Sec. Bob McDonald proposes pay increase for VA physicians and dentists

Sec. Bob McDonald (left) speaks with Dr. Chan Park (middle) and Dr. Atilio Barbeito about the Durham VAMC Simulation Center and how it helps physicians care for Veterans. (REYANLDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Sec. Bob McDonald (left) speaks with Dr. Chan Park (middle) and Dr. Atilio Barbeito about the Durham VAMC Simulation Center and how it helps physicians care for Veterans. (REYANLDO LEAL/U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs)

Due to a three-year federal pay freeze, the annual pay ranges for VA physicians and dentists haven’t increased since October 2009. That may soon change as VA and the Veterans Health Administration look to enhance clinical capacity and expand access to timely care for Veterans across the nation.

Pay increase graphic

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Since compensation is an important part of attracting and retaining skilled medical professionals, Secretary Bob McDonald proposed an adjustment to the maximum rates of annual pay for VA physicians and dentists based on the skills and qualifications of the professional being recruited.

“At VA, we have a noble and inspiring mission – to serve Veterans, their survivors anddependents. There is no higher calling,” said VA Secretary Bob McDonald. “We are committed to hiring more medical professionals across the country to better serve Veterans and expand their access to timely, high-quality care.”

However, a pay increase in annual income of up to $35,000 is only one of the steps taken by Sec. McDonald and VHA. Additional initiatives include:

  • Collaborating on a new nursing academic partnership focused on psychiatric and mental health care to build stronger, mutually beneficial relationships between nursing schools and VA facilities.
  • Partnering with the Department of Defense Health Affairs, Army, Navy and Air Force to improve recruitment of recently or soon to be discharged health care professionals.
  • Expanding a pilot program to bring combat medics and corpsmen in to VA facilities as clinicians
  • Improving the credentialing process for VA and DoD health care providers that will involve sharing credentials to speed up the process.
  • Expanding the loan repayment program, as included in the recently passed Veterans Access, Choice and Accountability Act.

Click here to read more about the proposed increase in pay ranges. Information about working in VA health care can be found at www.vacareers.va.gov.

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Work at VA: Nurses with heart wanted

Nicki Fryar started working at the Durham VA Medical Center as a great way to expand her nursing skills. That was 24 years ago. What Nicki found was, as the years passed, her appreciation for what the medical center did for Veterans increased.

“As I grew to love working with [Veterans], I found it to be very humbling to come to work everyday to serve them,” she said.

In the video above, she recalls helping a homeless Veteran after he was treated at the medical center. The health care the Veteran received was only part of the overall help he needed, and so with the assistance of other offices and services, he was able to not only continue care, but was reunited with his family.

“It is the true sense of family,” she said as tears began to well up in her eyes, “It’s the true sense of caring. It’s the true sense for respecting [Veterans] for where [they] are in that point in time.”

Now, Nicki is the Nurse Manager of the Cardiovascular Catheterization Laboratory at the Durham VAMC and wants other nurses to consider working for the nation’s Veterans at VA.

Read more about the national recruiting effort for medical professionals here, and visit http://www.vacareers.va.gov/ to see how you can start your career at VA.

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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day Five

National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic

Cory Buckman was nervous when he found out he would be attending this year’s National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic in San Diego. His apprehension stemmed from his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress and the fact that, at 26-years-old, the OIF Veteran from Chicago would be the youngest participant at the clinic.

Back home, Cory’s anger and frustration with “civilians” tended to isolate him from gatherings and events. At the clinic, however, he quickly found the camaraderie he missed from his time in the U.S. Army and a new group of friends to break him out of his shell.

“I’ve gotten close with the [Veterans] from my team,” Cory said. “You know, I don’t know how to explain it – but it’s a bond I’ve formed that feels really good.”

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We remember.

National September 11 Memorial & Museum, photo courtesy National September 11 Memorial & Museum - http://www.911memorial.org/

National September 11 Memorial & Museum, photo courtesy National September 11 Memorial & Museum – http://www.911memorial.org/

Each of us has our story. On the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, I could have been standing in the lobby of 7 World Trade Center, next to a work colleague who was there when the first plane hit the towers. A few days earlier, I was pulled from that trip to New York, with instructions to travel on the 12th or 13th.  I wasn’t there as the planes struck, and the follow up trip never happened.

Instead, I was in Washington, D.C., at my desk at Secret Service headquarters when the terrorists attacked. We watched on TV the news of planes crashing in New York, Washington, Pennsylvania. We watched as one tower fell. Then another.  And then 7 World Trade. The Secret Service had offices in building 7. Our people, many of them friends, were among some of the first responders on site, and among those evacuating with so many other New Yorkers.

Federal offices in D.C. were closed down, but I stayed at work. Our office was busy not only responding to the media about the safety of the president and other protectees, but we were busy accounting for our employees assigned to New York. I drove home late that night, greeted as I crossed the 14th Street Bridge southbound by the smell of burning fuel and the sight of flames and water hoses still leaping high from the Pentagon. For the first time, I let myself break down and cry.  In the years since, I have continued to shed tears on this anniversary for those who died, thinking of the friends and family they left behind.

