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Mar 17, 1:09 PM EDT

House passes bill to help VA fill critical job openings


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WASHINGTON (AP) -- The House has unanimously passed legislation designed to speed up the hiring of doctors and nurses at the Department of Veterans Affairs. The vote was 412-0.

The department has tens of thousands of open positions. The bill requires the VA's secretary to create a database of openings critical to the agency's mission. It also creates opportunities for career training and advancement for current employees. For example, the bill would create a fellowship program to place VA employees in private sector positions for one year to learn skills they can use at the VA.

Supporters say the number of VA employees resigning or retiring has risen every year since 2009 and that its inability to retain high-quality employees is hindering the quality of health care the VA provides.

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