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NEW LETTER: Harder Pushes White House to Raise Pay for Local VA Doctors & Nurses

WASHINGTON — Today, Representative Josh Harder sent a letter to White House Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja urging the administration to take the action necessary to raise pay for doctors, nurses, and other federal employees at Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities in Stanislaus County.

 

Though the Central Valley faces some of the highest cost of living in the nation, its VA doctors and nurses are still classified as working in the “Rest of the United States,” pay scale region meaning they don’t receive wages and benefits that reflect the high prices of rent, gas, and groceries in the community. Rep. Harder’s letter calls on the White House to appoint a Chairman of the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee who can oversee an increase in wages for VA doctors and nurses.

“Our heroic veterans deserve the best care in the world, and that can only happen when our VA clinics have the best doctors and nurses on staff,” said Rep. Harder. “Today I’m calling on the White House to boost the wages we pay our VA health care workers so we can bring more doctors and nurses here to our community. We can never truly repay our veterans for keeping us safe and protecting our freedom, but we sure can make sure they have the care they need.”

Read the letter below and online here.

Dear Director Ahuja,

Thank you for your leadership of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). I write today to strongly urge that you appoint a Chairman of the Federal Prevailing Rate Advisory Committee (FPRAC) as soon as possible so the hardworking Veterans Administration (VA) healthcare providers and other federal workers serving in my Congressional District can receive the salaries they are due.

As you know, the FPRAC is responsible for establishing recommendations related to changes to the locality schedule, however, it is unable to meet and review changes without a Chairman. OPM is responsible for appointing a Chairman to FPRAC, a key step in allowing Congressional Districts like mine to advocate for a change in the wages its federal workers receive. This review is particularly important for Stanislaus County, as the federal workers are at a disadvantage when it comes to competitive pay in the region since it’s included in the “Rest of United States” General Schedule locality.

For example, for our veterans, the nearest VA hospital is in San Francisco. This compounds issues of care as first, our veterans must travel hours to access care for serious health challenges and second, it encourages healthcare providers to work in areas like San Francisco, rather than the Central Valley. The “Rest of United States” designation does not promote equitable access to care for our Central Valley veterans and pay for our healthcare providers as the cost of living is very similar to surrounding counties that are included in the San Francisco locality. At a time when the COVID-19 pandemic is heading into its third year, healthcare providers are more important than ever. Providing the proper pay and incentives to ensure they are ready to provide services to our veterans will help address the shortage of providers I see in my District every day and get veterans faster access to care.

To begin the locality schedule review process for my Congressional District, we need a FRPAC Chairman appointed as soon as possible. To assist us in understanding the timeline for this process, please provide the answers to the following questions:

  • What are the specific steps that OPM will take to appoint a Chairman to the FPRAC?
  • When can we expect a Chairman to be appointed to the FPRAC?
  • What is the expected timeline for FPRAC to begin reviewing requests for a change to a region’s General Schedule locality?

I look forward to your timely attention to this critical matter.

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