38 USC 7451 - Nurses and other health-care personnel: competitive pay

(a) 
(1) It is the purpose of this section to ensure, by a means providing increased responsibility and authority to directors of Department health-care facilities, that the rates of basic pay for health-care personnel positions described in paragraph (2) in each Department health-care facility (including the rates of basic pay of personnel employed in such positions on a part-time basis) are sufficient for that facility to be competitive, on the basis of pay and other employee benefits, with non-Department health-care facilities in the same labor-market area in the recruitment and retention of qualified personnel for those positions.
(2) The health-care personnel positions referred to in paragraph (1) (hereinafter in this section referred to as covered positions) are the following:
(A) Registered nurse.

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(B) Such positions referred to in paragraphs (1) and (3) of section 7401 of this title (other than the positions of physician, dentist, and registered nurse) as the Secretary may determine upon the recommendation of the Under Secretary for Health.
(3) 
(A) Except as provided in subparagraph (B), the rates of basic pay for covered positions in the Department shall be established and adjusted in accordance with this section instead of subsection (b)(1) of section 7404 of this title or chapter 53 of title 5.
(B) Under such regulations as the Secretary shall prescribe, the Secretary shall establish and adjust the rates of basic pay for covered positions at the following health-care facilities in order to provide rates of basic pay that enable the Secretary to recruit and retain sufficient numbers of health-care personnel in such positions at those facilities:
(i) The Veterans Memorial Medical Center in the Republic of the Philippines.
(ii) Department of Veterans Affairs health-care facilities located outside the contiguous States, Alaska, and Hawaii.
(4) The Secretary, after receiving the recommendation of the Under Secretary for Health, shall prescribe regulations setting forth criteria and procedures to carry out this section and section 7452 of this title. Requirements in such regulations for directors to provide and maintain documentation of actions taken under this section shall require no more documentation than the minimum essential for responsible administration.
(b) The Secretary shall maintain the five grade levels for nurses employed by the Department under section 7401 (1) of this title as specified in the Nurse Schedule in section 7404 (b) of this title. The Secretary shall, pursuant to regulations prescribed to carry out this subchapter, establish grades for other covered positions as the Secretary considers appropriate.
(c) 
(1) For each grade in a covered position, there shall be a range of basic pay. The maximum rate of basic pay for a grade shall be 133 percent of the minimum rate of basic pay for the grade, except that, if the Secretary determines that a higher maximum rate is necessary with respect to any such grade in order to recruit and retain a sufficient number of high-quality health-care personnel, the Secretary may raise the maximum rate of basic pay for that grade to a rate not in excess of 175 percent of the minimum rate of basic pay for the grade. Whenever the Secretary exercises the authority under the preceding sentence to establish the maximum rate of basic pay at a rate in excess of 133 percent of the minimum rate for that grade, the Secretary shall, in the next annual report required by subsection (g),1 provide justification for doing so to the Committees on Veterans Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives.

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(2) The maximum rate of basic pay for any grade for a covered position may not exceed the maximum rate of basic pay established for positions in level V of the Executive Schedule under section 5316 of title 5.
(3) The range of basic pay for each such grade shall be divided into equal increments, known as steps. The Secretary shall prescribe the number of steps. Each grade in a covered position shall have the same number of steps. Rates of pay within a grade may not be established at rates other than whole steps. Any increase (other than an adjustment under subsection (d)) within a grade in the rate of basic pay payable to an employee in a covered position shall be by one or more of such step increments.
(d) 
(1) Subject to subsection (e), the rates of basic pay for each grade in a covered position shall be adjusted periodically in accordance with this subsection in order to achieve the purposes of this section. Such adjustments shall be made
(A) whenever there is an adjustment under section 5303 of title 5 in the rates of pay under the General Schedule, with the adjustment under this subsection to have the same effective date and to be by the same percentage as the adjustment in the rates of basic pay under the General Schedule; and
(B) at such additional times as the director of a Department health-care facility, with respect to employees in that grade at that facility, or the Under Secretary for Health, with respect to covered Regional and Central Office employees in that grade, determines.
