The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) officially launched a Special Salary Rate (SSR) in July to increase the basic bay for thousands of its IT and cybersecurity employees; however, this pay raise is set to expire in 2027, under the VA’s PACT Act authority.

So, what’s next for the future of the SSR? Nathan Tierney, VA’s deputy chief information officer and chief people officer, explained this week that the agency is looking to extend the pay raise beyond 2027 through an SSR approved by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).

“The Special Salary Rate that we’re using right now is using our PACT Act authority. So, what does that mean? Right now, it expires September 30 of 2027. However, OPM did approve VA to use the Special Salary Rate in January of this year,” Tierney said during a VA “TalkingTech” episode on Aug. 31.

“So, we’re going to plug that way to make this a long-term solution because, again, if you want to compete for top tech talent, you’ve got to be able to satisfy at least one of those attraction drivers, which is compensation,” he added.

The VA was one of the primary proposers for the SSR late last year, leading a group of Federal agencies in asking OPM for the tech salary bump. However, because the VA received its SSR authorities under the PACT Act, it’s unclear if an SSR is in store for all Federal employees that fall under the 2210-Information Technology Management occupational series.

Nevertheless, the fact that OPM approved an SSR for the VA earlier this year is a good sign that the VA could resort to that option after its PACT Act authorities expire.

Tierney also noted that there is another option for a two-year extension of the SSR under the PACT Act.

“As we sort through that, and the funding for the other agencies, my vision and my opinion would be that we would just have that natural transition to the OPM thing to be able to continue to use it,” Tierney said. “So, we’ve got some time.”

“Again, it’s part of that talent acquisition strategy that I’ve got. I want to recruit and retain the top tier talent to come on board, join the team, and help us deliver better products and services to the veterans that we care about and their family members,” he added. “It’s a longer-term solution to closing that gap so we can maintain our competitiveness.”

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