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Personnel management in the VA focused on improved staffing and position management for agency facilities and continued development of a broad variety of special emphasis programs. In addition, the areas of labor relations and employee relations generated increased activity throughout the agency.
insufficient time has passed to make a complete assessment, the special pay provided by the Veterans' Administration Physician and Dentist Pay Comparability Act of 1975 appears to have improved the VA's position in recruiting and retaining well-qualified physicians.
The Physician and Dentist Pay Comparability Act of 1975 also provided for the employment of physician's assistants under the Title 38 personnel system covering VA's physicians, dentists, nurses, and nurse anesthetists. There were 208 physician's assistants on the rolls as of June 30, 1976.
The accompanying table shows the number of physicians, dentists, nurses, nurse anesthetists, and physician's assistants on the rolls as of June 30 for the past two fiscal years.
During the fiscal year, about 67,000 employees were hired in the VA. Although there was usually a sufficient supply of qualified applicants to meet the agency's needs in most of the lower level occupations, extensive recruitment efforts were required to meet the demand for personnel in highly skilled technical, paramedical, and professional fields. Despite these efforts, however, some shortage continued, particularly in the professional health career fields.
The number of qualified candidates interested in VA positions has generally increased during recent years. A national advertising campaign has been conducted to stimulate and encourage this interest, with special focus on VA medical care facilities experiencing recruitment difficulties. Exhibits at conferences and conventions of professional and paraprofessional associations further broadened exposure of health career specialists to VA employment needs and potential. VA facilities have kept neighboring colleges and professional schools aware of employment opportunities, particularly in the health care fields, by establishing training affiliations and cooperative education and work-study arrangements.
These recruitment efforts have contributed to the generally improved staffing of health care facilities. The number of nurses on VA's rolls on June 30, 1976, totaled 25,902. - This is an increase of 1,431 over the number employed in the previous year and reflects the rising trend in the employment of VA nurses over the past several years. In spite of this trend, some VA hospitals have continued to experience difficulties in recruiting nurses.
The number of physicians on duty June 30, 1976, totaled 9,060. While the number of physicians employed by the VA has been increasing, recruitment is expected to continue to be difficult, particularly for scarce specialties, in light of competition and inflationary pressures. Although
The VA has been authorized by the Civil Service Commission to make excepted appointments of Rehabilitation Technicians in drug and alcoholism rehabilitation units. To be eligible for such appointments, applicants must be former drug or alcoholic patients who have been rehabilitated through a prescribed treatment program. As of June 30, 1976, 245 such persons were employed in the VA. Of these, 158 were veteran preference employees, including 73 Vietnam era veterans.
Employment of Veterans
Significant efforts to attract and employ veterans were made by the VA in FY 1976 – 20,326 veterans were hired by the agency during this
riod. As of June 30, 1976, 15.1 percent of all VA employees were Vietnam era veterans and 6.6 percent were disabled veterans. Among male employees 73.6 percent were veterans; of these 38.4 percent were from the Vietnam era and 17.5 percent were disabled.
Particular attention was paid to employment of the Vietnam era veterans by the agency.
The Veterans Readjustment Appointment (VRA) is a special type of appointment to a Federal civilian job that may be given to a recently discharged Vietnam era veteran who agrees to participate in a training or educational program while working. In FY 1976, 6,575 VRA appointments were made. Since this authority was established in April 1970, 32,883 Vietnam era veterans have been given VRA appointments in the VA. This represents 35.4 percent of all the appointments which have been made under the VRA authority in the entire Federal government. Veterans hired under the VRA authority receive excepted service appointments initially, but are converted to regular competitive appointments after two years of satisfactory service. During the fiscal year, the VA converted 1,938 VRA's from excepted to competitive status, bringing the total number of agency conversions since the authority was established to 7,251.
The Civil Service Commission in March 1972 authorized the temporary employment of certain recently discharged Vietnam era veterans to fill Federal agencies' short-term staffing needs. During the fiscal year, the VA appointed 1,879 veterans under these provisions. The VA has also taken advantage of the military medical skills of recently discharged veterans. The agency hired 19,418 individuals in health care positions during FY 1976. Of these, 5,196 were veteran preference employees and 460 were veterans with medical military occupation specialties.
