What Is the VA Hiring Process for Nurses?

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Written by Alexa Davidson, MSN, RN Content Writer, IntelyCare
A man in an interview explains the VA hiring process for nurses.

You’ve always heard about the benefits of working as a Veterans Affairs (VA) nurse, but your only exposure to working with veterans was in nursing school clinicals. Does this affect your chances of gaining employment as a VA nurse?

Not necessarily, but there are some important nuances to the employment process that you should know about before applying. We answer frequently asked questions about the VA hiring process for nurses and cover the steps to take to begin your career with this unique patient population.

Are VA Nurses Federal Employees?

The VA health system is part of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, which means its nurses are considered federal employees. There are many advantages to working in a federal health system — financial advantages in particular. On average, federal employees make 16% more in annual compensation than employees with the same job title in the private sector. Other benefits of nursing at the VA include:

  • Enrollment in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)
  • Flexible locations, including American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands
  • Life insurance
  • Long-term care coverage
  • Medical malpractice for healthcare providers

When searching for federal employment, it’s helpful to get familiar with the common terms on job opportunity announcements you may come across. For example, the term “veteran’s preference” indicates jobs where eligible veterans are given preference for the job opportunity over other applicants.

Can Non-Military Nurses Work at the VA?

Although some job opportunities may place preference for veterans or military nurses over civilian nurses, you’re still encouraged to apply — the VA has ongoing needs for skilled nursing professionals like yourself. To ensure you’re a fit for a specific job, read the sections of the job posting called “this job is open to” and “who may apply.” Only apply if you qualify for one of the hiring paths listed on the posting.

Is It Hard to Get a VA Nursing Job?

The VA hiring process for nurses can be more involved than jobs in the private sector due to special rules for government agencies. You may be required to submit additional paperwork during the process, such as personal information for background screening. VA recruiters divide applications by candidates with minimal and highest qualifications to guide the selection process. Those with the highest qualifications are the first to be offered interviews.

For these reasons, it’s important to ensure the VA is a good fit for you before applying. Do your personal values align with the VA’s commitment to serving veterans, their families, caregivers, and survivors? Nurses embody the VA’s core values, known as ICARE, in everyday patient care:

  • Integrity
  • Commitment
  • Advocacy
  • Respect
  • Excellence

How Does the VA Nurse Payscale Work?

So, how much do VA nurses make? The average pay for a VA employee is $71,000 annually, but how much you make as a VA nurse depends on your location and years of experience. Salaries are calculated according to the VA pay schedule, which factors in a nurse’s location, career level, and pay grade. Be sure to discuss your nursing experience, education, and unique qualifications with a recruiter before accepting a job at the VA.

The VA is able to offer competitive salaries and pay increases throughout nurses’ careers thanks to federal legislation. The VA Nurse and PA Retention and Income Security Enhancement (RAISE) Act, signed into law in 2022, increased salary caps for these critical need healthcare providers. This helps support nurse retention and job satisfaction for VA nurses.

How to Apply for a Job at the VA Hospital: FAQ

As you prepare to apply for VA jobs, gather information to set realistic expectations that will set you up for success. Here are commonly asked questions about the VA hiring process for nurses.

What’s included in the requirements section of the application?

This section of a job application details the eligibility and qualifications you need to be selected for the job. Your years and type of nursing experience, along with education, determine how qualified you are for the position.

How long does the hiring process take?

The VA hiring process timeline depends on the number of applicants and the urgency of hiring for the role. After you submit a job application, it can take 15-30 days after the position is closed before you hear from someone on the hiring team. Top applicants are selected for the interview process, then offers are made after all interviews have been completed.

In cases of critical staffing shortages, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) may issue direct hire authority to fill open positions. The VA direct hire process expedites the recruitment process and may get you in the door sooner.

What’s the VA hiring process after interviewing?

VA nurse interviews may take place over the phone, virtually, individually in person, or before a panel. After interviews are complete, hiring managers select which candidate will receive the job opportunity. If you receive an offer, you may be required to submit additional information for background and security clearance checks. Once cleared, you’ll receive a final offer and a start date.

What’s the best way to apply for VA jobs as a nurse?

You can apply for VA nursing jobs by either visiting a comprehensive nursing job marketplace or on the official website of the U.S. government.

Find a VA Nursing Job Today

Now that you have a better understanding of the VA hiring process for nurses, begin your journey to a VA nursing career. Find exciting new opportunities when you search for VA nurse jobs on IntelyCare today.