Hundreds of Veteran's Administration nurses who face collection letters from the federal government for up to eight years of pay increases — some owing as much as $30,000 or more — are angry and worried about the process they face, while VA officials say they're trying to set up a process that will have the nurses come out even in the end.
The uncertainty has everyone on edge.
“It'll be totally devastating financially,” said David Martinez, a registered nurse who recently retired and has multiple myeloma, a cancer of the bone marrow. Martinez said he began getting the raises in 2002, and has long since spent any extra money fighting his disease.
“I haven't even conjured up the nerve to tell my wife because she has to take care of me; so she can't work,” he said.
VA nurses are paid in a series of grades, with a series of steps within those grades. Beginning in 2002, with many nurses mobilized for the war, the Audie Murphy VA Hospital struggled with nursing shortages in certain areas. To recruit and retain them, local VA officials authorized a pay increase of two steps for some registered nurses. In 2008, they expanded that to include more RNs and also licensed vocational nurses.
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