Administrative Policies and Procedures - Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center
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Captain James A. Lovell Federal Health Care Center

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Administrative Policies and Procedures

VA Employment Policies for Health Professions Trainees

 

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) adheres to all Equal Employment Opportunity and Affirmative Action policies.  As a Veterans Health Administration (VHA) Health Professions Trainee (HPT), you will receive a Federal appointment, and the following requirements will apply prior to that appointment

 

1) US. Citizenship. HPTs who receive a direct stipend (pay) must be U.S. citizens.  Trainees who are not VA paid (without compensation-WOC) who are not U.S. citizens may be appointed and must provide current immigrant, non-immigrant or exchange visitor documents.

2) US. Social Security Number. All VA appointees must have a U.S. social security number (SSN) prior to beginning the pre-employment, on-boarding process at the VA.

3) Selective Service Registration. Federal law requires that most males living in the US between the ages of 18 and 26 register with the Selective Service System. Male, for this purpose, is any individual born male on their birth certificate regardless of current gender. Males required to register, but who failed to do so by their 26th birthday, are barred from any position in any Executive Agency. Visit https://www.sss.gov to register, print proof of registration or apply for a Status Information Letter.

4) Fingerprint Screening and Background Investigation. All HPTs will be fingerprinted and undergo screenings and background investigations. Additional details about the required background checks can be found at the following website: http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/codification/executive-order/10450.html.

5) Drug Testing. Per Executive Order 12564, the VA strives to be a Drug-Free Workplace.  HPTs are not drug-tested prior to appointment, however are subject to random drug testing throughout the entire VA appointment period. You will be asked to sign an acknowledgement form stating you are aware of this practice. See item 8 below. 

6) Affiliation Agreement. To ensure shared responsibility between an academic program and the VA there must be a current and fully executed Academic Affiliation Agreement on file with the VHA Office of Academic Affiliations (OAA). The affiliation agreement delineates the duties of VA and the affiliated institution. Most APA-accredited doctoral programs have an agreement on file.  More information about this document can be found at https://www.va.gov/oaa/agreements.asp (see section on psychology internships). Post-degree programs typically will not have an affiliation agreement, as the HPT is no longer enrolled in an academic program and the program is VA sponsored.

7) To streamline on-boarding of HPTs, VHA Office of Academic Affiliations requires completion of a Trainee Qualifications and Credentials Verification Letter (TQCVL). An Educational Official at the Affiliate must complete and sign this letter. For post-graduate programs where an affiliate is not the program sponsor, this process must be completed by the VA Training Director. Your VA appointment cannot happen until the TQCVL is submitted and signed by senior leadership from the VA facility.  For more information about this document, please visit https://www.va.gov/OAA/TQCVL.asp

a) Health Requirements.  Among other things, the TQCVL confirms that you, the trainee, are fit to perform the essential functions (physical and mental) of the training program and immunized following current Center for Disease Control (CDC) guidelines and VHA policy.  This protects you, other employees and patients while working in a healthcare facility. Required are annual tuberculosis screening, Hepatitis B vaccine as well as annual influenza vaccine. Declinations are EXTREMELY rare. If you decline the flu vaccine you will be required to wear a mask while in patient care areas of the VA.
b) Primary source verification of all prior education and training is certified via the TQCVL. Training and Program Directors will be contacting the appropriate institutions to ensure you have the appropriate qualifications and credentials as required by the admission criteria of the training program in which you are enrolled.

8) Additional On-boarding Forms. Additional pre-employment forms include the Application for Health Professions Trainees (VA 10-2850D) and the Declaration for Federal Employment (OF 306).  These documents and others are available online for review at https://www.va.gov/oaa/app-forms.asp. Falsifying any answer on these required Federal documents will result in the inability to appoint or immediate dismissal from the training program.

9) Proof of Identity per VA. VA on-boarding requires presentation of two source documents (IDs).  Documents must be unexpired and names on both documents must match.  For more information visit: https://www.oit.va.gov/programs/piv/_media/docs/IDMatrix.pdf

Additional information regarding eligibility requirements for appointment as a psychology HPT can be found at the end of this brochure.

