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DoD to offer higher pay for doctors, dentists

Aug. 19, 2010 - 06:00AM   |  
By STEPHEN LOSEY   |   Comments
Kathy Ott, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for civilian personnel policy, said the Physician-Dentist Pay Plan would allow the Pentagon to offer those employees more money.
Kathy Ott, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for civilian personnel policy, said the Physician-Dentist Pay Plan would allow the Pentagon to offer those employees more money. ()

The Defense Department is creating a new pay system for physicians and dentists that it hopes will make it easier to recruit and retain them.

Kathy Ott, acting deputy undersecretary of Defense for civilian personnel policy, said in an interview that the proposed Physician-Dentist Pay Plan would allow the Pentagon to offer those employees more money.

The plan to be launched later this year or in early 2011 would set pay based on market rates and allow Defense to better compete with the private sector. It would make distinctions based on specialty for example, it would set pay rates differently for gynecologists and brain surgeons based on what they get in the private sector and whether someone works in a clinic, hospital or other setting. It would also consider certifications, publications and other achievements.

Ott would not estimate how much more money some physicians and dentists could receive under the new plan. She said it could help Defense lure physicians and dentists to serve veterans and service members in rural areas, which has been a challenge because jobs are often hard to fill there.

Ott said Defense's medical recruitment efforts have so far been successful and said the department now is "in OK shape." But the department wants to add pay flexibilities in case it needs to hire more in the future.

The new pay plan would be a hybrid of the Title 38 authorities the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments now use which allow agencies more leeway in setting compensation and qualifications for certain medical positions and the General Schedule's Title 5 authorities.

The Pentagon is also considering a scholarship program for medical students who promise to work for Defense after they graduate. This would be similar to the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation, or SMART, program.

Congress would have to pass legislation authorizing the medical scholarship program.

Defense officials also are addressing other work-force challenges, Ott said:

Recruiting cybersecurity and other information technology workers. The Pentagon is pulling together information on exactly what skills it has, and where the gaps are. It should have a better idea of skills gaps by the end of September.

The Pentagon is already talking to some universities and colleges about changing their cybersecurity curricula to make sure graduates have the skills the Pentagon needs.

Defense is six to nine months from launching a database on all its employees and their skills. This database is intended to help identify skills gaps and impending retirements in specific areas before they become a problem.

Defense will release a new marketing campaign in September promoting telework. This outreach will include a new website, brochures and posters emphasizing telework's usefulness in readiness and continuity of operation planning, and encouraging more managers to allow employees to telework.

Increased use of workplace flexibilities like telework will help the department recruit new college graduates, Ott said.

"They are the kinds of candidates who bring the skill sets that we need," Ott said. "We're looking at things like flexible work hours, challenging assignments, continual feedback. … They will be attractors that will help us bring in the kind of talent that we need and to keep it."

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