VA Travel Nurse: All You Need to Know

Last updated: June 11th, 2024 | Originally published: November 7, 2023
VA Travel Nurse

Hello! My name is Ryan Hoffmann and I work for the Veteran Affairs Hospital System as a VA travel nurse. It is True: The VHA has their own travel nurse department called ONS-Travel Corps. There are currently 139 RN’s and 1 ARNP working across the VHA network in travel nurse jobs.

To be clear, I do not represent the ONS-Travel Corps in any formal capacity. I am not a recruiter, and I have not been asked to create this web page. My family and I own a website called (that you’re currently visiting), and we like to keep track of all the places we visit and the experiences we have traveling the country.

While working as a Veterans Affairs travel nurse I’ve found that many nurses are curious about how the VA travel nursing job operates. Because I am detail oriented and enjoy passing along information, I thought it would be a good thing to break down the basics of the VA travel nurse program in an easily accessed place.

At minimum this will allow me to stop repeating myself in the workplace.

VA Travel Nurse
My wife, Monica, is the girl in all the photos.

Over the past two years I have met a handful of other Veterans Affairs travel nurses in the field, and it seems newbies to the program have questions as well. So in addition to those VA nurses who are curious about the program, perhaps even my traveling co-workers can get some use from this article.

And maybe you’ve thought about joining the Veteran Affairs team. Perhaps you will find this information most useful of all.

WARNING: This is going to be a lengthy article because there is a lot of information. I’m doing my best to not bore you to death here, but that is a possible outcome.

The following questions and components will be addressed.

  • Why Work For the VA
  • A Summary of the Veterans Affairs Travel Nurse Program
  • Applying
  • How Pay Scales and Vouchers Work
  • Selecting Work Assignments
  • VA Travel Nurse Benefits vs. Regular VA Benefits
  • The Travel Team and Their Role
  • Working in a New Facility
  • Concluding Thoughts

I sincerely hope this is helpful to you in some way.

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Why Work for Veterans Affairs?

There is no population more deserving of superlative care than our US Veterans. They are an easy group to love, and the reward is great in meeting their needs.

Heartwarming components aside, veterans are a down-to-earth, fun loving group. Work feels a lot less like work when you enjoy the company of those you serve and gratitude flows both ways.

Despite what the newspapers say on occasion, US Veterans are consistently satisfied with the care they receive at local VA Hospitals. I rarely hear a complaint over something staff can control, and in my opinion, our hospitals are staffed with some of the most compassionate nurses you will find in the field.

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VA staff nurses enjoy a few fringe benefits not always found in the private sector. For one, our shifts are guaranteed. No one is called-off over low census.

Along the same lines, you will never walk into an unsafe work situation where staffing is threadbare. Because the VA is not-for-profit the staffing matrixes prioritize safety.

And furthermore, there is continuity across all VA’s that you can rely upon. That is not to suggest all processes are the same from one facility to the next — this isn’t Costco — but the underlying systems lend enough cohesiveness that nothing feels foreign to the “VA Way”.

In a nutshell, as a VA travel nurse I can walk into a nursing unit anywhere in the VHA network and feel like I know what I’m doing.

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1. A Summary of the VA Travel Nurse Program

A VA travel nurse works 13-week assignments at VHA facilities that have requested staffing assistance. A list of requesting facilities is posted weekly via email.

A Veteran Affairs travel nurse may request an assignment to any listed facility in their field of expertise. For example, I was hired as a mental health RN and therefore can work only within the mental health service line.

The travel nurse and the facility may agree to extend the assignment for another 13-weeks (or shorter period of time). The VA travel nurse can extend twice, for a maximum of (3) consecutive 13-week assignments at a single facility. If we have any desire to extend beyond three assignments we are encouraged to get a full-time position at the facility.

VA Travel Corps nurses are expected to show up and assume nurse responsibilities with minimal training. A typical orientation may last 1-5 days. At my last assignment I was working in the med room on day one.

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In the Travel Corps we are required to work (3) 13-week assignments per year, up to a MAXIMUM of 1820 hours.

1820 hours is the equivalent of (3.5) 13-week assignments. For comparison, full-time employees work 2080 hours per year. So Veterans Affairs travel nurses are required to take off 5 weeks per year.

This parameter in our maximum hours allowed exists because our work status is not full-time or part-time, but INTERMITTENT, an unusual designation in the VA system. I will elaborate more on this topic later in the article.

VA travel nurses get to choose when we work, which means we may take time off as we please between assignments. If I want to visit Europe for a couple of months it is my privilege as an intermittent employee.

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Our benefits are similar to full-time Veterans Affairs nurses, but there are differences. The benefits package you receive depends on if you transfer into the Travel Corps from a full-time/part-time VA position or if you are new to the federal system. I will elaborate further down the article.

A Brief Explanation of Housing, Per Diem, etc.

Your lodging, rental car, laundry (to an extent), and gasoline (to an extent), are reimbursed to you through the CONCUR VOUCHER SYSTEM. In case you’re wondering, no, you cannot enrich yourself by living in a cardboard box and pocketing the housing allowance. You will pay for the lodging, rental car, etc., with a government credit card and the card is paid back through the voucher system. This is different from non-VA travel nurse jobs.

The Travel Team (more on them later) will inform you how much you are allowed for lodging based upon the GOVERNMENT RATE, a set maximum amount hotels/campgrounds/corporate housing can charge a government employee.

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If your nightly rate is lower than the government rate the difference is not yours to keep. You simply submit the receipt and the credit card will be paid that amount when the voucher is stamped approved.

