Current Activities Affecting Federal Veterinarians. M. J. Gilsdorf DVM. Topics for discussion. Work force Shortages – OPM Actions Curriculum Competencies – The Future of Public Health Veterinary Congressional Legislation Updates. Veterinarian Shortages within the Federal Government.
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Current Activities Affecting Federal Veterinarians
M. J. Gilsdorf DVM
Work force Shortages – OPM Actions
Curriculum Competencies – The Future of Public Health
Veterinary Congressional Legislation Updates
Federal veterinarians have been contributing to the animal health and food safety of the United States for more than 100 years
The federal government’s need for more highly trained veterinarians has increased significantly over the past several years
The role of most federal veterinarians places them on the front lines of current food safety, public health, animal health, and homeland security efforts
At the same time, government agencies lack sufficient incentives to be competitive with others in recruiting and/or retaining veterinarians within government service.
The average annual salary for veterinarians in the Federal Government was $84,335 in 2007
The average salary for veterinarian who owned their private practice in 2005 was $132,579, according to an AVMA report
In comparison, the average annual salary for physicians in the Federal Government in the lowest pay category for physicians is approximately $133,000 according to the July, 2007 OPM pay range guide for physicians and dentists
This is an average difference of over $48,000 less for veterinarians working in the federal government than veterinarians in private practice or other medical personnel working in the government
In some cases, both physicians and veterinarians are working in the same epidemiological positions with the same responsibilities, duties and grade
However, because the current Title 38 pay act does not include veterinarians in the special pay category, veterinarians receive up to $50,000 less per year for performing the same duties and responsibilities as physicians and other medical professionals
Where are the veterinarian shortages in the federal government at this time?
FSIS – has had approximately 100 vacant positions or more out of a total of 1100 positions for the past decade
ARS – 48 positions- down from 56 in 2009
APHIS – (669) – down from 674 in 2009
FDA (168) – up from 140 in 2008
Military – DOD had 976 veterinarians in 2009 and 874 in 2010
Other Federal Agencies – total veterinarians = 99
Number of veterinarians in APHIS/VS by grade, as of 3/7/2010:
Grade SES: 6 GS-15: 27; GS-14: 17; GS-13: 119; GS-12: 229 (227 are permanent employees); GS-11: 7 (4 are permanent employees)
Total: 565 VMO's (Down from 619 in 2008)
Number of veterinarians in FSIS by pay band, as of 3/7/2010:
SES: 4; PB 5: 44; PB 4: 783; PB 3: 63
Total: 894 VMO's (Down from 976 in 2008)
Number of veterinarians that were hired in 2009 and 2010, and the number that left government service (OPM figures):
2009 - Hired: 16 (14 of these employees were permanent)
2010 - Hired: 1 permanent employee
2009 - Number that separated: 22 (19 were permanent employees)
2010 - Number that separated: 5 (4 were permanent employees)
What is being done to address the Veterinarian shortage in the federal government?
The Senate government workforce oversight committee asked GAO to review the Federal Veterinarian workforce
The GAO met with NAFV, AVMA, the federal agencies, and others and reported a veterinarian workforce shortage
NAFV,AVMA, & AAVMC meet with Senate committee staffers to further discuss concerns and strategies
NAFV and AVMA provided draft language for a bill to provide specialty pay and other benefits to Federal Veterinarians
The committee had also directed OPM and government agencies to address the veterinarian shortage
The committee staffers want to wait on any actions regarding a new bill to see how the federal agencies develop their own solutions
NAFV & AVMA meet, as needed, with the committee to discuss how the agencies are progressing
The federal government lacks a comprehensive understanding of the sufficiency of its veterinarian workforce.
There are approximately 3000 veterinarians, working in the federal government.
Approximately 1700 are classified in the veterinary medical 701 series.