(2) An adjustment in rates of basic pay under this subsection for a grade shall be carried out by adjusting the amount of the minimum rate of basic pay for that grade in accordance with paragraph (3) and then adjusting the other rates for that grade to conform to the requirements of subsection (c). Except as provided in paragraph (1)(A), such an adjustment in the minimum rate of basic pay for a grade shall be made by the director of a Department health-care facility so as to achieve consistency with the beginning rate of compensation for corresponding health-care professionals in the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) labor-market area of that facility.
(3) 
(A) In the case of a Department health-care facility located in an area for which there is current information, based upon an industry-wage survey by the Bureau of Labor Statistics for that labor market, on compensation for corresponding health-care professionals for the BLS labor-market area of that facility, the director of the facility concerned shall use that information as the basis for making adjustments in rates of pay under this subsection. Whenever the Bureau of Labor Statistics releases the results of a new industry-wage survey for that labor market that includes information on compensation for corresponding health-care professionals, the director of that facility shall determine, not later than 30 days after the results of the survey are released, whether an adjustment in rates of pay for employees at that facility for any covered position is necessary in order to meet the purposes of this section. If the director determines that such an adjustment is necessary, the adjustment, based upon the information determined in the survey, shall take effect on the first day of the first pay period beginning after that determination.
(B) In the case of a Department health-care facility located in an area for which the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not have current information on compensation for corresponding health-care professionals for the labor-market area of that facility for any covered position, the director of that facility shall conduct a survey in accordance with this subparagraph and shall adjust the amount of the minimum rate of basic pay for grades in that covered position at that facility based upon that survey. To the extent practicable, the director shall use third-party industry wage surveys to meet the requirements of the preceding sentence. Any such survey shall be conducted in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary. Those regulations shall be developed in consultation with the Secretary of Labor in order to ensure that the director of a facility collects information that is valid and reliable and is consistent with standards of the Bureau. The survey should be conducted using methodology comparable to that used by the Bureau in making industry-wage surveys except to the extent determined infeasible by the Secretary. To the extent practicable, all surveys conducted pursuant to this subparagraph or subparagraph (A) shall include the collection of salary midpoints, actual salaries, lowest and highest salaries, average salaries, bonuses, incentive pays, differential pays, actual beginning rates of pay, and such other information needed to meet the purpose of this section. Upon conducting a survey under this subparagraph, the director concerned shall determine, not later than 30 days after the date on which the collection of information through the survey is completed or published, whether an adjustment in rates of pay for employees at that facility for any covered position is necessary in order to meet the purposes of this section. If the director determines that such an adjustment is necessary, the adjustment, based upon the information determined in the survey, shall take effect on the first day of the first pay period beginning after that determination.
(C) 
(i) A director of a Department health-care facility may use data on the compensation paid to certified registered nurse anesthetists who are employed on a salary basis by entities that provide anesthesia services through certified registered nurse anesthetists in the labor-market area only if the director
(I) has conducted a survey of compensation for certified registered nurse anesthetists in the local labor-market area of the facility under subparagraph (B);
(II) has used all available administrative authority with regard to collection of survey data; and
(III) makes a determination (under regulations prescribed by the Secretary) that such survey methods are insufficient to permit the adjustments referred to in subparagraph (B) for such nurse anesthetists employed by the facility.
(ii) For the purposes of this subparagraph, certified registered nurse anesthetists who are so employed by such entities shall be deemed to be corresponding health-care professionals to the certified registered nurse anesthetists employed by the facility.
(D) The Under Secretary for Health shall prescribe regulations providing for the adjustment of the rates of basic pay for Regional and Central Office employees in covered positions in order to assure that those rates are sufficient and competitive.
(E) The director of a facility or Under Secretary for Health may not adjust rates of basic pay under this subsection for any pay grade so that the minimum rate of basic pay for that grade is greater than the beginning rates of compensation for corresponding positions at non-Department health-care facilities.
