Congress is approaching the adoption of a measure to expand benefits offered to veterans who have fallen ill after exposure to burns while in active service, and to allow broad new authorities to hire and retain staff to cope with the resulting increase. of the use of the state health system.

The Senate queued up a vote next week on the Law on Keeping Our Promise to Combat Comprehensive Toxic Substances (honoring our PACT)HR 3697), which would suggest, for the purposes of eligibility for care in the Veterans Affairs Department, that 23 respiratory diseases infected by veterans are related to incineration pits used in the military. The measure has bipartisan support after Senate leaders reached a groundbreaking agreement last month and the House of Representatives has already passed a similar bill. Veterans advocates believe that millions of veterans could become new, eligible for VA care under the law, which prompts lawmakers to include in the measure provisions to promote recruitment, recruitment tools, pay and bonuses.

The bill has been in the works for years, as advocates and some lawmakers have insisted on recognizing that exposure to fires used by the military to dispose of toxic and other waste causes cancer and other diseases. All veterans who claim to have related illnesses will have access to new VA exams, which will set up a working group on how the department will handle allegations of toxic exposure in the future.

The measure is designed to allow the leasing of 31 new medical facilities in Virginia to help meet the expected jump in patients, which is expected to cost nearly $ 1 billion. The Congressional Budget Service has found that huge pay and other changes in human resources will come at a cost of $ 5.7 billion over the next decade. The original version of the House of Representatives bill did not include personnel reforms, but House lawmakers introduced separate legislation Thursday with many of the same provisions.

The bill will authorize the department to buy the contract of health professionals to hire them in the VA, as long as they make a four-year commitment to the department. The VA will have $ 40 million a year to buy out. VA healthcare professionals will be eligible for a 50% increase in their basic salary, compared to the current 30% ceiling. Total pay will be limited to the second level of the executive service pay scale, which is currently $ 203,000 a year. VA Secretary-General Dennis McDonau called the abolition of pay ceilings essential to the VA’s recruitment and retention efforts and aggressively urged Congress to pass the reform.

The measure will remove pay constraints for all employees whose facility closes, potentially creating widespread use of retention incentives, as the VA is in the midst of efforts to close or consolidate hundreds of medical centers and clinics across the country. It will also remove caps for staff caring for burn victims. McDonough has implemented initiatives to increase eligibility for childcare subsidies, increase retention incentives and create new career paths that will lead to more opportunities for promotions and promotions.

The bill will lift the total $ 360 million bonus limit currently set for the VA for the next two years. This would facilitate the process of providing incentives for recruitment and retention and would increase the remuneration of critically skilled staff. It would also authorize the VA to pay up to $ 100,000 to repay a student loan to an employee and hire recent graduates on an accelerated basis.

Under the bill, the VA will create a strategy for recruiting staff in rural areas, in consultation with each medical center and clinic. The department will need to work with the Human Resources Management Office to establish qualifications for each human resources specialist and to standardize performance indicators for them. The measure will limit the requirements for implementing veterans’ preferences for domestic helpers, which lawmakers called “one of the most insufficient and difficult to hire positions in VA facilities across the country.”

The Senate was originally scheduled to vote on the bill Thursday, but postponed its final adoption until next week as it smooths the amendment process. President Biden has already praised the bill and encouraged lawmakers to act expeditiously to pass it. Biden suggests that his son Bo, who died of brain cancer after serving abroad near cremation pits, has been affected by toxic exposures.

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