The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is on track to approve a government-wide Special Salary Rate (SSR) for IT specialists, pending communications with other Federal agencies, according to a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) official.

While there has been no official SSR announcement from OPM yet, Nathan Tierney, VA’s chief people officer and deputy chief information officer, confirmed today that “OPM approved it on January 10 of 2023.”

“That’s pending their communications with other Federal agencies for the rollout in various phases, and it will be tied obviously to funding,” Tierney said today during GovExec’s Workforce Summit. “So, that’s when that one was just done, but I’m excited about it. I think that will make a huge dent in making us competitive with the private sector for tech talent.”

A source told MeriTalk today that OPM is continuing to work with agencies on the new SSR. However, the agency does not have more to share on when the special salary rates will officially be announced.

VA Chief Information Officer (CIO) Kurt DelBene told reporters in December that the SSR would most likely be approved early in the new year, bumping tech salaries up to be “more commensurate with what’s in the private sector.”

The VA was one of the primary proposers of the SSR, but final approval would have a government-wide impact on all Federal employees that fall under the 2210-Information Technology Management occupational series.

In previous talks with reporters, DelBene said he hopes the SSR will address a longstanding issue that has been a “blocker” for people thinking about making a career move to the VA.

“We don’t think it needs to be a compromise that you make in terms of compensation. We don’t think that it should be a compromise, and we’re doing the right things to make that happen,” the CIO said.

The VA is actively hiring for over a thousand tech jobs, and DelBene made a point to note that the VA is also “highly flexible” with hybrid work and remote work.

In fact, Tierney noted that today, the VA has now moved 62 percent of its Office of Information and Technology (OIT) employees to remote work.

“If we fail to adapt to how we attract and develop employees, it can negatively impact VA’s mission,” Tierney said. “That’s why we’ve had to change our approach to focus on people because veterans, their families, and their caregivers deserve it.”

“I do think that compensation is just one of the levers you can pull to attract people to come over,” he added. “This concept around remote work, work-life balance, and some of the other benefits that in the past we haven’t highlighted… also needs to go into our value prop. We need to just have those conversations.”

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Grace Dille
Grace Dille
Grace Dille is MeriTalk's Assistant Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.