You can’t improve services to veterans without the manpower to do it

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) needs talent in all sorts of areas. Needing to fill differing jobs requires differing recruitment practices.

The Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) needs talent in all sorts of areas. Needing to fill differing jobs requires differing recruitment practices. For how they’re going about it, Federal Drive with Tom Temin spoke to the executive director of the VBA’s Office of Human Capitol Services, Dr. Aaron Lee.

Interview Transcript: 

Aaron Lee So our hiring process has been really successful. I’m very excited to talk to all of your listeners and viewers about what we’re doing, especially in terms of supporting PACT Act. So because of that wonderful piece of legislation we’re able to hire in ways that we’ve never been able to hire before, which provides so many opportunities not only to veterans but to non-veterans who are interested in supporting our nation’s heroes. And so some of the things that we’ve been doing thus far is doing a lot of recruitment around our local colleges, looking for recent college graduates, also looking at post-secondary graduates. And then we’re also looking at other opportunities, especially for our military spouses, because we’ve noticed over the years that for those who are looking for those types of careers and are following their service member, they always don’t have the same opportunities that they have from facility to facility or installation site to installation site. And so we’ve been able to really target that population in a way we never have before. So because of this great piece of legislation, we’re able to do that. And so we’re really looking forward to continuing the largest hiring act that we’ve ever had in the history of VA.

Eric White There’s a wide variety of positions available working with Veterans Affairs. Where right now are you all focused on what positions are you most focused on filling?

Aaron Lee So we have three that we’re focused on by virtue of their impact on PACT Act, but we have a host, a robust amount of positions that everyone can can visit and review at But those three targeted positions are legal administrative specialists, which are very much like a call center agent. And so they have direct contact one on one impact on our veterans, their service members, the families and those that serve alongside of them and support them. And so they help those family members and the veteran to walk through the claims process. And so they provide them with all kinds of great information and knowledge along the way. And so if they ever have any questions about their services that they so deserve and the ones that we honor them with, those are the folks that deal with them first. When you call our 800 number, that’s who will pick up the phone. And they’re all across the nation and those are also remote positions. So for folks who are interested in working from home and keeping that work life balance that they’ve created maybe over the last few years, that’s a great opportunity for them. Then we have our veterans service representative position and our rating veteran service representative positions, and those two positions are directly tied to the claims process as they work on both ends. The front end of the development side of the claim for the veteran as well as the end point of it, when the veterans claim is rated and then they’re able to receive those benefits. So those are the three critical and key positions that directly support PACT Act.

Eric White Got it. And what have been what have you heard from applicants or folks who were were thinking about applying that were some of the challenges that they had in the past of trying to get get one of these jobs? And how are you all working towards fixing that and offering new incentives?

Aaron Lee Well, one of the biggest challenges is the time frame that it takes to go through the hiring process. And so OPM has already set that timeframe for us at around 80 days. And so when you think about what the private industry is able to offer, it does seem to be a challenge to wait that long at times for a position. Now, what we’ve been able to do as a virtue and as a reflection of the PACT Act, the OPM is granted us the direct hiring authority, which is an amazing opportunity for us to drastically cut that hiring timeframe more than in half. And so we’re able to hire, in some instances, people right on the spot. So one of the things that our team did starting in November of last year was to host in-person hiring fairs. And so we actually did that at a military installation site so we could target transitioning service members as well as military spouses. And so at that particular event, I think we had about 80 or so folks to show up and we were able to hire about 70 right on the spot, so well over 90% intake rate. So that was a real great success story. And so then we started rolling those out throughout the rest of the year. So we’ve done about 10 to 12 now. And so that’s something I think that people have not thought of, because during the COVID period, obviously people weren’t in person. We weren’t doing those types of things. And even prior to COVID, we were doing a lot of virtual hiring. And so now we’ve really done a hybrid. And so that’s really exciting for us.

Eric White And as far as getting once they are a member of your team, how have you all look to improve your worker satisfaction rates? Those things can have a tendency to go up and down. But as a member of the Human Capital Office, what is it that you all focus on in ensuring that the employees are happy and they stay there once you do get them?

Aaron Lee So we’ve got this great program called Stay in VBA, and so that is what we use to increase employee retention and the employee experience. And so again, really ask for folks to check us out at to learn more information.

Eric White And just you personally what is it about the job that you enjoy the most I guess you know you’re you’re a doctor, but you’re finding yourself in this position. What is it that about it that you enjoy?

Aaron Lee Serving those who serve so well for us. My grandfather is a Korean War veteran. I’ve got other family members that are uncles and such that were in the Vietnam War. So for me, it’s an opportunity not only to pay back those who have given the ultimate sacrifice for me personally, but also for those who served with them. So it’s just a great honor for me to be a part of such an awesome mission.

Eric White And you’ve mentioned a few avenues that folks can go to the website or go to one of your career events. Are you all looking at any other ways of recruiting new people that are coming down the pipeline?

Aaron Lee Absolutely. We know a lot of our younger generation is utilizing all of the social media sites so you can find us on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, all those varying sites. All of our jobs are posted there as well.

Eric White And let’s talk turkey. What kind of salary are folks looking at if they do want to go after one of these jobs?

Aaron Lee So with the three positions I mentioned earlier, you can look at the lowest and probably around the high thirties or low 40,000 range up to a six figure salary, just depending on the nature of your education and experience.

Eric White And what kind of education and experience does it take for say one of those call center representatives that you mentioned or the other two positions.

Aaron Lee So those are career ladder positions. So coming in at the end of the ladder, at the lower end of the ladder, there’s very limited need. So what we’re really looking for is people with customer experience service. If they’ve had that kind of experience, that’s what we’re looking for. And so all levels, all different experiences and all education levels, we we have no limiting factor. So we encourage people to go to VA And check those out.

Eric White And is part of the challenge just the sheer volume of these jobs that well you know a customer service representative can you ever have too many for for veterans or you know is it is that part of the challenge as well is just that there is so much that needs to be done?

Aaron Lee Yeah, I think that you’re right. But we never can do enough for our veterans. And so we certainly want to ensure that we have as much support as we can to make sure that they get the services in a timely manner that really honors their service. So I encourage all of your listeners to go to to check us out, especially our our veterans. Please check us out. We are a veteran centric organization. Over half of our employees are veterans, so we are definitely looking for you.

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