Unequal pay for Austin VA employees

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Dear Congressmen, 

This letter is to bring an important matter to your attention.  There is a significant salary inequity between two Veterans Health Association (VHA) locations which are located geographically near each other, namely Austin Outpatient Clinic (AOPC) and San Antonio VHA.  This is a major problem as it is creating a morale problem among employees and a drain of highly trained personnel.   If this could be remedied, it is felt by the below-signed that it would positively benefit the Austin-area veterans.

 The Austin Outpatient clinic has a difficult time retaining health care personnel for long term, especially the primary care physicians and nurses.  The turnover has been occurring at such a rapid pace that, in some instances, a patient's primary care physician (PCP) will leave, and he/she is replaced by a new PCP.  Before the patient has a chance to meet the new replacement PCP, that PCP leaves, and is replaced by a 3rd doctor.  This undermines the type of care that is due to the veterans and the continuity of treatment becomes more difficult.  There is also a high turnover rate among nurses, physician's assistants, and nurse practitioners.   In addition, often times when hiring, we are unable to acquire our first choice due to the applicant rejecting the salary he or she is offered. What is the reason for all of these issues?

 Although several factors influence turnover rate, the salary inequity is a major problem.  Frequently, what occurs is that AOPC employees, upon hearing that San Antonio pays much more, transfer to San Antonio, then either move or commute there. 

Fixing the salary inequity will help considerably.  Here is the problem:

 Currently, San Antonio is paid 11% more than AOPC.  This is because the salary structure at AOPC is tied to that of our primary location, Temple, TX. In Temple, the cost of living is much lower.  A recent article in the Federal Times stated, in 2019 San Antonio is slated to get a 3-5% raise due to being in a locality with a “high cost of living.”  In reality, Austin has a HIGHER cost of living.

 Using one of the major real estate websites to compare average housing costs, the following are noted: San Antonio:  $200K-$225K— 

San Antonio is so large that the housing prices are determined by zip code.  City center is in the $100K’s; outer ring is mostly in the $200Ks.  There are a few in the far north west in the $300Ks and a SINGLE SMALL ZIP CODE in the $600K.  Perhaps this is what the differential is based on.   

 What this means is by next year, San Antonio employees will be receiving approximately a 15% higher salary than Austin employees.  When you figure in the differential in housing costs, it will likely be more than a 20% differential! 

We, the below-signed, believe if the salary inequity problem between Austin and San Antonio could be solved, it would improve staff morale, decrease turnover, and ultimately enhance medical care for the Austin area veterans. 



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