Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Wavering on the raises

What if you got a raise, and then what if, years later, your employer said you didn't deserve that raise? And what if your employer demanded that you pay it back?

Welcome to these nurses' world.
More than 900 Veterans Affairs nurses may be asked to return as much as eight years worth of pay raises after federal auditors determined that they were given those raises by mistake.

In a letter to nurses dated April 19, Marie Weldon, director of the South Texas Veterans Health Care System, said officials will help the 920 affected nurses apply for waivers so they won't have to pay the money back, but that there are no guarantees.


The letter said the pay problems were discovered in a records review that led to a more comprehensive audit; and that it affects registered nurses' pay dating to October 2002, and that of licensed vocational nurses since August 2008. The mistake affects 800 RNs and 120 LVNs.

The raises were given in an attempt to stay competitive in the nursing job market, Weldon said.

(from the Express-News)

The article doesn't say it, but here, in the letter's own language, is what is wrong with those raises:
Audit results identified that since October 2002 for RN’s and August 2008 for LVN’s, a large number of these employees received additional steps or higher rates of pay in order to retain individuals on specific units or wards. There is no provision in VA policy to authorize additional steps or higher rates of pay for retention purposes, therefore, the actions must be corrected. In addition, other actions were identified that require correction. The required corrective actions will place employees at the appropriate grade, step and salary rate had the errors not occurred. Unfortunately in many cases this creates a salary overpayment for the affected employees. [emphases added]
Why is the South Texas Veterans Health Care System (STVHCS) demanding the raises be given back? This doesn't sound like the nurses are at fault, yet they are the ones that will suffer if the system goes through with this! Some higher-up screwed up, and the nurses end up screwed! If the raises were truly given in order for the STVHCS to remain competitive, then what the hell do the bureaucrats think this will do to employee morale once the "actions [are] corrected"?

But wait! It gets better. To handle this increased workload, the payroll department of STVHCS is "hiring additional staff from a temporary service to assist [] in calculating the overpayments."

Don't worry, though. These nurses will be able to disagree in a very bureaucratic way.
If you received an overpayment in salary, you will receive a bill of collection and subsequently a waiver request that you will utilize to request a waiver of the salary overpayment. After you sign the waiver, your waiver request will be sent to the Waivers and Compromise Committee for final review. [emphases added]
Oh, boy. A committee. I hope they've got lots of copies of those waivers. I predict about 920 will get filled out.

(Read the letter here.)


Sabra said...

Sometimes the VA shows its military roots. This sort of thing is not at all uncommon, I am afraid. It's just usually aimed at vets, not employees.

When my ex was in the Navy, there were occasions when he was overpaid and they decided to yank out the overage all at once. There was one occasion when--and I don't even remember what the reason was--the Navy took his entire paycheck (they are supposed to take only a portion), which sent us to the Navy/Marine Corps Relief Society for emergency food.

So, yeah...Can't say I'm surprised.

Albatross said...

It's unfortunate that this sort of thing happens at all, but especially in the military. I'm glad that at least the Relief Society was there to help you out.

And I hope these nurses don't get hit the same way.