Additional information regarding eligibility requirements (with hyperlinks)

Trainees receive term employee appointments and must meet eligibility requirements for appointment as outlined in VA Handbook 5005 Staffing, Part II, Section B. Appointment Requirements and Determinations. https://www.va.gov/vapubs/viewPublication.asp?Pub_ID=646&FType=2

Selective Service website where the requirements, benefits and penalties of registering vs. not registering are outlined: https://www.sss.gov/Registration/Why-Register/Benefits-and-Penalties

Additional information specific suitability information from Title 5 (referenced in VHA Handbook 5005 – hyperlinks included):

(b)Specific factors. In determining whether a person is suitable for Federal employment, only the following factors will be considered a basis for finding a person unsuitable and taking a suitability action:

(1) Misconduct or negligence in employment;
(2) Criminal or dishonest conduct;
(3) Material, intentional false statement, or deception or fraud in examination or appointment;
(4) Refusal to furnish testimony as required by § 5.4 of this chapter;
(5) Alcohol abuse, without evidence of substantial rehabilitation, of a nature and duration that suggests that the applicant or appointee would be prevented from performing the duties of the position in question, or would constitute a direct threat to the property or safety of the applicant or appointee or others;
(6) Illegal use of narcotics, drugs, or other controlled substances without evidence of substantial rehabilitation;
(7) Knowing and willful engagement in acts or activities designed to overthrow the U.S. Government by force; and
(8) Any statutory or regulatory bar which prevents the lawful employment of the person involved in the position in question.

(c)Additional considerations. OPM and agencies must consider any of the following additional considerations to the extent OPM or the relevant agency, in its sole discretion, deems any of them pertinent to the individual case:

  1. The nature of the position for which the person is applying or in which the person is employed;
  2. The nature and seriousness of the conduct;
  3. The circumstances surrounding the conduct;
  4. The recency of the conduct;
  5. The age of the person involved at the time of the conduct;
  6. Contributing societal conditions; and
  7. The absence or presence of rehabilitation or efforts toward rehabilitation.

 

Social Media and Technology Policy

Networking Sites

We do not allow trainees to accept any friend or contact requests from current or former clients on any social networking site (Facebook, LinkedIn, etc.).  Adding clients as friends or contacts on these sites can compromise the clients’ confidentiality and the trainees’ respective privacy.  It may also blur the boundaries of the therapeutic relationship.  Also, we do not allow trainees to have any communication via networking sites, even if it is through a private messaging feature with supervisors, peers, or clients.  This form of communication does not meet the minimum guidelines for secure communication. 

Additionally, we ask trainees to not make comments, even if it is de-identified, about clients or experiences with clients on any social networking site (i.e. I had a really difficult patient today and I just felt like telling him to shut up).  People on social networking sites may be able to identify who the trainee is referencing, which is a violation of the client’s confidentiality.  Additionally, it does not model professionalism and empathy to the lay person who may see it.

Trainees are free to have a social media presence and it is their choice on how secure they keep these profiles.  However, we do encourage trainees to make these profiles as private as possible.  This will ensure trainees privacy and safety as well as preventing unnecessary boundary issues in the therapeutic dyad. 

Blogs

It is becoming a common practice to have a Facebook fan page or blog as a way to post professional resources or share informed opinions about mental health related topics.  However, trainees may not solicit or ask a patient to follow their blog or fan page.  This again creates a greater likelihood of compromised client confidentiality.  In addition, the American Psychological Association’s Ethics Code prohibits soliciting for clients.  And again, we ask trainees to not discuss specific clients or experiences with specific clients even if it is de-identified.     

Use of Search Engines

We ask trainees to not make it a regular part of their practice to search for clients on Google or Facebook or other search engines.  Extremely rare exceptions may be made during times of crisis (i.e. ensuring the patient is alive if concerned about imminent suicidality) and must be approved by their supervisor.  If the trainee does resort to these means, it must be fully documented. 

Email

Trainees’ work email is listed on FHCC business cards and clients may use this as a means to communicate.  However, we ask that trainees do not respond back via email.  We ask trainees to encourage the patient to either call or use the secure messaging system through MyHealthyVet.  This ensures the communication is private and is answered in a timely manner.  It also then records the communication in the client’s legal record.  Also, we ask that trainees never give out their personal email to a client.

Cell Phone

We do not allow trainees to give out their personal cell phone numbers or any other phone number other than the one provided to you by the VA.  Texting a client is prohibited.