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Minneapolis VA Health Care System Research Service

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Onboarding: VA Employment

The MVAHCS Research Service onboarding process is informed by VA hiring practices and rules governing eligibility for Federal employment. Currently, four onboarding options exist for personnel engaged in research activities at the Minneapolis VA: VA paid employment (this page), Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) employment, Without Compensation (WOC) employment, and Contract employment. Because Contract employment is rarely used, we refer you to the Research Service Onboarding Policy for details on this mechanism.

Each onboarding option falls under different rules in terms of eligibility, allowed funding source, and timeline for hire. All onboarding mechanisms require prospective employee to complete all required training and to be added to all affected study protocols, subject to approval from subcommittee of record, prior to initiating any research activities.

The outline below provides an overview of VA paid employment. Prior to initiating an onboarding action, PI should consult the information here and on the other onboarding pages, and determine whether the prospective employee will meet all necessary requirements. The PI should also consider the estimated timelines for each onboarding option. For questions regarding this process, PI should contact the Research Administrative Officer (AO).

VA paid appointments

Prospective VA employees must be a U.S. citizen eligible to work, and must pass a background check. If hiring staff on VA pay, the PI must have VA funds available. A valid, current position description (PD) must be available or be created for the position. The PD contains a description of job duties, responsibilities, and expected education or other experience necessary for the position. For many common hires, such as study coordinators or laboratory technicians, an approved PD may already be on file; however, other specialized positions such as new investigators may require creation of a unique PD. If specific educational requirements are needed for the position, the prospective employee must provide verification of education.

Personnel may be hired by VA as term, temporary, or career employees. Within research, the majority of hires are funded by research grants ("soft money" hires). These positions are temporary, meaning that the period of employment is limited to the funding period of the associated research grant. This includes research support staff (lab techs, coordinators, etc.) and non-clinician investigators. Clinicians and/or research administrative hires, funded by the facility, by medical appropriations, or by research appropriations from the Office of Research and Development, are generally term or career hires. The focus here is on "soft money" hires, as that constitutes the majority of Research hiring actions.

Research can hire personnel via a direct appointment (temporary position, if employee has a 4-year scientific degree) or as a competitive hire (term position). All Research soft money hires are term or temporary; career positions are not available on grant funding. While non-clinician career investigators can offset some of their salary through grant funding, VA career employees who accept a term or temporary position will lose their career status.

  • Term positions must be posted as open hires (DEU/USAJobs) for Title 5 positions; PIs intending to hire a Title 38 should contact the Research AO for posting guidelines. Term positions are generally 2-4 years max. Term positions are competitive, and do not allow a PI to select a specific individual for hire – HR determines eligibility of applicants, and the PI must select from the prospective employees HR has identified. Term appointments can be renewed if funds exist to support a new term. However, employees must recompete for hire at the end of the term appointment. Hiring on a term position requires the PI to provide employment for the duration of the stated term; as such, this hiring action should not be used unless sufficient funds are available to cover the entire term.
  • Temporary positions (HRML direct hiring authority) do allow the PI to specifically select a desired employee, provided the employee meets applicable education requirements. The position must be tied to a specific research project. Part-time temporary hires are limited to a hard cap of one year, for the duration of an employee’s Federal career, and cannot be extended or renewed. Full-time temporary positions can be used up to 6 years max. Full-time positions can be extended an additional 3 years if additional funding exists, with hospital director approval; additional extensions are possibile if funds remain available. Temporary positions under a HRML are subject to availability of funds, and temporary employees can be released from employment with 30 day notice if funds are not available.
  • It is important to note that term/temporary hires do not grant an employee status to apply for VA career-only internal postings. To become a career employee, a term/temporary VA hire would need to compete for a position posted as open to all applicants through USA Jobs.

The onboarding timeline for VA hires is 12-16 weeks for direct hire, or 4-6 months for competitive hire, provided a suitable PD is already available; creating a new PD can add 4-6 months or more to the hiring timeline. If employees need to be boarded prior to hire, an additional month should be added to this timeline.