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Office of Nursing Services (ONS)

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ONS Travel Corps Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

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Pay & Benefits

  • Are salaries comparable to the private sector with regards to experience and education?
    • ONS TC National Pay Table were last updated September 25, 2022. They are considered very competitive with the private sectors.
    • ONS TC field staff did not get locality pay; they have a National Pay Table. Thus, locations of deployment do not impact salary.
  • Do federal employee transfers still earn toward retirement (does intermittent time count toward retirement)?
    • Federal employees that transfer into the ONS TC without a break in service will retain retirement benefits; however, retirement benefits will be prorated based on hours worked.
    • External/Private Sector hires are not eligible for retirement.
  • Do federal employee transfers still get the matching for Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)?
    • Yes. Federal employees that transfer into the ONS TC without a break in service will retain TSP benefits.
    • However, contributions to TSP may only be made via payroll deduction while in pay status. As such, you will not be able to contribute toward TSP during periods of non-pay status.
  • Does the clinical staff working under the travel nurse corps program accumulate annual/sick leave?
    • No. ONS TC clinical staff are temporary intermittent staff, so they do not accumulate annual leave or sick leave.
    • If a Field Staffer requires a day off due to illness it would be a non-paid day.
  • If a facility closes for inclement weather or other natural disaster, how are ONS TC clinical staff compensated?
    • If a site Medical Center Director declares a state of Inclement Weather and you were scheduled to work, you will be granted AA-Inclement Weather.
    • Weather conditions, not declared as inclement by the site Medical Center Director, would be non-paid days should you determine your travels is limited. ONS TC leadership encourage all field staff to make sound decision about the weather in front of them and place safety first and foremost.
  • Do I receive sick time, vacation time or paid holidays?
    • Federal intermittent employees are not entitled to paid vacation, sick leave, or holidays.
    • ONS TC clinical staff receive holiday pay differential if worked, in accordance with VA pay regulations.
  • Will I get to keep my already accumulated sick/annual leave?
    • You will maintain any accumulated sick leave in storage until you retire.
  • Will I continue to receive my health insurance and dental benefits?
    • Yes, Internal VA candidate can maintain their federal health and dental benefits.
    • IF, you accumulate 365 days of non-pay you will lose your health benefits.
  • For nurses in ONS TC, do they still get their nursing steps every 2 years?
    • Step Increases are generally automatic after completing the mandatory days worked of either 260 or 520. This is actual days worked, thus depending on your days worked could be slightly longer.
    • If you transferred from another VA, we need to obtain your timecards and you only receive credit for days worked.
    • ONS TC pay tables go up to step 12.
  • Can a ONS TC nurse get promoted?
    • Yes. VA Central Office Nurse Professional Standards Board reviews ONS TC staff for promotion and probationary review.
    • All field staff are HIGHLY encouraged to present a self-evaluation to each deployment site supervisor for consideration in your site special summary rating.
    • The board will determine promotion if dimensions of practice and education is met.
    • ONS TC does not write any education waivers.
  • You mentioned that what-ever grade and step the clinical staff is, it will remain the same with ONS TC. Just to confirm the salary will go by the salary scale you sent, correct?
    • Transfers into the ONS TC from the VA enterprise will maintain their current grade/level/step.
    • Salary is based on the ONS TC pay tables. Note the salary reflected is for full time hours. You will need to consider the hourly rate and the number of hours you plan to work, for your personal annual salary.
  • Is the annual cost of living raise included upon appointment renewal?
    • All Federal employees receive the annual cost of living raise when approved by the President.

