Measure also prevents department from having to collect compensation it already paid out.
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to ensure bigger paychecks for executives at the Veterans Affairs Department, fixing an error that threatened to force the agency to recoup money paid out over the last decade.
The Competitive Pay for Leaders in Veterans Health Care Act (S. 3084) makes employees in Senior Executive Service-equivalent positions hired under a special authority created by a 2010 law eligible for a higher salary, rather than capping them at the lowest level of the Executive Schedule. Sens. Jerry Moran, R-Kan., and Jon Tester, D-Mont., the top lawmakers on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee and the legislation’s authors, said the bill is also necessary so VA does not have to retroactively collect money it has already provided to current and former employees that exceeded the lower cap.
The measure will apply specifically to top executives in the office of the undersecretary for health. Lawmakers said they had always intended for the medical leaders to earn up to the higher cap, which in 2020 is $197,300.
“To deliver the best possible care for our veterans, we need to have the best possible workforce at the Department of Veterans Affairs,” Moran said last month when introducing the bill. “This bill will make certain that VA retains the ability to provide competitive pay to attract and keep highly specialized and highly competent leaders serving our veterans.”
The Senate approved the fix by unanimous consent.
“The Department of Veterans Affairs must be an employer of choice for talented professionals,” Tester said. “This bipartisan legislation will ensure that VA is able to recruit and retain individuals who help the Veterans Health Administration provide high-quality care and services to our nation’s veterans.”
The bill will now head to the House for consideration.
This story has been updated to clarify the impacted population and their pay caps.