H.R. 1367 improves the Department of Veterans Affairs’ ability to identify staffing shortages, recruit and retain high-quality employees, and quickly on-board new hires. Specifically, the legislation does the following:
Section 2: The section modifies the annual determination of Veterans Health Administration (VHA) staffing shortages by including 5 clinical occupations and 5 non-clinical occupations within each VA medical center. The Committee believes this will allow for a more targeted identification of local staffing needs.
Section 3: This section establishes an Executive Management Program to allow eligible VHA and Veterans Benefit Administration (VBA) employees the opportunity to take one-year fellowship positions in comparable private-sector entities and eligible private sector employees to take one year fellowship positions in comparable VHA or VBA sites. The Committee believes this program will foster and facilitate a mutually beneficial exchange of people, ideas, knowledge, and best practices between the VA and private sector entities.
Section 4: This section requires the VA to conduct annual performance plans for VA political appointees to ensure senior political appointees undergo performance planning and appraisal processes similar to career senior executives. Each performance plan will evaluate recruiting, selecting, and retaining well-qualified individuals for VA employment; engaging and motivating employees; training and developing employees and preparing them for future VA leadership roles; and holding each manager accountable for addressing performance issues for the employees under their purview. This will not include performance awards to political appointees.
Section 5: This section changes the requirement that guardsmen and reservists must serve 180 consecutive days on active duty to a requirement that they serve 180 cumulative days on active duty to be eligible for veterans’ preference. It also expands those considered “preference eligible” to include all retired servicemembers.
Section 6: This section allows the VA to noncompetitively reappoint a former VA employee to a position not more than one grade higher than his or her former position as long as the employee left voluntarily within the prior two years, had a satisfactory performance record, and maintained necessary licensures and credentials.
Section 7: This section requires the VA to establish a recruiting database listing each vacant position that VA determines is critical to its mission, is difficult to fill, or both. The database would contain information on qualified individuals who applied for a position within the VA and were not chosen but could be qualified for other similar positions within the VA.
Section 8: This section requires the VA to train VHA human resources professionals after their initial hire and annually thereafter on how to recruit and retain VHA employees, in general, and on recruitment and retention matters that are unique to the VHA.
Section 9: This section requires the VA to establish a promotional track for technical experts that does not require the transition to a managerial position. The Committee believes this will allow VA to retain needed, high-quality employees who desire to advance in their career without taking on management role within VA.
Section 10: This section requires GAO to study and report on succession planning for each medical facility within the VHA as well as mission-critical positions within VBA and NCA. This study would include: a determination of the mission-critical positions and the vacancy risk of such positions; an analysis of the future needs for the identified positions; and, strategies to fill gaps through training for existing staff, targeted recruitment and hiring.
Section 11: This section requires the VA to collect information, indicators, and measurements on hiring effectiveness and employee satisfaction and submit an annual report to Congress on the information collected for each Veterans Integrated Service Network. Some of these indicators include: recruiting and hiring well-qualified talent from diverse talent pools, the use and impact of special hiring authorities and flexibilities to recruit the most qualified applicants (including the use of student internships as a talent pool for future hires), and the use and impact of special hiring authorities and flexibilities to recruit diverse candidates (including veteran, minority and disabled candidates).
Section 12: This section requires the VA to promulgate regulations to allow for excepted service appointments for students and recent graduates leading to conversion to career or career conditional employment.
Section 13: This section requires the VA to develop and conduct a standardized, anonymous exit survey to be voluntarily completed by VA employees who voluntarily elect to terminate their employment with the Department. The results of these surveys are to be compiled and shared with Congress in an annual report.