McDonough (see https://blogs.va.gov/VAntage/author/adam-stump/) and when I asked for my position to go through the established procedure in writing from Human Resources to get upgraded, I got told two levels up that it would not be entertained. That was from two of Secretary McDonough’s handpicked political appointees, Kayla Williams and Melissa Bryant. Also, neither had the common courtesy of an out call. I was treated with the attitude of “shut up and take your pay or find someplace else to work.”

    Also, when it was suggested that we work outside of the office in a regional concept— which goes with “Offer greater flexibility in where employees work by maximizing opportunities to increase availability to work outside your traditional workspace whenever and wherever possible”—we got told in November, December and January that it would be under consideration. No actual decision, just kicking the can down the road. It still is not approved.

    This is why I left a job I love helping Veterans. Secretary McDonough has a great speechwriter, but there’s no follow through behind these words.

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