A significant number of Vietnam era veterans continued to be employed in VA jobs where they meet, work closely with, and provide services to veterans and their beneficiaries. About 70 percent of VA'S Veterans Benefits Counselors and 36 percent of the Veterans Claims Examiners are Vietnam era veterans. Another 22 percent of VA's Medical Radiology Technicians and 19 percent of the VA Medical Machine Technicians (e.g., inhalation therapy, electrocardiograph, electroencephalograph, and hemodialysis technicians) are Vietnam era veterans. About 20 percent of the Medical Administrative Assistants who serve in hospital admission areas are also Vietnam era veterans.
capped persons, especially disabled veterans. The results-oriented affirmative action plan which guides these efforts was updated on April 1, 1976, to fully capitalize on the preceding twelve months' accomplishments. Actions specifically aimed at attracting disabled veterans are an integral part of this plan. In addition, VA has been vigorously represented throughout FY 1976 on the Interagency Committee on Handicapped Employees, which serves as a significant forum for stimulation of positive Federal action.
As of December 31, 1975, VA employed 12,194 handicapped persons or 5.6 percent of total VA employment. This figure, up from 5.5 percent the previous year, represents the first increase since 1968 in the handicapped proportion of VA's work force. As of June 30, 1976, there were 14,729 disabled veterans or 6.6 percent of VA's work force.
With about 7.7 percent of all Federal employees, VA had 16.4 percent of Federal handicapped employees who were reported in a December 31, 1975, Federal-wide tally.
Handicapped employees continued to demon. strate their performance capabilities with 1,587 receiving grade promotions and an additional 355 receiving other special salary advancements. Handicapped employees also earned 240 awards for employee suggestions, 82 special citations and commendations, and 438 other awards.
Executive Development and Training
The Executive Training Center continued development activities directed toward executives and mid-managers, GS-13 and above. Almost 1,200 employees in these categories participated in programs which included Management Skills Seminars for newly appointed Directors and Assistant Directors of field stations and Labor-Management Relations Seminars for Directors and Assistant Directors of field stations (and officials with comparable responsibility in Central Office). In an effort to reach more people with management training, arrangements were made to provide a management training supplement of one or more days to conferences of executives being conducted in technical program areas. For example, management training supplements were added to technical conferences for Chiefs of Nursing Service and of Dietetic Service. The Executive Training Center also assisted the Department of Medicine and Surgery in funding eighteen one-week management
Employment of Disabled Veterans and Handicapped Individuals
The VA pursued an active, agency-wide program to foster the hiring and advancment of disabled veterans and other handicapped individuals. The directors of all VA facilities have been instructed to take positive steps to encourage maximum employment opportunities for all handi
on the status of personnel management in the VA and the attention given to personnel management by field station Directors. Significant findings continue to be communicated back to all field station Directors and Personnel Officers to alert them of areas that should be given special attention during self-evaluation activities.
Classification and Pay
courses for field mid-managers at eight universities geographically dispersed throughout the country and funded seven week-long programs for Central Office mid-managers at three universities in Washington, D.C.
The Office of Personnel worked closely with the departments in conducting the training necessary for implementation of the Privacy Act of 1974. Sessions were held for employees of Central Office and all VA field facilities involved with systems of records.
The Office of Personnel collaborated with the Department of Veterans Benefits in the production of a video tape on telephone interviewing techniques to be used in video cassette form for the training of Veterans Assistance Service personnel. Another joint effort was the development of "Venture in Progress", a training program for claims examiners, rating specialists and other adjudication personnel.
VA's managerial manpower planning publications were updated to provide current work force profiles, information on significant changes and trends, and 5-year projections of replacement needs. Internal programs of executive selection and training were strengthened through resource planning, the identification of employees with high potential for assignment to executive positions, and the preparation of individual development plans. New and incumbent managers and executives and employees identified as having high potential for assignment to executive positions, were provided formal management training or developmental work assignments to assist them in keeping abreast of managerial advances.
The position classification and job grading programs cover approximately 129,000 General Schedule and 40,000 Federal Wage System employees in the VA. Special attention was given to improving and strengthening these programs and on more effective utilization of position management to cut personnel costs. Preparations were made to train VA personnel in the new Factor Evaluation classification system for General Schedule positions.
