[From Gray & Associates, L.C.]

The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) continues to grow. According to Department of Veterans
Affairs (VA) Under Secretary of Health Dr. Elnahal, the VHA now has 400,740 employees, an historic
high. The organization has “far surpassed” the goal of hiring 52,000 people this year and has grown by
5.5% since the start of the fiscal year.

The new hires include 27,236 employees in the seven highest priority occupations. The VHA hopes to
hire 30,000 physicians, nurses, LPNs, nursing assistants, schedulers, food service workers, and
housekeeping aides by the end of the fiscal year. Elnahal pointed to current trends, and expressed
confidence this will be achieved.

The VHA continues to take an average of 180 days to onboard new employees, which Elnahal
acknowledges is “obviously, way too long.” They implemented a standardized hiring process starting
June 1, and he hopes the process will soon shorten.

Elnahal expects the VHA workforce to continue to grow. However, as the next fiscal year approaches,
they will take a “close look” at hiring goals in order to focus upon areas in which staffing continues to fall

Elnahal wants to increase the VA’s presence in the country’s health care training pipeline, especially in
mental health. History has shown that many people who train at the VA want to work there, in part due to
the Department’s unique mission.

The VHA is also preparing for the next big PACT Act deadline. The legislation created a special
enrollment opportunity for veterans who served in the theater of combat operations within Central                                                           Command after 9/11 or in combat against a hostile force during the period after November 11, 1998.
Among this cohort, individuals who left the military between September 11, 2001, and October 1, 2013,
originally had five years in which they could directly enroll in the VA regardless of service-connected
injuries. The PACT Act gives these veterans a new period, until September 30, 2023, to enroll in the VA
if they did not do so previously.

Elnahal told reporters today this provides lifetime enrollment in VA health care. Those without a service-
connected condition would be in a higher priority group, but at least they would be enrolled.

The VA is currently pressure testing its online enrollment website ahead of the new deadline in order to
avoid the problems that arose earlier this month as veterans filed for backdated PACT Act claims. Elnahal
does not expect similar issues to arise, as the system has been improved for greater capacity and because
this cohort of veterans is much smaller.

The VHA’s pause on expanding the Electronic Health Record Modernization (EHRM) initiative
continues. Elnahal said they will measure success through “demonstrable improvements” in end users’
satisfaction with the system. He is focused on having a “significant presence” at each of the five sites
using the new EHR, both in person and virtually, to achieve faster ticket response times as users identify