WASHINGTON – If you are a retired VA healthcare provider, the agency wants you back – unless until the novel coronavirus pandemic is contained.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) approved a request from the VA in mid-March to waive a section of federal law that governs retired VA workers. That makes it easier for the VA healthcare facilities to rehire retired VA health care workers. The hope is that returning retirees can help VAMCs bolster their medical staffs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

As of March 25, VA has had 365 positive COVID-19 tests among the nearly 3,400 it administered. The concern is overwhelming VHA hospitals and other healthcare facilities.

VA officials said they intend to use the waiver authority to begin hiring actions as early as this week. The focus is on retired physicians, nurses, pharmacists, laboratory technicians, respiratory therapists and other medical professionals, and the agency is asking them to register online.

“This action helps give the department surge capacity as needed,” explained VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. “On behalf of all the veterans we serve, I thank OPM for its quick action and invite our retired health care workers to consider coming back to VA during this crucial time.”

When rehired, retirees’ salaries are normally reduced to reflect the retirement annuity they are already receiving. That will not be the case with this waiver, however, which is expected to make the possibility of returning to VA employment more appealing.

OPM’s waiver authority expires after one year.