Summary: H.R.4557 — 101st Congress (1989-1990)All Information (Except Text)

Bill summaries are authored by CRS.

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Passed House amended (05/01/1990)

Department of Veterans Affairs Health Professionals Compensation and Labor-Relations Act of 1990 - Title I: Physicians and Dentists Special Pay - Revises provisions of Federal law relating to special pay for health-care professionals of the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration (HSRA) of the Department of Veterans Affairs (Department).

Directs the Secretary of Veterans Affairs, in order to recruit and retain highly qualified physicians and dentists, to provide special pay upon the execution of a written agreement between the Secretary and the individual involved providing that the individual shall serve a required period of obligated service within the HSRA. Provides that such an individual is not entitled to such special pay during the first three years of such service, except at the discretion of the Secretary for full-time services. Prohibits the payment of special pay to those physician and dentist positions for which there is no significant recruitment and retention problem.

Outlines requirements of a written agreement, including provisions providing for: (1) a covered period of one to four years; (2) refunding of special pay for unfulfilled service; (3) the waiver of such refund requirement due to circumstances beyond the control of the physician or dentist; and (4) submission to the Secretary of agreements where an individual is entering into a second or subsequent agreement for a specified amount of special pay. Authorizes the Secretary to adjust amounts of special pay to reflect changes in the status of a physician or dentist.

Directs the Secretary to provide special pay to eligible full-time physicians based upon specified factors, including: (1) tenure within the HSRA; (2) service in a medical specialty for which it is extremely difficult to recruit and retain qualified professionals; (3) service in certain executive positions; (4) specialty or board certifications; and (5) service in a geographic location for which there are extraordinary difficulties in the recruitment or retention of qualified personnel. Requires the maximum amount of special pay to be paid to the Chief Medical Director (CMD) and the Deputy Chief Medical Director (DCMD).

Directs the Secretary to provide special pay to part-time eligible physicians based upon similar factors. Requires the Secretary to pay each such physician an amount of special pay equal to the proportion of full-time service that a physician performs.

Directs the Secretary to provide special pay to eligible full-time and part-time dentists based upon similar factors.

Prohibits physicians and dentists provided special pay and serving in certain executive positions from being paid scarce specialty pay (another form of special pay that rewards scarce specialty areas of practice). Requires, with regard to the payment of special pay, determinations: (1) that there are extraordinary difficulties in recruitment or retention; (2) of the amount of special pay based upon the special pay factors for each individual; and (3) of whether there are extraordinary difficulties in a specific geographic location in the recruitment or retention of qualified physicians or dentists. Outlines considerations for determinations with respect to extraordinary recruitment and retention difficulties and the payment of scarce specialty pay for individual medical facilities of the Department.

Outlines the manner in which special pay is to be considered for purposes of other benefits laws for Federal employees.

States that it is the policy of the Congress to assure that total pay for HSRA physicians and dentists is comparable to total pay of other Government physicians and dentists and to the income of non-Federal physicians and dentists. Directs the Secretary: (1) in order to assist in implementing such policy, to obtain measures of income of such non-Department physicians and dentists and to define the bases for pay distinctions; (2) to report to the President quadrennially on appropriate amounts of special pay to HSRA physicians and dentists to carry out such policy; and (3) to report to specified congressional committees annually on the use of authorities under this title.

Directs the Secretary to reimburse any full-time board-certified physician or dentist appointed in the HSRA for expenses incurred, up to $1,000 per year, for continuing professional education.

Title II: Nurses Pay Grades and Pay Administration - Directs the Secretary to restructure the current nurse pay grades so as to provide four grade levels (entry, intermediate, senior, and director grade levels).

Requires the Secretary to maintain the four new grade levels established for nurses employed in the Department. Provides GS-levels for each nurse grade, with appropriate step increments. Requires Department nurses serving as head nurses to receive basic pay at a rate two steps above the otherwise applicable rate. Authorizes the director of a medical center of the Department to provide step promotions or cash bonuses to nurses who have qualifications, experience, or achievements which the director determines exceed the standards for the nurse's current grade. Outlines factors to be considered by the director in making such determinations.

Directs the Secretary to provide that the director of a medical center of the Department may appoint a nurse at a basic pay rate in excess of the minimum rate otherwise applicable if necessary to obtain the services of qualified nurses at that medical center. Requires the director to document and include the reasons for taking such action in his or her next budget submission.

