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Medical coders are sometimes confused and a little intimidated about how to apply for a job with Veterans hospitals (the Department of Veterans Affairs).   You must follow the rules carefully.  I’ve been getting as much information as I can from several people who have a good amount of expertise on this topic. Here is some of what I’ve learned:

  There is no ‘special training’ needed for VA coding jobs. VA coding is complex and can be a major transition. The VA follows Medicare guidelines and it addresses payer specific guidelines, particularly with denials. LCDs are used, but ABNs are unnecessary.  There are remote positions, but many supervisors will want you to work onsite before you can be remote. More on that below.

  VA coding is complex and can be a major transition. VA coding involves all medical, surgical, and diagnostic specialties, rehabilitation, and ancillary services such as nutrition, physical and occupational therapy, audiology, etc.  VA facilities are often very large tertiary care organizations covering a range of service types from inpatient to outpatient, long term, and even residential care, ED, office, ambulatory surgery, and professional fees. Coders at the full performance level (GS-8) may be expected to be able to code all of those services. 

  The OPM rules and requirements are very specific as to the hiring preferences.  Facilities must follow these rules.

  Apply for positions posted at all grade levels. You won’t know what grade you’ll be hired at until a regional or national qualifications board makes its decision. The salary amount isn’t provided until a board determines that you are qualified and at what level.  

  Civilians can apply for jobs with VA hospitals. Some positions are open to all US citizens so they will attract a larger pool of applicants. Others are open only to current federal employees, current VA employees, or employees of a specific facility.  

  Positions require a resume and additional documents. The USA Jobs site has helpful information:

  Go to and search for 0675.  Some of the jobs will be open to any US citizen, not restricted, and no requirement for VA experience.  Recently a search found 29 HIMS jobs nationwide, a few in ROI, which would not be a bad place for a new medical coder to get started, and most of the rest were medical coding jobs and Clinical Documentation Improvement (CDI).  Advanced management positions are in 0669.  The VA also has a Career Internship program for RHITs and RHIAs which prepares you for GS-11-13 positions via a competitive 2-year program.  

  There will be an HR point of contact listed at the bottom of every job announcement. Submit your application well before the closing date and immediately check with the HR POC (point of contact). It’s very easy to leave something blank or omit something because you think it doesn’t apply to you.  Contact that POC to make sure your application is complete.  If it isn’t complete, your application will be denied and disqualified.  So be sure to contact HR to verify that your application is complete. An incomplete application is probably the #1 reason a lot of applicants don't move forward in the application process. HR may notify you if something is missing, but more than likely they won't.

Be sure to use the same terms in your resume and cover letter to describe the job you are applying for as the job announcement uses. This can make a big difference. If you have used, you will have received a resume and cover letter that you can edit as needed. You won’t have to have a new resume made every time something changes.

  A live person, a Human Resources Specialist,  will review and rate the experience you’ve listed in your resume and application. They determine how long you did it based on the dates and hours worked and they look to see at what level you performed those duties.  Their evaluation is based on what you write and how you describe your experience and duties.  They cannot assume anything.  There are online instructions for writing federal resumes, which need to be much more detailed than civilian resumes. 

  HR decides who qualifies for a position then forwards those names to the manager.  Disabled veterans have hiring preference. If the position isn't filled from those applicants then it moves to other veterans who applied and then to non-veterans. Some managers tell me that they receive far more ‘certs’  (certificates of eligible applicants) for non-veterans than for veterans. It doesn't automatically mean you don't have a chance to be hired it you're not a veteran. Don’t be afraid to contact the HR rep listed on the vacancy announcement. If you don't hear anything, contact them again.  "The squeaky wheel gets the grease" is so true when it comes to working with the Federal government.

  Coding positions can range from a GS-4, which is entry level with no experience, to a GS-8 which is someone who is proficient in outpatient and surgery and/or inpatient and surgery coding. The GS level determines your pay. Qualification standards are listed in the job announcement. It's not impossible to obtain a coding position in a VA without experience, but you are competing against others who may have more experience than you. If you're only looking for a remote coding position then that will be more difficult. Coding positions can only be posted at just the GS-8 level or at all grade levels (GS-4 through GS-8). Not all VAs offer remote coding positions and those that do will typically advertise those positions at only the GS-8 level. Remote ("virtual") coders never have to come on site to work, so most hiring managers are going to be looking for someone who is already proficient in coding. You would have better luck trying to get a position at a VA which offers telework. Telework typically requires you to work on site until you're considered fully trained and may require you to be meeting accuracy and productivity standards for a certain length of time before you're allowed to start teleworking from home. You're normally required to come in site at times for meetings, training, 

A good way to get into the federal system, and to get the experience required for VA jobs, is through Department of Defense coding positions at military bases.  They seem to have more leeway and less red tape, as well as fewer applicants and greater willingness to train.  Once there, moving to a VA position is much easier.  

    It may be possible to get started by volunteering for a period of time, a creative solution to get you started.

  Read the instructions on this page carefully before you search for jobs.

    For discussion of this topic, please see the Facebook groups below. 

How to Find a Coding Job
Five Steps to Getting a Coding Job
What Are Medical Coding Credentials?
Veterans Hospital Jobs