The local VA Medical Center took care of brother James during his last couple of years; he’d rather come up here, he said, than take his chances with whatever Texas had to offer. He did mention, once or twice, that they seemed to be short of doctors, and it turns out he was right:
Under federal employment laws, no federal employee can have a higher salary than the president of the United States, who earns $400,000 per year. That poses challenges for VA hospitals seeking specialists.
Take, for example, cardiothoracic surgeons. The Oklahoma City VA hospital needs four but recently lost one, so they’re recruiting to fill the slot. The problem is that cardiothoracic surgeons can earn far more than $400,000 at private hospitals.
President Trump, so far, has not been actually collecting his salary from the Treasury — he’s been donating it — but that doesn’t make any difference as far as the law is concerned.
One workaround is federal contracts, which can exceed the $400,000 limit. For ophthalmologists, the VA contracts with the Dean McGee Eye Institute at a cost of $600,000. That includes overhead expenses it wouldn’t have to pay if it could hire its own ophthalmologists.
Director Wade Vlosich says it is what it is:
“It is just the way it goes at a VA hospital, because we’ll never reach that salary level for those doctors. So, no, it doesn’t worry me,” Vlosich said. “Areas that worry me are filling inpatient hospital positions, primary care positions and then some of the hard-to-recruit nursing positions, and engineers. Those are really the ones that keep me up at night.”
For what it’s worth, the first psychotherapist I saw this decade moved out of a group practice and into a VA slot. I have no idea how much she was making at either place.