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Missouri veterans home employees could see higher wages

Employees at Missouri’s veterans home could see wages climb as turnover soars in the state.

This comes as Gov. Mike Parson and legislators attempt to boost the pay for all state workers to stop high turnover rates and growing overtime costs. Most state workers received a 3 percent raise this year.

With a turnover rate of 80 percent, the Missouri Veterans Commission, which operates the state-run facilities, has asked lawmakers for $3 million in the next budget to pay for increases for more than 500 staffers.

Most of the money would go toward pay increases for employees who provide direct care to residents, such as nursing assistants, the St. Louis Post Dispatch reported. Activity aides, barbers and nursing assistant supervisors could also receive raises.

“Certified Nursing Assistants and Licensed Nurses are the backbone of our homes providing direct care to veterans,” the budget request notes.

Nursing assistants are paid about $24,850 annually to assist veterans with grooming, bathing, brushing teeth and feeding. Workers also make resident beds, turn bedridden patients and move supplies and equipment.

If the raises are approved, employees would be paid $29,723 annually beginning in the fiscal year that starts July 1, 2020.

Officials said raises at the veterans homes could reduce required overtime and the hiring of temporary workers from staffing agencies.

The commission spent more than $1 million on temporary workers to fill gaps in the depleted workforce during the last fiscal year, agency spokeswoman Jamie Melchert told the newspaper.

“MVC leadership believes that a salary increase is critical for the recruitment and retention of MVC employees,” Melchert said.

Hoping to stave off further turnover, the commission revamped schedules in 2018 to pay out higher wages for night and weekend shifts and offered incentives to workers assigned to the more secure units in each home. But that didn’t stop workers from seeking out higher paying jobs.

“Employee feedback indicates that employee salary is a significant factor for leaving employment at MVC,” Melchert said.

In calling for the added money, the commission said the agency served fewer veterans in Cameron, Cape Girardeau, St. James and Warrensburg because of a nursing assistants shortage.

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