Since over one third of federal veterinarians work in related medical and biological fields, this in itself creates problems in tracking where veterinarians are within the government and assessing the duties that federal veterinarians perform
There is lack of understanding of how federal veterinarians contribute to the essential functions of the federal government
This indicates that routine government-wide veterinarian workforce assessments are needed
Currently, Federal agencies each have different recruitment and retention authorities for veterinarians
Several agencies currently have different pay authorities, which allow for higher pay or different incentives. These agencies are better able to attract and retain veterinarians
Over 25% of Federal veterinarians will qualify for retirement in the next five years
Replacement Federal Veterinarians must be attracted from a limited supply of veterinary students, private practitioners, foreign veterinarians, and/or encouraging veterinarians not to retire
Of the 2,600 veterinary students graduating annually, less than 3% consider public service/practice, which is a total of only 75 new Federal Veterinarians annually
It is predicted that more than 510 Federal veterinarians will retire within the next five years. Therefore, agencies must recruit over 100 veterinarians each year just to maintain the existing number within the Federal government due to retirement
FSIS is offering recruitment bonuses of 25% of base pay for up to four years
This has lead to filling at least 50 chronically vacant veterinary positions
However, in 2009 the overall FSIS veterinary workforce decreased from 976 to 894
Several recently-hired veterinarians have left FSIS for multiple reasons including working conditions
FSIS veterinarians who were recently hired but did not receive recruitment bonuses, along with tenured veterinarians, are upset with the agency for not offering similar retention incentives
OPM Director John Berry has declared that Series 701- (Veterinary Medical Officers) within the federal government as mission-critical positions
· USDA reported in February, 2010 that they are going forward to establish specialty pay for all series 701 federal veterinarians within the agency. The method they intend to use to achieve this authority was not identified
· USDA has drafted a “Veterinary Medical Officer Workforce Strategies” report. The report was completed by April 1, 2010. It lists multiple flexibilities and authorities that they need to maintain a viable veterinarian workforce
· HHS is also developing an agency a “Veterinary Medical Officer Workforce Strategies” report at this time
· USDA and HHS have agreed that there are shortages within some or all of their component agencies and that the potential exists for greater shortages in the future
· OPM has formed a Talent Management Advisory Council (TMAC) to develop and review actions taken to maintain an adequate Federal Veterinary Workforce and make recommendations to the agencies and Congress on future actions needed
· The goal of the TMAC is to advise and assist agency officials and develop a strategic veterinarian workforce plan
· OPM has asked the Federal agencies to identify government-wide solutions that address the shortage of Federal Veterinarians. To date, the agencies have not agreed on any solutions that could be utilized government-wide by all agencies involved
· OPM and the Departments have not initiated a government-wide veterinary workforce assessment
· The agencies have not developed a veterinary workforce needs assessment in surge situations, such as catastrophic events, natural disasters, and major animal disease outbreaks and a surge capacity analysis has not been conducted
· USDA needs to complete and share their plan for establishing specialty pay in order to increase recruitment and retention of the veterinarian workforce
· HHS and other agencies need to develop their own Veterinary Medical Officer Workforce Strategy report and share it with Congress and the veterinary community
· Federal agencies will be requesting the following authorities from OPM and Congress:
· Establish special salary rates for veterinarians
· Increase flexibilities and repayment caps for student loan repayments
· Offer retention and referral bonus awards
· Authority to quickly hire veterinarians as intermittent employees during catastrophic events
· Establishing waivers for re-employed annuitants
· Providing the funding to offer the above flexibilities
· Expanding coverage for hazardous duty pay to include working with zoonotic diseases
· Increasing continuing education and advanced degree opportunities
· The NAFV, AVMA, and AAVMC are Essential Partners to the TMAC and will provide input and information to OPM and the federal agencies on decisions regarding the federal veterinarian workforce shortage
· The goals of the TMAC includes developing a government-wide workforce assessment and integrating the best management practices and tools to maintain a viable, effective, high-caliber veterinarian workforce
