What Are the Benefits of Working for the VA as a Nurse?
Many people get into nursing because they have a desire to help others. What if you could help others and serve your country at the same time? With a career as a VA nurse, that’s exactly what you’d get.
The sense of purpose you feel when you start a career is great, but it’s no question that you need practical advantages from employment as well. We’ll fill you in on all the many benefits of working for the VA as a nurse, such as retirement plans, competitive pay, easy relocation, and more.
What Is the VA?
The VA stands for Veterans Affairs, which refers to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Healthcare for veterans is one of the department’s major missions, and the VA is the nation’s largest healthcare system. Registered nurses make up the largest group of healthcare professionals employed by the VA. The VA has a rigorous interview process, so it’s important to be prepared if you’re interested in one of these roles.
7 Benefits of Working for the VA as a Nurse
Now that you know what the VA is, let’s get into the details of what it’s like to work here. Are VA employee benefits good? Is working at the VA as a nurse worth it? Judge for yourself as you read through these seven benefits.
- Early Adoption of New Technologies
- Simplified Relocation
- Education Support
- Competitive Salary
- Standardized Schedule
- Retirement Benefits
- Health Insurance
1. Early Adoption of New Technologies
If you get excited about emerging technologies in healthcare, you’ll be pleased to hear that one of the VA hospital benefits for nurses is getting to experience new technologies firsthand.
For example, did you know that the VA was the very first to implement barcode medication administration (BCMA) and electronic records? It’s true. Today, they are leading the telehealth industry, serving over 2 million veterans virtually. As a VA nurse, you will be able to contribute to this innovation by sharing your ideas, feedback, and participating in the implementation of new technology.
2. Simplified Relocation
One underrated perk of working for the VA as a nurse is the ability to practice in any U.S. state with the same license. Yes, you read that right. You can also work in Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, or the Philippines with your RN or LPN license.
The best part is that you can start your VA nursing career in one state and can take all of your VA employee benefits — health insurance, accrued paid leave, competitive pay, and more — with you when you relocate. Not to mention, the VA has over 1,300 facilities to choose from.
If you like continuity, you’ll be glad to know that even if you move to a new VA office, you’ll be able to transfer your working knowledge of the electronic medical record (EMR). That’s because all VA facilities use the same EMR.
3. Education Support
It may be easier to continue your nursing education as a VA nurse. How so? VA nurses can apply for numerous nursing scholarships, enroll in loan repayment and forgiveness programs, receive tuition assistance and reimbursement, or even have their full college studies paid for.
What does this look like practically? You could receive up to $200,000 over five years in loan repayment in exchange for working in a qualifying position. Here’s how:
- Earn a degree at an accredited school.
- Have debt from a degree that is related to your job position (i.e., nursing).
- Maintain an acceptable performance in your position during the loan reimbursement period.
As an added bonus, the reimbursements are tax-free and don’t require a mandatory service agreement. In other words — you don’t have to pay back the reimbursement if you leave your position.
4. Competitive Salary
You’ll likely find that your nursing salary at the VA is very competitive. Your specific compensation will be based on your education, training, certifications, licensure, and level of experience. You may also receive regular cost-of-living increases and will be eligible for bonuses.
If you’re familiar with other federal positions, you may already know that compensation is often offered on a “step basis” or by rank. The same is true for VA nurses — they are paid by the Title 38 pay scale, which has salary increases across 13 steps. Find your state’s pay scale here.
5. Standardized Schedule
Arguably, this may be the biggest benefit of working for the VA as a nurse: paid federal holidays. Imagine being a nurse who doesn’t have to work holidays! All VA facilities are closed for 10 federal holidays (which accounts to 11 paid days off), meaning you’ll have more time to create memories with friends and family and have a better work-life balance. If you work full time as a VA nurse, you can accrue up to 5 weeks of paid vacation and an additional 13 days of sick leave.
When it comes to the actual shifts you’d work, VA nurses have the opportunity to work similar shifts as other nurses: 8-hr shifts, 10-hr shifts, and 12-hr shifts. In 2004, Congress passed legislation allowing VA nurses to work two alternate schedules:
- Work three 12-hr shifts weekly (36 hours per week) and still be eligible for full-time pay and benefits.
- Work for nine months and have three months off each year, at 75% of annual full-time pay.
Depending on your facility type, such as hospital vs. outpatient, your offered schedule may vary.
6. Retirement Benefits
The VA nurse retirement benefits are pretty remarkable. You’ll be eligible to participate in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), which includes Social Security, a Thrift Savings Plan, and a pension. This gives you access to two lifetime payments when you retire and 401(k) plans with employer matching.
You can retire at age 50 and start receiving the benefits (like monthly pension) after 20 years of service, or at any age after 25 years of service. There are also options for a deferred retirement or disability retirement, for those who don’t reach the 20–25 years of service mark. Within FERS, you are eligible for the monthly retirement benefits after five years of service.
7. Health Insurance
Last but not least on the list of VA employee benefits: health insurance. After your first pay period succeeding your start date, you will be fully covered by the VA’s excellent health plan via the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program. The VA will pay up to 75% of your health premiums, even after you’ve retired (in some circumstances). This insurance will follow and cover you for life — an offer that’s truly hard to beat.
VA nurses also receive access to flexible health saving accounts, where they can pay for health-related expenses tax-free. And remember, these benefits of working as a VA nurse follow you as you move from one VA facility to the next.
Start Your Career With the VA Today
Having learned about the benefits of working for the VA as a nurse, are you eager to get started? Search for VA nurse jobs on IntelyCare and start experiencing these benefits yourself.