Durbin Urges VA to Raise Current Pay Scale For Health Care Professionals
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) today sent a letter to Robert McDonald, Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), urging the department to raise the current pay scale for VA health care professionals in order to improve the recruitment and retention of medical personnel. Salaries for VA primary care doctors and nurses are often lower on average than those of their private sector counterparts. According to the Medical Group Management Association, primary care doctors and internists at VA facilities earned about 33% less than private sector primary care physicians in 2012.
“The VHA cares for America’s heroes, the men and women who have worked to keep our country safe and defend American ideals abroad,” Durbin wrote. “Offering pay more comparable to the private sector would make working for the VA healthcare system even more attractive to new graduates and would help retain current staff.”
The full text of today’s letter is available below:
September 15, 2014
The Honorable Robert A. McDonald
Secretary of Veterans Affairs
810 Vermont Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20420
Dear Secretary McDonald:
I write to urge the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) to offer more competitive pay to VA health care professionals. Salaries for VA doctors and nurses often are lower on average than those of their private sector counterparts, and those salaries have been frozen for three years. As recent investigations have brought to light, VA must improve recruitment and retention of medical personnel to keep pace with growing demand.
Primary care doctors and internists at VA facilities earned about 33 percent less than private sector primary care physicians in 2012, according to the Medical Group Management Association. A similar disparity can be found in nurses’ pay. Last week you testified at a Senate Veterans Affairs Committee hearing that the VA needs about 28,000 new medical staffers – doctors, nurses, other care providers, and administrative staff – to improve the timeliness of care to the eight million veterans enrolled in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA).
I commend your efforts to attract new talent, recently launching a recruiting initiative designed to bring the best and brightest health professionals to the VA. Indeed, I added a provision to the Fiscal Year 2010 funding bill that allocated $3 million for incentive pay to step up recruitment and retention for medical personnel to serve at rural VA facilities.
Medical school graduates leave school with thousands of dollars of debt. Although VHA serves as a critical training ground for many medical students, this debt may limit the ability for doctors and nurses to choose a career at VHA, instead turning to the higher pay of the private sector. The VA’s loan repayment program is an important step in helping doctors and nurses tackle their student loan debt. Offering pay more comparable to the private sector would make working for the VA healthcare system even more attractive to new graduates and would help retain current staff.
In your first month as Secretary, you have identified shortfalls within the VA and taken steps to address them. As that process continues, I urge you to lift the salary freeze on medical personnel and increase compensation for the health care providers who work with our veterans. The VHA cares for America’s heroes, the men and women who have worked to keep our country safe and defend American ideals abroad.
Richard J. Durbin
Previous Article Next Article