The Senate will be holding another hearing to ensure the shortage of the veterinarian workforce is being adequately addressed by the agencies
NAFV and AVMA have prepared draft language for a Senate bill and is working with Senate staffers to change existing authorities to include specialty pay for veterinarians, if needed
NAVMEC was launched by the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AAVMC) in 2009 to ensure that veterinary medical education meets the needs of our
Looking at how Veterinary Medicine has changed over the past 35 years and how it will need to change over the next 35 years
Established three meetings to gather data and develop proposals from stakeholders
Approximately 90 participants attended the first meeting, representing a spectrum of veterinary sectors (public and private), principally from the U.S. – a small number of attendees were from Canada, the Caribbean etc. The objective of the meeting was to:
Discuss global societal changes 2010-2030
Explore what this society will need from the veterinary profession
Define the veterinary skills/competencies needed to meet these societal needs
Core skills needed from an employer’s perspective:
Better surgery skills
Better emergency medicine training
Examination room skills
Business ownership skills – succession planning
Team skills – working with staff and paraprofessionals
Interpersonal/communication skills – future independent
Understanding productivity in a practice
Core skills needed from an employer’s perspective:
More confidence re: what they can do within a general practice
Employers/practitioners need to be strong mentors to new hires
Commitment to self-improvement – adding new skill sets
Awareness of unique contributions/career paths outside of practice
Being other-centered rather than self-centered
More understanding of primary care conditions – as opposed to referral
Core skills needed from Society’s Perspective:
Basic epidemiology (understand and apply) and wellness
Digital technology, including social networking skills
Awareness of the political process, including ‘One Health’
Communication (written & oral), teamwork & interpersonal skills (faculty trained in same skills)
Diversity skills (local and global)
Business skills (responsive business models)
Core skills needed from Society’s Perspective:
Ability to retrieve and critically evaluate data
Analyze and debate
Understand the value of community engagement
Leadership development & advocacy training – and adaptable to changing environment
Problem solving – financial literacy, critical analysis & quantitative skills
Preservation of the environment – ecosystems, interface between human and animal health
Core skills needed from Society’s Perspective:
Focus on principles vs. techniques
Knowledge of food safety, quality and security
Comparative medicine professionals, clinical expert
Recognized as the authority for animal welfare
Management skills & ability to delegate
Core skills needed from Society’s Perspective:
Lifelong learner – creativity, curiosity and critical thinking and problem solving
Ability to serve as well as lead
Multicultural understanding of human and animal behavior
Leadership in public and population health
Veterinary ethics – remote communications, new technologies, genetic engineering, etc.
Advocacy for the veterinary profession
Ancient medicines – non-Western and integrated medicine
*AVMA will take the lead position pursuing funding+AAVMC will take the lead position pursuing fundingFunding for all other programs are pursued through agribusiness coalitions, such as the Animal Ag Coalition
National Veterinary Medical Service Act-USDA* ($5 million)
Accreditation Program-USDA* ($5 million)
Animal Health Monitoring and Surveillance Program-USDA ($155 million)
Animal Welfare Information Center-USDA ($1.8 million)
Agriculture Research Service-USDA ($1.35 billion)
Aquaculture Program-USDA-APHIS-VS ($6 million)
Brucellosis Yellowstone-USDA ($10 million)
Cattle Fever Tick-USDA ($20 million)
Centers of Emphasis-USDA ($15 million)
Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory Research-USDA-APHIS-ARS ($20 million)
Foreign Animal Disease Laboratory-DHS ($50 million)
Johne's Disease Control and Research Programs-USDA ($10.6 million)
National Animal Health Laboratory Network-USDA ($30 million)
National Animal Identification System-USDA ($33 million)
National Antimicrobial Resistance Monitoring System-USDA ($4 million)
National Center for Foreign Animal and Zoonotic Disease (FAZD)-DHS ($8 million)
National Research Initiative- Coordinated Agricultural Project-USDA ($20 million)
Tuberculosis Eradication-USDA ($40 million)
H.R. 3519 Veterinarian Services Investment Act: This legislation would authorize new grant program for fiscal years to advance unique and innovative state-level veterinary workforce programs. The program would assist States in supporting, augmenting, developing and implementing programs to address the unique veterinary workforce needs of each state.Status: H.R. 3519 was introduced on 7/31/09 and referred to the Committee on Agriculture.
