The AARC Newsroom recently featured an article about major changes to the qualification standards for respiratory therapists implemented by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in March 2021 that had not been updated since the mid-1980’s. The new standards resulted in a significant change in the professional recognition of respiratory therapists, including the ability to advance in specialized areas. Most notably, Registered Respiratory Therapists who met the full performance standard will see a jump from a GS-8 classification to a GS-11.
Our article prompted one member to bring to our attention that qualification standards for civilian respiratory therapists who work in military hospitals under the auspices of the Department of Defense (DOD) are capped at a GS-7 or GS-8. The member raised concerns that without changes in the DOD respiratory therapist qualification standards, managers could see an exodus of civilian respiratory therapists to the VA where recognition of their value is more appropriately recognized and compensated. This revelation promoted the AARC to reach out to the DOD to ask that they update their qualification standards in light of the VA’s recent changes.
We have learned from the Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service that the government agency responsible for respiratory therapist personnel classification standards lies with the Office of Personnel Management, not the DOD. In our letter to OPM, we highlighted the evolution of the profession over the past few decades since the 1985 OPM standards were written and urged them to review the VA standards and update their classification guidelines accordingly.
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