Mike Bernier awaits the next patient to be checked into Veterans Affairs Maine Healthcare System Togus in Augusta in Oct. 2020. Maine’s congressional delegation is seeking to increase the pay of about 1,400 workers at VA facilities in Kennebec and Penobscot counties. Ben McCanna/Portland Press Herald file

AUGUSTA —  To help with recruiting and retaining employees at the Veterans Affairs facilities in Kennebec and Penobscot counties, Maine’s congressional delegation is asking the Biden administration to increase pay to about 1,400 workers in the two counties.

In a letter to Kiran Ahuja, director of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King and U.S. Reps. Jared Golden and Chellie Pingree, asked for a change in locality pay.

“As the oldest state in the nation, with the fifth highest veteran population, Mainers rely heavily on the services offered at VA facilities,” the letter states. “The VA’s ability to provide our veterans the level of care they deserve is impacted by job vacancies and a high rate of turnover among its health care workforce, most often the result of pay and compensation issues, exacerbated by the increased cost of living. An increase locality pay rate for Kennebec and Penobscot counties is critical for ensuring the recruitment and retention of the federal workforce in these area, offering salaries commensurate to their private sector counterparts, allowing them to carry out their agencies’ missions effectively.”

Federal employees in four Maine counties — York, Cumberland, Androscoggin and Sagadahoc — are included in the Boston-Worcester-Providence GS Locality. But those in other counties, including VA employees in Kennebec and Penobscot counties, are not. The Boston Locality pay adjustment is significantly higher pay rate than the “Rest of United States” designation that Kennebec and Penobscot counties currently have.

Kennebec County is home to the Togus VA Medical Center, the only Veterans Health Administration Medical Center servicing the state of Maine. Penobscot County is home to the Bangor Vet Center and the Bangor VA Community-Based Outpatient Clinic, the only clinic outside of Portland to offer audiology, cardiology, and dental services.

King is a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee.

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