The Secret Service lost one employee that day, Master Special Officer Craig J. Miller.  From what we know, Craig, an Army Veteran of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm and Bronze Star recipient, used his military and Secret Service emergency response training and went into the towers. He died trying to help others get out.
– Megan Moloney


I was the managing editor of a small daily newspaper on 9/11 and I remember it starting as a rather a slow news day locally, so I asked my team to scour the AP wire and find a story to fill the last open space on the front page of the paper while I stepped out to meet with my friend Rose.

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Accelerated learning programs offer alternative education and training opportunity for Veterans

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson, former Congressman Chet Edwards (right) and Rosye Cloud (left) from the Veterans Benefits Administration were among the participants in the accelerated learning programs roundtable.

Today, the White House and VA  hosted a roundtable that brought together leaders in government, education and industry to discuss how accelerated learning programs can help our nation’s Veterans. The discussion is part of the White House’s Skills and Demand-Driven Training Initiative.

VA is exploring accelerated learning programs as a potential alternative or supplement to traditional education that results in career competitive skills and employment opportunities for Veterans. In this first phase of exploration, VA is focusing on information technology programs, due to the high growth, in-demand nature of the IT industry. In conjunction with the roundtable, VA will release a full report later this year that provides an overview of its preliminary research on IT programs.

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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day Three

National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic

Laura Ortiz gets her strength and purpose from three words: faith, humility and service. These words, and a tireless drive, helped her get through one of the most traumatic chapters of her life.

Six years ago, Laura lost her right leg in an accident. While she wasn’t exactly sure how her disability would affect her, her purpose in life and core values never faltered.

“I felt a total jolt of energy,” she said. “At the moment when I saw my leg, and I knew it wasn’t going to be a part of me anymore, I just surrendered to the idea that I would still be able to live a fulfilling life with the help of advances in technology and prosthetics.”

The fitness-conscious Veteran purchased a stability ball and worked hard on her own rehabilitation. She researched as much as she could about her “new reality” and tried her best to reach out to other amputees that shared her athletic aspirations.

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It’s Bob calling: VA Secretary takes recruiting personally

Sec. Bob McDonald takes recruiting personally, telling reporters how he is reaching out to medical students and retiring military members and asking them to work at VA.

“We need tens of thousands of new doctors, new nurses, new clinicians,” VA Secretary Bob McDonald told reporters Monday at news conference.

McDonald recently launched a national recruiting campaign, and is leading the charge by speaking directly with medical students, military medical professionals and others who can bring their experience to work at VA.

“What I have heard from our doctors and nurses is there’s no better patient than the Veteran. We have to get that inspiring story out,” McDonald said.

Sec. McDonald shared a story from a recent flight of a retired Air Force Veteran whose daughter is now a student at the Uniformed Services University and was hesitant to consider working for VA.

“I said, ‘Give me her phone number,’” McDonald recounted. “I called her three times.”  The student arranged for McDonald to recruit from her medical school. “I think we’re pretty close to convincing her that the VA is a great place to work.”

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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day Two

Veteran Rodney Blanton stands on his board on his first try!

Veteran Rodney Blanton stands on his board on his first try!

Editor’s Note: VAntage Point is reporting from the 2014 National Veterans Sports Clinic, Sept. 7-12. This is the second in a series of blogs from the event.

Rodney Blanton was fresh home from a deployment to Afghanistan with the Air National Guard in 2011, when his life was changed by a reckless truck driver. The domino effect of twisted vehicles ended with Rodney and his motorcycle strewn across five lanes of Texas highway.

He said he died twice on the operating table, but somehow was able to pull through. After 12 days in a coma, Rodney woke up to the realization that his left leg had been amputated. However, it wasn’t the fact that something was missing that drove him during the seven months it took to learn to walk again – it was the fact that he was still alive.

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The Road to Veterans Day 2014

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has an important mission: caring for Veterans and their families, and VA has strong institutional values – mission-critical ideals that must influence day-to-day behavior and performance: Integrity, Commitment, Advocacy, Respect, and Excellence.

Secretary Bob McDonald outlines the "Road to Veterans Day"

Secretary Bob McDonald outlines the “Road to Veterans Day”

To better fulfill our mission and to improve our service those who have ‘borne the battle,’ their families, and survivors, VA has developed The Road to Veterans Day 2014—a series of strategies and actions that will enable the Department to:

  • Rebuild trust with Veterans and the American people;
  • Improve service delivery; and
  • Set the course for long-term excellence and reform.

Through these strategies, VA will work to fulfill the expectations of Veterans, our workforce and other stakeholders while instituting the operational efficiencies, the cost savings and productivity improvements, and the service innovations needed to succeed with a single metric in mind – Veterans’ outcomes.

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National Veterans Summer Sports Clinic: Day One

Editor’s Note: VAntage Point is reporting from the 2014 National Veterans Sports Clinic, Sept. 7-12. This is the first a series of blogs from the event. Veterans from across the United States arrived in San Diego and at Naval Base …

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