HR 4497, the Wildlife and Zoological Veterinary Medicine Enhancement Act: This legislation would expand the workforce of veterinarians specialized in the care and conservation of wild animals and their ecosystems, and develop educational programs focused on wildlife and zoological veterinary medicine; create new funded positions for wildlife and zoological clinical and research veterinarians; limit the amount of educational debt for veterinary medicine students while providing incentives to study and practice wildlife and zoological medicine; Help schools of veterinary medicine develop pilot curriculums specializing in health management of wildlife in their natural habitat and in captivity; expand the number of educational and training programs in wildlife and zoological medicine for veterinary students.Status: H.R. 4497 introduced 1/21/2010, referred to the Committees on Agriculture, Natural Resources, Ways & Means.
S. 337/H.R. 1226 Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2009:
The Foot and Mouth Disease Prevention Act of 2009 seeks to prohibit the importation of ruminants and swine, and fresh and frozen meat and products or ruminants and swine, from Argentina until the Secretary of Agriculture certifies to Congress that every region of Argentina is free of foot and mouth disease without vaccination.
Status: S. 337 was introduced on 1/28/09 and referred to the Committee on Agriculture Nutrition and Forestry. H.R. 1226 was introduced on 2/26/09 and referred to the Committee on Agriculture
Humane Methods of Slaughter Act Amendment:
In 1978, Congress passed the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to ensure that all federal and state inspected slaughter facilities adopt humane handling and slaughtering practices. This Act mandates humane slaughter for cattle, swine, sheep, goats and equine slaughtered at federal and state inspected facilities, but does not cover poultry, rabbits and other commercially slaughtered species. The AVMA and NAFV are pursuing an amendment to the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act to bring all species slaughtered for commercial use under federal and state inspection.
Status: The AVMA, NAFV, and other groups are working to amend the Act to include all species slaughtered for commercial use under federal and state inspection.
H.R. 2999 Veterinary Public Health Workforce And Education Act:
H.R. 2999 amends the United States Public Health Service Act to enhance and increase the number of veterinarians trained in veterinary public health, which is broadly defined and includes biodefense and emergency preparedness, emerging and reemerging infectious diseases, environmental health, ecosystem health, pre and post-harvest food protection, regulatory medicine, diagnostic laboratory medicine, veterinary pathology, biomedical research, rural and government practice; and the sum of all contributions to the physical, mental, and social well-being of humans through an understanding and application of veterinary science. The legislation would accomplish this through Capacity Grants; creation of the Division of Veterinary Medicine and Public Health within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services; faculty loan repayment; and a Veterinary Public Health Fellowship Program within the federal government.
Status: H.R. 2999 was introduced on 7/23/09 and referred to the Committee on Energy and Commerce.
National Veterinary Medical Service Act (P.L. 108-161):
Seeking appropriations and implementation of the National Veterinary Medical Service Act.
$5 million for FY 2010 for NVMSA Veterinary Loan Repayment Program administered by USDA-NIFA (PL 108-161).
Currently NVMSA awards are taxed at 39%.
When taxed, $5 million would permit 122 awards at $25,000.
If tax exempt, $5 million would permit 200 awards at $25,000.
S. 425 Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act:
S. 425, the Food Safety and Tracking Improvement Act, amends the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for the establishment of a traceability system for food, to amend the Federal Meat Inspection Act, the Poultry Products Act, the Egg Products Inspection Act, and the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act to provide for improved public health and food safety through enhanced enforcement.
Status: 2/12/2009 Referred to Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
H.R. 305 The Horse Transportation Safety Act of 2009:
This legislation would amend title 49, United States Code, to prohibit the transportation of horses in interstate transportation in a motor vehicle containing 2 or more levels stacked on top of one another.
