VA temporarily halts employee pay downgrades

The Veterans Affairs Department has decided to temporarily cease involuntary pay downgrades for thousands of its employees after determining that it must examine the process behind such moves.

The decision came almost one month after VA employees nationwide protested automatic downgrades to lower paying job status. The rally outside the department’s Washington headquarters in June, organized by the American Federation of Government Employees, was attended by about 500 VA employees, most of whom work as medical support staff in VA hospitals and are on the bottom rungs of the general pay schedule.

In an interview with Government Executive last month, VA Assistant Secretary and Chief Human Capital Officer John Sepulveda explained that the department’s enormous human resources system can mean inconsistencies in job descriptions. VA currently is working with the Office of Personnel Management to revise job classifications. Not every downgrading decision was made due to job classification revisions, however. Many employees have received downgrade notifications resulting from appeal decisions rendered by OPM; a significant delay before these decisions take effect has caused some confusion.

A recent memo from VA Human Resources management supported Sepulveda’s comments, noting downgrades often resulted from job classifications that have long been incorrect. It also cited the department’s “failure to act” to OPM appeals in a timely matter.

VA has established a working group to examine the issue and create options on balancing proper job classification standards with pay parity. The group will identify the impact of the OPM appeal decisions it did not examine previously and that of improper classifications.

“The group will then review these positions to determine which changes to lower grade actions will proceed,” the memo states.

AFGE applauded the temporary halting of downgrades. The union’s national VA Council President Alma Lee said AFGE has been fighting the downgrades for years. “Management gave no thought to the impact these downgrades would have on veterans’ access to care or [VA Secretary Eric Shinseki’s] own pledge to bring more veterans into the VA workforce,” Lee said. “Moving forward, we must ensure all stakeholders are at the table so that position reclassifications are carried out fairly, equitably and with the utmost respect to our dedicated veterans’ health care staff and the veterans they serve.”

Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.