Dec 16 2014


A meeting of the Texas Hill Country Veterans Council was held on December 16, 2014 at the Kerrville Chamber of Commerce. Attending the meeting were:

Vicki Marsh, President
Bill Bacon, First Vice President
David Rittenhouse, Second Vice President
Members Bill Cantrell, Emilio Rendon, Gary Noller, Maggie Baker
Paul Gregory, Chief Administrative Officer Kerrville VA
Guests Susan Junker, Pat Youngblood, Cord Switzer, Dennis Birchall

The meeting was called to order at 0900 by President Marsh.

Cord Switzer was introduced by Bill Bacon as a prospective new member of the Council representing Fredericksburg. Cord is a life-long resident of that city. He was an Army Aviator in the Vietnam War.

Mr. Paul Gregory, KVAís administrative officer, introduced Mr. Pat Youngblood of the DVA's Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) 17. Mr. Youngblood explained that he is the sole VISN medical recruiter and is based out of San Antonio although he works for VAís Central Office. His job is to search out potential recruits in the medical professions, interview and present them to the hiring authorities at the different VA centers in VISN 17. He said there are two types of recruits: Title 5 is a competitive recruit which in his terms are the "Post and Pray" positions. These positions are required to be posted to USA Jobs based upon templates provided by Office of Personnel Management, and the hiring managers pray they will have responses to the postings with recruits who are competent and able to do the job. Compensation is based on the GS scale for these jobs with little to no negotiation authority. VAís Human Resources determines eligibility based upon source documents. The other type of recruit is a Title 38 which is not subject to the GS scales but rather to local competitive activities. Title 38 positions include the MDs, ODs, RNs and other medical skills.

As an aside, Mr. Youngblood mentioned that a Dr. Olsen will be coming on board very soon as the new full-time KVA Optometrist.

Mr. Youngblood mentioned also that his number 1 priority is Customer Service to his recruits and prospects.

To accomplish his job he has a set agenda:
    Develop the needs assessment with the hiring authority. Determine exactly what the facility needs in terms of specialties, Board Certifications, other skill sets etc.
   Develop and post the job description on sites focused on the medical profession e.g. Practice Link and Practice Match. No salary is mentioned in the advertisement. He also has access to a State-Licensed List for whom he uses a post-card blitz and follows up with phone calls.
   Once he has a prospective recruit he must check their credentials. Some credentials are required such as US citizenship although Permanent Residents may be eligible for certain positions.
   Send credentials to hiring manager
   Take a complete application.
   Hiring manager then takes responsibility, addresses scope of care and follows through on calling references.
   A pay panel composed of the VAMC Director and staff determine the salary that will be offered. Doctors are hired as GS-15ís, but may receive special pays. Requests for exception to pay are submitted to VAís Central Office which often delays the process.
Throughout the entire process, Mr. Youngblood maintains contact with prospects and keeps them informed of the progress of their applications.

It is interesting to note that Mr. Youngblood will also set up site visits for prospects. For example, he may arrange for travel and lodging, pick up the prospect at the airport and drive them to the site which includes the community and meeting a VA counterpart. He said that he lacks info on Kerrville schools which we can probably get for him. He seemed aware of some of the outdoor-sporting activities, but not the areaís cultural activities. Further, he commented that he stresses the increased opportunities for life/work balance to clinicians applying for positions @ KVA.
Other items of interest mentioned by Mr. Youngblood include:
   Credentialing is changing quickly. What used to average 45 days for completion now is moving to a fast track program with a goal of reducing the credentialing process to 7 days. If thereís a slow down in the process, itís usually with the applicant who has to provide many documents and complete applications on-line. For those who are less proficient with computers or with long careers and different employers, this takes more time.
   An intra-agency transfer takes 3 weeks if the gaining VA accepts the due diligence conducted by the losing VAís credentialing of the prospective candidate.
   A VA doctorís salary cannot exceed $400K. Competitive annual salaries he mentioned were
Urology (Private) $550k (VA) $360k
Neurology (Private) $800k (VA) $400k
Primary Care (Private) $215k (VA) $215k

Locums-tenens (Latin term for place-holders) are being organized throughout the system. These are skilled individuals who have no permanent position but travel to sites where they are needed for a short period of time, from weeks to months.
When queried about the status for a Green Team MD, he said he would attend the meeting in March 2015 and give us the name of the new Doctor.
   All VA doctors have a probationary period from one to two years.
For the long term, Secretary MacDonald is seeking access to DODís departing doctors.
He verified that the private sector can credential candidates faster than VA because they have the profit motive. Also burdensome federal regulations govern the VAís process.

Mr. Gregory provided a one-sheet document Quick Facts about your Veterans Choice Card. A brief question and answer period ensued. For info on the new Veterans Choice Card, go to www.VA.GOV/OPA/CHOICEACT. All veterans should have received their cards by end of January 2015 complete with instructions on how and when to use it. A 1-800 number is also included to verify oneís eligibility to use the card. Since the Del Rio clinic existed in August, but closed in November, Del Rioís veterans will receive their cards at the same time as all others.

Mr. Gregory informed us that VA-wide the Primary Aligned Care Teams panels (number of patients per team) had increased from 1250 to 1400. Also, he advised that KVA would be receiving 95 modern new beds to replace those now used by in-patients.

In closing, Mr. Gregory said that he will be at Audie Murphy VA Hospital in San Antonio for three months but will be attending meetings of the HCVC. His replacement will be a Mr. Charles Harpel. who has expertise in geriatric medicine. Due to the time constraints, the DVA portion of the meeting ended,

Vicki Marsh mentioned that the Freedom's Path project will be closing this week.

We also spoke briefly about the requirement for membership on the Council but agreed to postpone further discussion until the January, 2015 meeting.

The meeting adjourned at 1035 hours.

Taking Notes,
Bill Bacon

Comments to us or the V. A. would be greatly appreciated.