VA SES Weigh In On VA Proposal

A new survey underscores proposals’ shortcomings and Department’s systemic issues

Washington, D.C. – Today the Senior Executives Association (SEA) released an analysis of survey data and commentary regarding the recent proposal by Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Robert McDonald to move the agency’s entire career executive workforce from Title 5 to Title 38 of the United States Code.

SEA issued the survey to gauge Senior Executives’ perception of the potential impact of this recommendation, as well as the current climate and condition of the Department.

“These are the employees who witness first-hand the challenges within the agency and would directly be affected by this proposal,” said SEA Interim President Jason Briefel. “The findings, particularly the comments that participants took the time to leave, indicate a distressing leadership crisis within the Department. It is harrowing to see that ‘toxic,’ ‘fear,’ and ‘mistrust’ were often used to characterize an environment where our veterans come to seek services.”

The 236 current and former VA executive respondents answered a number of questions in relation to the proposal, in addition to questions concerning recruitment and retention efforts; VA talent pipeline; and what would fuel their potential exit from the federal workforce.

Key findings include:

• 64% do not support the proposed move to Title 38 – where career executives would have few workplace protections, but an opportunity for an increase in salary

• Frustration with Congress, VA leadership, and fear of unfair media or Congressional scrutiny are among the top factors for an executive to consider leaving the federal workforce, as well as providing pause for talented candidates considering executive roles at the VA

• 97% of VA executives expressed some degree of concern about the ability of the agency to fill SES vacancies with highly qualified candidates

The report also offers several recommendations as alternatives the Title 38 proposal, such as the full utilization of Title 5 authorities to address compensation, performance, or misconduct. This would include the use of critical pay to better compensate qualified medical professionals.

SEA previously released a one-page explainer of the initial survey findings in addition to an official position on the proposal.