Harder Announces Fair Pay for the Modesto VA Act to Attract Doctors, Nurses to Modesto VA

August 21, 2019
Press Release
Central Valley has less than half the medical practitioners per capita as the Bay Area

Modesto, CA – After recently touring the Modesto VA Clinic, Rep. Harder heard from veterans and VA officials alike that veterans are experiencing unacceptably long wait times. He heard this is due in part because of doctor and nurses shortages in the Central Valley. After doing more digging, he found that these shortages are because the Modesto VA is prohibited from paying their medical practitioners as much as the Stockton and San Francisco VAs, thus lowering Modesto’s ability to compete for talent. To remedy this issue Rep. Harder today announced the Fair Pay for the Modesto VA Act to raise wages for Modesto VA staff and attract talented physicians, nurses, and medical professionals to the Valley.

“It’s unacceptable that after returning from serving our country and putting their lives on the line, our veterans are experiencing huge wait times to see a doctor,” said Rep. Harder. “This bill evens the playing field and says that our veterans deserve just as good of care as those who live in San Francisco or Stockton.”

The Stockton VA Clinic is classified under the San Francisco pay scale, while Modesto’s is not, leading to large pay disparities due to cost of living calculations even though the cost of living in both cities are essentially the same. This means the Modesto VA has a harder time attracting top talent to serve our veterans and keep wait times down. Rep. Harder’s bill will take steps to include Modesto VA employees in the San Francisco pay scale. Currently, General Schedule (GS) employees at the Modesto Veterans Affairs (VA) Clinic have a nearly 25 percent lower Locality Pay Adjustment than employees in the same positions at the Stockton VA Clinic. By fairly compensating GS employees at the Modesto VA, Rep. Harder hopes to incentivize more medical professionals to pursue careers in the Central Valley and help veterans get the care they’ve earned.

In addition to introducing and working to pass the Fair Pay for the Modesto VA Act, Rep. Harder is pushing the federal government to address the issue through an administrative process. In a letter to Chairman Ron Sanders of the Federal Salary Council, Rep. Harder asked that the outdated pay scale currently in use be updated to match the scale used in nearby counties.

The text of the letter is below and an original copy is available here.

 

Dear Mr. Sanders,

Thank you for your overseeing the Federal Salary Council. I appreciate the opportunity to work together to support our federal employees. I write today to formally request that Stanislaus County be added to the San Francisco-San Jose General Schedule locality and that this addition be placed on the Council’s agenda for consideration.

As the Congressman for California’s 10th Congressional District, I represent part of San Joaquin County and all of Stanislaus County. The federal employees in my district are hard-working members of our community contributing to our local economy. The constituents in my district, particularly from Stanislaus County are at a disadvantage when it comes to competitive pay in the region.

For example, the local Veterans Administration (VA) clinic in Stockton, California, is included in the same pay scale as San Francisco, while the local VA clinic in Modesto, California, is not included. These two cities are approximately thirty miles apart; however, the regional pay disparity impacts are very different for the federal employees working in these two facilities.

With a growing population that commutes to the Bay Area for work every day, an average of four hours round-trip, the percentage of these “super commuters” is increasing year-after-year in Stanislaus County. This integrates the work and economy of Stanislaus County further into San Francisco’s labor market. Beginning a proper analysis on the qualifications of Stanislaus County to be included in the San Francisco-San Jose locality is a first step in getting competitive wages for many of my constituents. I also request your thoughtful consideration of adding Stanislaus County to the San Francisco-San Jose General Schedule locality.

Thank you for your attention to this matter, and I look forward to your response.