Repeals a current limitation on the hourly rate of overtime pay permissible for nurses within the Department.

Title III: Labor-Management Relations - Revises Federal provisions concerning personnel administration and collective bargaining procedures within the Department. Includes all employees appointed in the HSRA under such provisions. Provides that the authority of the Secretary to prescribe regulations with regard to such employees is subject to the right of Federal employees to engage in the collective bargaining process with respect to conditions of employment. States that such collective bargaining may not cover, or have any applicability to, any matter or question arising out of professional conduct or competence. Provides that the issue of whether a matter concerns or arises out of professional conduct or competence shall be decided by the Secretary and is not subject to collective bargaining. Authorizes the Secretary to prescribe regulations establishing conditions under which employees of the HSRA who are nationally recognized in the area of medical research may be permitted to accept payment from non-Federal entities and individuals for travel and reasonable expenses for attending meetings, performing advisory services, and accepting awards. Requires any person who engages in such extra-professional activities to work a minimum 80-hour biweekly amount. Outlines activities and responsibilities that such a person may not engage in or take on while an employee of the Department.

Provides that whenever the CMD brings charges against a Department employee based on conduct or performance and, as a result of those charges, an adverse (disciplinary) action is taken against the employee, the employee shall have the right to appeal the action, either through: (1) a Disciplinary Appeals Board; (2) Department procedures; or (3) grievance procedures provided through collective bargaining, depending on the type of action involved. Requires the Secretary to publish in the Federal Register any proposed regulations concerning the collective bargaining or adverse action procedures.

States that Disciplinary Appeals Boards shall have exclusive jurisdiction to review any case: (1) which arises out of a question of professional conduct or competence of an employee of the Department employed on a full-time basis under a permanent appointment; and (2) in which a major adverse action was taken (suspension, transfer, reduction in grade or pay, or discharge). Gives employees involved in such a case the right to: (1) advance written notice of the charges and actions that could be taken if the charges are sustained; and (2) an opportunity to be heard both orally and in writing on such charges. Requires a decision on such case by a deciding official within 21 days after the employee's response to the charges. Allows for a delay in a proposed action for up to one year while an employee seeks counseling or treatment for a condition covered under the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. Allows the Secretary to require an employee to make a written or oral response to the charges within 30 days of receipt, with extension for good cause shown. Outlines further administrative action to be taken by the Board in a major adverse action appeals procedure, together with time limitations involved in each step. States that the Secretary's execution of the Board's decision shall be the final administrative action in the case, with the affected employee entitled to judicial review of the order or decision.

Requires the Secretary to prescribe procedures for the consideration of grievances of Department employees arising from adverse actions in which each action taken either: (1) is not a major adverse action; or (2) does not arise out of a question of professional conduct or competence. States that Disciplinary Appeals Boards shall not have jurisdiction to review such matters other than as part of a mixed case. States that review of an adverse action shall be provided through either Department procedures or through grievance procedures provided through collective bargaining. Outlines the rights of employees under the Department procedures to: (1) a formal review by an impartial examiner within the Department; (2) a prompt report of findings; (3) a prompt review of the examiner's findings by a higher official; and (4) legal or other representation in adverse action reviews under grievance procedures.

Requires the Secretary to appoint Disciplinary Appeals Boards to hear appeals of major adverse actions taken against full-time Department employees based on professional conduct or performance. Authorizes the chairman of such a Board to authorize disclosure to the affected employee of records or information to be reviewed during an appeal procedure. Provides for the protection of the privacy of the individuals whose records are involved.

Requires the Secretary to periodically designate Department employees qualified to serve on Disciplinary Appeals Boards and to announce that a list of such qualified employees is available to any person requesting such list. Requires the Secretary to provide training in the functions and duties of such Boards and grievance procedures for employees selected to be on the panel.

Title IV: Miscellaneous - Exempts the Veterans Health Services and Research Administration, Medical Care Account from sequestration or reduction under the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act (Gramm-Rudman-Hollings Act).

Authorizes the Secretary to carry out certain administrative reorganizations of regional and district offices as described in a prior communication to the Congress.

Requires judges of the U.S. Court of Veterans Appeals to receive the salary rate received by judges of the U.S. Court of Military Appeals.

Makes licensed practical nurses, vocational nurses, and nurse assistants eligible for premium pay on the same basis as registered nurses.