(4) If the director of a Department health-care facility, or the Under Secretary for Health with respect to Regional and Central Office employees, determines, after any survey under paragraph (3)(B) that it is not necessary to adjust the rates of basic pay for employees in a grade of a covered position at that facility in order to carry out the purpose of this section, such an adjustment for employees at that facility in that grade shall not be made.
(5) Information collected by the Department in surveys conducted under this subsection is not subject to disclosure under section 552 of title 5.
(6) In this subsection
(A) The term beginning rate of compensation, with respect to health-care personnel positions in non-Department health-care facilities corresponding to a grade of a covered position, means the sum of
(i) the minimum rate of pay established for personnel in such positions who have education, training, and experience equivalent or similar to the education, training, and experience required for health-care personnel employed in the same category of Department covered positions; and
(ii) other employee benefits for those positions to the extent that those benefits are reasonably quantifiable.
(B) The term corresponding, with respect to health-care personnel positions in non-Department health-care facilities, means those positions for which the education, training, and experience requirements are equivalent or similar to the education, training, and experience requirements for health-care personnel positions in Department health-care facilities.
(e) 
(1) An adjustment in a rate of basic pay under subsection (d) may not reduce the rate of basic pay applicable to any grade of a covered position.
(2) The director of a Department health-care facility, in determining whether to carry out a wage survey under subsection (d)(3) with respect to rates of basic pay for a grade of a covered position, may not consider as a factor in such determination the absence of a current recruitment or retention problem for personnel in that grade of that position. The director shall make such a determination based upon whether, in accordance with criteria established by the Secretary, there is a significant pay-related staffing problem at that facility in any grade for a position. If the director determines that there is such a problem, or that such a problem is likely to exist in the near future, the Director shall provide for a wage survey in accordance with subsection (d)(3).
(3) The Under Secretary for Health may, to the extent necessary to carry out the purposes of subsection (d), modify any determination made by the director of a Department health-care facility with respect to adjusting the rates of basic pay applicable to covered positions. If the determination of the director would result in an adjustment in rates of basic pay applicable to covered positions, any action by the Under Secretary under the preceding sentence shall be made before the effective date of such pay adjustment. Upon such action by the Under Secretary, any adjustment shall take effect on the first day of the first pay period beginning after such action. The Secretary shall ensure that the Under Secretary establishes a mechanism for the timely exercise of the authority in this paragraph.
(4) Each director of a Department health-care facility shall provide to the Secretary, not later than July 31 each year, a report on staffing for covered positions at that facility. The report shall include the following:
(A) Information on turnover rates and vacancy rates for each covered position, including a comparison of those rates with the rates for the preceding three years.
(B) The directors findings concerning the review and evaluation of the facilitys staffing situation, including whether there is, or is likely to be, in accordance with criteria established by the Secretary, a significant pay-related staffing problem at that facility for any covered position and, if so, whether a wage survey was conducted, or will be conducted with respect to that position.
(C) In any case in which the director conducts such a wage survey during the period covered by the report, information describing the survey and any actions taken or not taken based on the survey, and the reasons for taking (or not taking) such actions.
(D) In any case in which the director, after finding that there is, or is likely to be, in accordance with criteria established by the Secretary, a significant pay-related staffing problem at that facility for any covered position, determines not to conduct a wage survey with respect to that position, a statement of the reasons why the director did not conduct such a survey.
(5) Not later than September 30 of each year, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives a report on staffing for covered positions at Department health care facilities. Each such report shall include the following:
(A) A summary and analysis of the information contained in the most recent reports submitted by facility directors under paragraph (4).
(B) The information for each such facility specified in paragraph (4).
(f) Not later than March 1 of each year, the Secretary shall submit to the Committees on Veterans Affairs of the Senate and House of Representatives a report regarding any pay adjustments under the authority of subsection (d) effective during the 12 months preceding the submission of the report. Each such report shall set forth, by health-care facility, the percentage of such increases and, in any case in which no increase was made, the basis for not providing an increase.
(g) For the purposes of this section, the term health-care facility means a medical center, an independent outpatient clinic, or an independent domiciliary facility.
[1] See References in Text note below.