Status: H.R. 305 was introduced on 1/8/09 and referred to the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Highways and Transit.
Funding for NAHLN and NAHLNTox:
Seeking authorizing language and $30 million annual appropriations for the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN) and $12 million annual appropriations for the Toxicology component (NAHLN Tox).
S. 2789/H.R. 3510, Roosevelt Scholars Act of 2009:
The Roosevelt Scholars Act will help the federal government attract mission-critical talent to help fill mission-critical jobs. The legislation will help the federal government compete for highly skilled workers from an increasingly limited talent pool in mission-critical fields including public health, science, engineering law, security and enforcement and accounting. Mission critical fields will be determined by federal agencies workforce planning systems. Students are graduating with increasingly high levels of debt. Roosevelt Scholars will receive assistance to help pay tuition and fees for up to five years ($12,000 annually; $60,000 aggregate). Recipients will be paid a small monthly stipend ($300) for each year they are enrolled in a degree granting program directly related to a mission-critical occupational area within the federal government. Roosevelt Scholars will be required to spend 3-5 years working in the federal civil service. The legislation would authorize $10 million for the program. It is anticipated that 50 students would be granted scholarships annually.Status: S. 2789 introduced 11/17/2009, referred the Finance Committee. H.R. 3510 introduced on 7/31/2009, referred to Ways & Means.
In 2010, the Obama administration intends to propose a legislative package which is designed to be the largest overhaul of government in more than 100 years
Among the proposals under review are plans to eliminate the GS pay grade system and replace it with a three tier system that has Apprentice, Journeyman, and Expert categories
Federal employees would remain in the Apprentice phase until they completed any required training, etc
If their performance is poor, they will probably remain in that phase until their performance improves or they could be disciplined in a number of ways including losing their annual leave
Under this proposal, it is assumed that most federal employees would be in the Journeyman category for most of their careers
That might be decided by “Review Boards” composed of agency employees, union reps, and/or outside experts
This Board would determine an employee’s advancement to the Expert category
Another expected proposal is that employees in danger of being fired would be reviewed by a jury of peers and that jury would decide within 30 days whether they or their boss, who proposed the dismissal, would actually be fired
Another part of the expected proposal would give employees “rank-in-person” status similar to the military or Foreign Service
This means that instead of basing pay and position on the number of people supervised, it would be based on the employee’s value to the organization, and rank is earned through a combination of testing/panel review, fulfilling specified requirements, successful completion of varied types of assignments, etc
Personal rank might be evaluated using a limited number of factors, such as skill requirements (e.g., skill and ability to carry out the most complex and difficult investigations or inspections), experience requirements and performance requirements
The rank-in-person concept might use any base pay structure that differentiates levels of work in a way that is compatible with the rank structure
Another part of the proposal may provide employees with an annual list of three goals they must complete and three goals that would be nice for them to accomplish. Those goals might be used to determine pay raises, bonuses, etc
Since these overhaul proposals are still in the formation phase, it is also unknown what will be modified and actually be proposed later this year
The recent Health Care Reform bill creates state exchanges where those not covered by insurance or Medicaid can get the insurance package with the benefits and guarantees that will be outlined by HHS
One of those exchanges/program will be run by OPM in conjunction with the state exchange
OPM will offer a national plan to the state exchange. It will be separate from the FEHBP program but if state does not have an exchange or an individual can not get coverage, individuals may enter the new OPM run exchange
The OPM program/exchange is a totally separate risk pool from FEHBP
While the new OPM risk pool could be older, sicker folk, it may also attract younger people who for the first time MUST have health insurance under the individual mandate
It is possible that the risk pools for the two different entities might not be too different.
Premiums are very likely to rise, at least initially, as over 30 million people with subsidies enter the health insurance system
As FEHBP enrollees use the same facilities and resources as the general public, if prices and premiums rise in the overall system, so will costs and premiums to FEHBP plans
The bill would require all health plans that offer dependent coverage to continue it for unmarried children until they turn 26