Assignments & Temporary Appointment

  • I read this is an "intermittent" appointment (for 1 year). What happens after that?
    • Extension (Retention) is based on the needs of the program and review of the field staffers performance.
    • If you will not be extended, you will be notified 30 days before expiration of your appointment.
  • How are assignments selected?
    • Your first assignment is selected by the program.
    • Two of your three 13 week assignments can be selected based on enterprise needs.
    • Twice a month our program specialist sends out available assignments and you will respond with your top three.
    • Your top three are taken into consideration and reviewed against the needs of the program.
  • Can a facility request my services for consecutive assignments?
    • Yes. Extensions at an assignment location may be approved based on the needs of the program.
    • A traveler will not be allowed to stay more than 10 months due to the tax implications. You may return to the same location after a 7-month waiting period.
  • I thought I read in the contract that we had to do one contract per year.
    • ONS-TC employees are not considered “contract“ employees.
    • ONS-TC Nurses are placed on a temporary intermittent appointment of 1 year. During that year the nurse must complete at minimum 3 travel assignments.
    • Appointments are reviewed prior to expiration and extended based on the needs of the program and field staffer performance.
  • Is time off authorized “between“ & “during“ assignments?
    • ONS TC clinical staff may take time off between assignments.
    • ONS TC clinical staff are intermittent employees who are not permitted to work more than 1875 hours per calendar year or 0.9 of full-time employment.
    • ONS TC clinical staff may take time off during assignments if pre-approved by your site leadership, program leadership, and remains in accordance with federal travel regulations.
    • ONS TC clinical staff must request the time off when they submit their request for a new 13-week assignment.
    • All other time off will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
  • After assignment completion will you be considered a displaced employee, or will there be a period of reassignment?
    • Staff preplan their follow up assignments.
    • When you are not working you are in a non-pay status but still considered a ONS TC clinical employee.
  • What does training consist of for internal transfers?
    • There is no clinical training for transfers.
    • You will continue to provide the same type of patient care unless you are qualified to provide other types of care.
  • If I’m a new employee, how soon can I request my next assignment?
    • You must work at least 60 days.
  • Do you start orientation at the specific assignment location?
    • ONS TC will have a program specific orientation to be deployed in 2023.
  • How long is the orientation and does it count towards the 13 weeks?
    • Orientation at a site varies based on your experience but it generally less than one week.
  • If the minimum (13-week) contracts per year is 3 (if wanting health benefits), but the maximum hours I can work per year is 1875, this leaves 315 hours (or 6 weeks) unaccounted. Is this considered “dead time“ meaning breaks between contracts, a week or two off between contracts, etc.?
    • ONS TC clinical staff are not on “Contract“ they are on travel “Assignments“.
    • Assignments may be canceled at any time.
    • Keep in mind, the 1875 include those hours over a traditional 80 hour pay cycle. If you work 100 hour a pay period that extra 20 hours will add to your hours worked.
  • Does the 1875 hours MAX include any OT I may be asked to work?
    • Yes.
  • Are we able to accept a permanent position at an assignment?
    • ONS TC employees are not under any contract; they are welcomed to apply and accept permanent placement at any VA facility at any time.
    • Transition to the permanent site should not impact an assignment, thus no impact to Veteran care within the enterprise.

Travel Lodging & Per Diem

  • What type of lodging does the VAONS TC provide?
    • Work with your Travel Coordinator, as assigned, to identify the type of lodging that best suits your needs in accordance with VA travel regulations.
    • Depending on your location, you may choose from hotels, extended stay suites, or one-bedroom apartments/corporate housing.
    • Lodging sites must accept the VA government rates and VA travel card.
  • Can I drive my RV?
    • Yes. Some travelers elect to use RVs.
  • What is the breakdown of lodging, meals, and transportation?
  • Do we get tax-free stipends?
    • M&IE is non-taxable.
  • Can I travel with my pets?
    • If you are traveling with dogs or pets, you are responsible for any pet fees at hotel, airfare, or anywhere that has pets.
    • We don't reimburse for the pets nor expenses paid should your travel change at the last minute. Pet-friendly hotels are limited. However corporate housing may be able to accommodate.
  • I saw that housing, food, and travel are expenses that are all paid; are these expenses included in the annual salary or separate?
    • Separate.
    • Salary is paid biweekly the Friday following the close of the pay period.
    • Travelers receive a government credit card for lodging and authorized expenses. Credit card is paid monthly via submission of reimbursement voucher.
    • Reimbursement for Meals and Incidental Expenses (M&IE) is approximately $35 a day (reduced for long term lodging).
  • Are cabs, Uber, and Lyft included with transportation reimbursement?
    • Cab, Uber and Lyft from airport to lodging is reimbursable in your voucher with receipts.