Veterans Affairs officials say they’ve found a way to dramatically increase the number of applicants for some department benefits messages: explain what the position is about in simple and direct language.
“Our claims handling positions have generally been advertised in a way that I don’t think makes them necessarily appealing to people,” Aaron Lee, director of leadership and professional development at Veterans Benefits Administrationtold reporters on Tuesday.
“So we found new ways to start marketing so that people understood what the real function of the job was and the connection to veterans…Before, we usually got a few hundred applicants for these positions. Now we receive an average of between 3,000 and 5,000.”
The plain language job postings are just one of many staff hiring changes at VA in recent months, spurred by a combination of new legislative authorities and a push by department heads to improve their staffing operations. human ressources.
Officials detailed several of the moves at the department’s monthly press conference this week, ahead of a day-long “onboarding wave” for human resources specialists and medical center leaders scheduled for next month.
This event is designed to help VA staff find ways to streamline the federal hiring process, which typically includes cumbersome background checks and pre-work requirements that can take weeks or months.
VA employs more than 400,000 federal workers. Department officials said that in the Veterans Health Administration alone, leaders need to hire about 50,000 new hires in the coming years to meet demand for veterans’ services and care.
To meet that demand, Congress last spring passed the Retention and Income Security Enhancement (RAISE) Act, which provided new pay and bonus regulations for some department employees.
Jessica Bonjorni, head of human capital management at the Veterans Health Administration, said that with the legislation, department officials have already raised the salaries of about 10,000 nurses and physician assistants through the new authorities.
The law also strengthens additional recruitment and retention incentives, including increased student loan repayment offers of up to $100,000. The ministry is also introducing new incentives for childcare and vacations.
“There’s never been a better time to work for the VA,” Bonjorni said. “We hired over 47,000 new employees at VHA last year, which set a new record for us, despite an incredibly tight job market.”
VA Secretary Denis McDonough has in recent months stressed the need to improve hiring practices and departmental recruiting, especially given the workload ahead.
In August, President Joe Biden signed into law the Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (better known as the PACT Act), new military toxic exposure legislation that will provide new medical benefits or care to a veteran on five nationwide. years.
The department is also still working to recover from a slew of postponed and partially closed appointments from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
“We are halfway through implementing these new policies,” McDonough said Tuesday. “And God willing, we will see results related to retention of professionals, recruitment of new professionals and, most importantly, increased access and better health outcomes for our events.”
Lee said that in response to the increase in job applications, managers are working with the Office of Personnel Management on ways to better automate how those resumes can be sorted and reviewed. The results of this work could not only improve hiring efforts at VA, but potentially across the federal workforce as a whole.
Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, DC since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned him numerous accolades, including a 2009 Polk Award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism Award, and the VFW News Media Award.