BASIC REQUIREMENTS. The basic requirements for employment as a VHA psychologist are prescribed by: Public Law 96-151 codified in Title 38, U.S.C. § 7402. To qualify for appointment, all applicants for the position of psychologist in VHA must meet the following:
- Citizenship. Citizen of the United States. (Non-citizens may be appointed when it is not possible to recruit qualified citizens in accordance with chapter 3, section A, paragraph 3g, this part.)
- Education. (1) Have a doctoral degree in psychology from a graduate program in psychology accredited by the American Psychological Association (APA). The specialty area of the degree must be consistent with the assignment for which the applicant is to be employed. AND (2) Have successfully completed a professional psychology internship training program that has been accredited by APA. Exceptions: (1) new VHA psychology internship programs that are in the process of applying for APA accreditation are acceptable in fulfillment of the internship requirement, provided that such programs were sanctioned by the VHA Central Office Program Director for Psychology and the VHA Central Office of Academic Affiliations at the time that the individual was an intern and (2) VHA facilities who offered full one-year pre-doctoral internships prior to PL 96-151 (pre-1979) are considered to be acceptable in fulfillment of the internship requirement.
- Licensure. Hold a full, current, and unrestricted license to practice psychology at the doctoral level in a State, Territory, Commonwealth of the United States (e.g., Puerto Rico), or the District of Columbia.
Exception. The Secretary may waive the requirement of licensure for an individual psychologist for a period not to exceed 2 years from the date of employment on the condition that such a psychologist provide care only under the supervision of a psychologist who is so licensed. Non-licensed psychologists who otherwise meet the eligibility requirements may be given a temporary appointment as a graduate psychologist under the authority of 38 U.S.C. § 7405 (a) (1) (D). Failure to obtain licensure during that period is justification for termination of the temporary appointment. This may result in termination of employment.
Loss of Credential. An employee in this occupation who fails to obtain licensure/certification/registration within the required time frame, or who fails to maintain the required licensure/certification/registration must be removed from the occupation, which may also result in termination of employment.
For occupations which require an active credential (licensure/certification/registration) at all grade levels, at the discretion of the appointing official, an employee may be reassigned to another occupation for which he/she qualifies if a placement opportunity exists. For occupations which require an active credential (licensure/certification/registration) in assignments above the full-performance level only, at the discretion of the appointing official, an employee may remain at an appropriate lower grade level in the occupation when both of the following apply: the credential is not a requirement and a placement opportunity exists.
- Physical Requirements. See VA Directive and Handbook 5019.
- English Language Proficiency: Psychologists must be proficient in spoken and written English in accordance with chapter 2, section D, paragraph 5a, this part.
- Current BLS Certification is required for all staff providing direct patient care. BLS must be approved by the American Heart Association. If you are selected for a position which requires BLS certification, you will be required to have proof of current certification prior to being boarded for appointment with the VA.
(a) Current Professional Psychology Practice. To be creditable, the experience must be post-doctoral degree and must have required the use of knowledge, skills, abilities, and other characteristics associated with current professional psychology practice. Creditable post-doctoral degree experience can be obtained through employment as a psychologist or through participating in a supervised post-doctoral psychology training program. This may be evidenced by one or both of the following:
1. Active professional practice. Active professional practice means paid/non-paid employment as a professional psychologist.
2. A full, current, and unrestricted license.
(b) Quality of Experience. Experience is only creditable if it is post-doctoral degree experience as a professional psychologist directly related to the duties to be performed. Qualifying experience must also be at a level comparable to professional psychology experience at the next lower level.
(c) Part-time Experience. Part-time experience is creditable according to its relationship to a full-time workweek. For example, a psychologist employed 20 hours per week, or on a ½ time basis, would receive 1 full-time workweek of credit for each 2 weeks of service.
Post-Doctoral Degree Fellowships. Post-doctoral degree fellowships are training programs in an advanced area of clinical practice. Training as a fellow may substitute for creditable experience on a year-for-year basis.
Grade Determinations. In addition to the basic requirements for employment, the following criteria must be met when determining the grade of candidates:
Experience. None beyond the basic requirements.
Assignment. Staff psychologists at this level diagnose mental disorders, conduct psychological and/or neuropsychological assessments, treat mental disorders through a variety of modalities, and provide adjunctive interventions for treatment of medical disorders. They practice under the close supervision of a licensed psychologist.
Experience. In addition to the basic requirements at the GS-11 level, at least 1 year of experience as a professional psychologist equivalent to the next lower grade level. Individuals assigned as GS-12 psychologists may be in the process of obtaining licensure at the independent practice level. If unlicensed, the individual must be supervised by a licensed psychologist and the experience and supervision must meet the standards for psychology licensure. In addition, the candidate must demonstrate the following KSAs:
Demonstrated Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
1. Knowledge of, and ability to apply, a wide range of professional psychological theories and assessment methods to a variety of patient populations.
2. Ability to develop coherent treatment strategies.
3. Ability to incorporate new clinical procedures.
Assignment. At the GS-12 level, unlicensed psychologists practice under the supervision of a licensed psychologist, but with less need for consultation than at the GS-11 grade level. They may be assigned to any program area.
Licensure. Hold a full, current, and unrestricted license to practice psychology at the doctoral level in a State, Territory, Commonwealth of the United States (e.g., Puerto Rico), or the District of Columbia.
Experience. In addition to the experience requirements at the GS-12 level, at least 1 additional year of experience as a psychologist equivalent to the next lower grade level. In addition the candidate must demonstrate the following KSAs:
Demonstrated Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities
1. Knowledge of, and ability to apply, advanced professional psychological theories and techniques to the full range of patient populations.
2. Ability to provide professional advice and consultation in areas related to professional psychology and behavioral health.
3. Knowledge of clinical research literature.
For supervisory assignments:
a. Ability to provide supervision in areas related to behavioral health and social services provision in order to accomplish the organizational goals and objectives.
b. Ability to provide fair, principled and decisive leadership for a work environment that promotes shared accountability.
Assignments. This is the full performance level for staff psychologists. At this level psychologists are licensed at the doctoral level to practice independently in the provision of psychological services consulting with peers and supervisors as appropriate. They are assigned to any VHA program and setting, including inpatient or outpatient medicine, surgery, mental health, neurology, rehabilitation medicine, geriatrics, Vet Centers, and the VHA National Center for Organizational Development.
Staff Psychologists diagnose mental disorders, conduct psychological and/or neuropsychological assessments, treat mental disorders through a variety of modalities and provide adjunctive interventions for treatment of medical disorders. Among the modalities provided are individual, family, and group psychotherapies, and other interventions such as biofeedback, psychological hypnosis, and environmental interventions. They consult with medical center staff on a wide variety of patient care issues. Staff psychologists may be involved in program evaluation and/or research activities.
Supervisory Psychologists. At this level supervisory psychologists typically have collateral supervisory duties primarily for non-professional staff, although a small number of professional staff may be supervised as well (i.e., less than three). Supervisory psychologists at this level may be assigned to any program area and may be involved in program evaluation and/or research activities. At this level, supervisory psychologists independently provide psychological services at all levels of complexity and consult with peers and supervisors as appropriate.