I started at the VA five years ago, at the time I applied I had my BSN, and MSN with 6 years of ICU, and School Nursing, I came in as a Nurse II step 2. I was promoted to a Nurse 3 step 1 after only a year. But I don't think they are promoting much anymore, they have made it really hard in the last few years, it depends who does your boarding. I do know at your 1 year mark you can do an Education Waiver, you can only do it one time in your career. I have a coworker that has only a BSN and did her waiver to get her Nurse 3. Currently i make 95K at the VA as a nurse 3 step 2, but I do Utilization Review for a Consolidated Patient Account Center. I don't work as a floor or clinic nurse. I believe the only reason i was able to get my Nurse 3 is because we were being boarded by VACO and they did not know what the UR nurses really did. I say definitely dispute it, I live in South Texas our pay scale is very high here and low cost of living. My starting salary was 72K, i was excited at first it was a huge pay raise, I should have disputed my rating also, but I did not know enough. I know that I was lucky to get promoted to a 3, i have managers that can't even get a 3. Benefits are great because retirement is great, VA is a mess!!!! But I also Telework, so while i don't love my job, or the system which is messed up, and my managers are some of most unintelligent clueless nurses i have ever known, I won't leave my job. I have learned soon much in 5 years about how the system works.
I can't make my salary and have my 8-4 pm M-F schedule, plus 26 vacation days, 13 sick days and 10 federal holidays ANY WHERE I live. But i don't know what your area is and what type of Nurse you are.
I am happy to try to assist, I wish I had someone tell me all this stuff. but for me getting an offer of 72k was amazing, that being said i have been thru a lot with horrible horrible supervisors, like some of the stuff i can't even have dreamed could have been done.