Almost all of the 40,000 appropriated and nonappropriated fund wage employees in VA's facilities received prevailing rate pay adjustments during FY 1976. VA had lead agency wage survey and pay fixing responsibility in 23 of the 108 appropriated fund wage areas.
The pay administration program also covers pay systems that include approximately 9,000 physicians and dentists, 26,000 nurses and physician's assistants 5,000 medical and dental residents and interns, and a number of medical support trainees.
The most significant pay development in FY 1976 was the implementation of Public Law 94-123, the Physician and Dentist Pay Comparabil. ity Act of 1975. This legislation, generally effective October 12, 1975, authorized special pay, in amounts not to exceed $13,500 per annum for eligible physicians and $6,750 per annum for eligibln dentists in the Department of Medicine and Surgery. As of June 30, 1976, more than 8,000 full and part-time physicians and dentists were receiving special pay.
The purpose of the special pay authority is to assist in recruiting and retaining physicians and dentists to provide high quality medical care for eligible veterans. By June 30, 1976, the number of full-time physicians on duty reached a new high of 5,835. Loss rates during the almost 9 months following enactment of the law were lower than for the comparable period one year earlier.
Personnel Management Program Evaluation
During the fiscal year 44 personnel management evaluations were conducted at VA field installations, a 9 percent increase over evaluation visits conducted the previous year.
These evaluations featured a general review of the personnel management program, with a positive emphasis on contributing to the efficiency and economy of the facility's overall operations. Special attention was given to reviewing local management's compliance with merit system and classification requirements, and to improving local systems of self-evaluation.
Program findings in these reviews and in those conducted by other VA elements and by the Civil Service Commission continue to reflect favorably
Within the VA 16 labor organizations hold exclusive recognition on behalf of 146,000 employees. They comprise 367 separate bargaining units of diverse size and composition, an increase of 11 over the previous year. In 296 of these units the employees are covered by negotiated agreements with provisions encompassing a wide variety of local personnel policies, procedures, and work. ing conditions. Four labor organizations, because of the size of membership in their exclusive units, hold national consultation rights with the VA. This entitles them to be consulted on proposed substantive agency level personnel policies affecting the employees they represent.
Equal Employment Opportunity
macy, and social work have shown similar progress in the employment of minorities.
Substantial progress also was achieved by minorities in administrative fields at grades GS-5 and above. Particularly significant were increases in personnel management, supply management, and claims adjudication.
In General Schedule (GS) or similar positions, the distribution of minorities in the various grade groupings reveals an upward trend. For example, minorities in grade grouping GS 5-8 increased from 29 percent in 1975 to 29.4 percent in 1976; in GS 9-11, minorities moved from 14.7 percent to 15.4 percent; in GS 12-13, from 8 percent to 8.5 percent; in GS 14-15, from 13.3 percent to 14 percent; and in GS 16-18, from 4.1 percent to 4.9 percent.
As of May 31, 1976, a total of 32,530 Vietnam era veterans were employed both full-time and part-time. Of these, 9,569 were minorities: 7,564 Blacks, 1,584 Hispanics, 84 American Indians, and 337 Orientals.
Reports for the same period on Veterans Readjustment Appointments show that of 7,823 such appointments, nearly half were minorities. Of these, Blacks, numbering 2,890, predominated followed by 571 Hispanics, 100 Orientals, and 27 American Indians.
Minorities hold 18.8 percent of all supervisory positions ranging from 0.2 percent held by American Indians to 15.7 percent held by Blacks. Minorities, as shown in the accompanying table, are also found in senior executive level positions.
During the summer of 1975, over 6,000 young people were employed under the Summer Employment Program for Youth. Nearly 5,000 of these were needy youth and many were minorities. The agency also continued its participation as "host" to numerous enrollee programs averaging approximately 2,000 enrollees in training at any given time. Last year, 15 field facilities participated in the College Cooperative Education Program in association with schools having predominately minority enrollment. The VA has completed its fourth year of participation with the American University Program for Health Administration (AUPHA) geared to minority youth. Nearly 100 trainees interested in or pursuing training for careers as health care administrators have participated in this nationwide program.