The PER DIEM is yours to keep and is deposited directly into your bank account each month (after the voucher is approved). The per diem amount depends on the location. The money is yours to spend as you see fit; it is intended to cover meals and incidentals.

Gas and laundry reimbursement will also be deposited in your account if you paid cash or used your personal credit card. If you used your government card the voucher will apply funds to the balance.

In the sections below I will elaborate on the above information.

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2. How To Apply and the Onboarding Process

There are two ways to apply:

1. (link should directly take you to the ONS-TC application page)

2. Email our administrative specialist and express interest. If you would like their email address, email me at and I’ll get it to you.

Who is Running the Travel Corps?

The Office of Nursing Services (ONS) is based out of Washington D.C. The Travel Corps falls under the jurisdiction of the ONS.

Our Directors, Managers, HR team, Travel Team, and all the contributing departments are not necessarily located in D.C., but that’s the “home base”.

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The VA travel nurse program is run by a National and Deputy Director. If you are interviewed for a VA travel nurse job, you will be interviewed by them.

Nurse Managers have not been utilized by the VA Travel Corps for some time, but they will be re-implemented in the near future. More information about the role of nurse managers to come. Word is they will become our primary contacts. As of now the Directors are addressing our up-chain communications.

We have four Program Specialists who cover myriad process. Components of the Travel Corps such as applications, time keeping, travel assignments, credentialing, health benefits, BLS/ACLS, and reporting instructions will be covered by this HR department.

Our Travel Team are responsible for your credit cards, travel arrangements, and vouchers for reimbursement. The Travel Team has a Travel Manager who is supported by three Travel Coordinators. One of these travel coordinators will be assigned as your liaison.

When you are hired as a Veterans Affairs travel nurse the list of incoming names and departments can be overwhelming. Rest assured each team member will tell you what they need when it is crucial.

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So You’ve Applied… Now What?

My personal experience went as follows:

I emailed the program specialist and was told the Travel Corps was not hiring mental health nurses, but that I could submit the necessary paperwork (included in the email reply), and they would contact me when a travel nurse job was available. I then spent several months weighing my options before sending in the forms.

When I did submit the forms, resume, etc., I was contacted two hours later and an interview was scheduled for the following day. Within a week of the interview I learned they were moving me forward in the process.

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The second part of the process has three steps:

STEP 1: Obtain References

STEP 2: Submit More Documents

STEP 3: Complete Credentialing

My next contact from the ONS-TC was an email outlining these three steps. A few days later I was contacted about credentialing, my BLS card, and my most recent proficiency (annual review from VA Nurse Manager). All was handled same day.

One week later I received the TENTATIVE OFFER, which was promptly accepted and celebrated while swimming with dolphins in Hawaii (we like to travel). The tentative offer is not a FIRM OFFER, so I did not have the job officially at this point. However, it was presumed that as long as the subsequent steps (listed below) were completed that the process would result in a firm offer.

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The next email identified six additional steps:

STEP 4: Tentative Offer Acceptance Paperwork and Background Investigation

STEP 5: Travel Team Credit Card Application and Concur Training

STEP 6: TMS Training & Documents

STEP 7: Physical, Fingerprints, and Nursing Pay Board (for non-VA)

STEP 8: VetPro Appointment for First Assignment

STEP 9: TC Director & Nurse Manager at first assignment

STEP 10: Human Resources “Firm Offer” with Reporting Instructions

An assortment of people began reaching out to me from different departments in the Travel Corps. I was asked to complete additional paperwork and some online training. This process took a couple of weeks.

After that it went quiet. And I got nervous.

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It was incredibly stressful to not have a firm offer in hand while I was making arrangements to move my family into a motorhome full-time. I was sinking money into my house, performing repairs and improvements, all in anticipation of renting it out for the foreseeable future. I must have called the HR department three times to make sure something hadn’t gone wrong.

Mercifully, the firm offer arrived before my anuerism. I was informed my 1st assignment would be the Black Hills of South Dakota and my start date would be four weeks later.

IN SUMMATION: I applied on 4/28/21 and started work 7/18/21 — about three months start to finish.

Two things to mention here:

One: The VA Travel Corps will send you wherever they want for your first assignment. Be prepared to go anywhere and be ready to go on short notice. Four weeks felt like a luxury.

Two: If you are already a Veteran Affairs employee they will have to clear transfer with your current manager. Your current manager can slow this process if they resist allowing you to leave. My manager delayed the start of my first assignment an additional two weeks for staffing reasons.

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I have talked to several VA travel nurses since and we’ve all had similar experiences with onboarding.

Prepare yourself to be patient with this process. Do not quit your current job. You can safely expect it to take about three months or longer starting with the interview. It might be stressful because you will not have the firm offer in hand until the home stretch, and all the while you’ll be packing your stuff and saying good bye’s, perhaps selling a house or ending a lease.

The transition to becoming a VA travel nurse is kind of a nutty ride.

My best advice is to breathe and have faith in what I’m telling you. If you’re receiving the emails and filling out the forms you are on your way to becoming a Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse. The reward is great because this job is awesome.

Remember that a lot of people from all over the country are coming together and working hard to make this possible. We’ve all been through it. We promise you’ll live to tell the tale.

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3. How Much Money Will You Make?

Your money will come in the form of a paycheck and a per diem allowance while on assignment.

Your hourly rate of pay will be determined by a board of nurses who will assess your years of experience/education and decide which grade and step you will land on the pay scale.

If you’re already a Veterans Affairs nurse you’ll carry your current grade and step over to the new pay scale. You’ll probably get a raise, unless you’re currently working somewhere bougie like Palo Alto.

To View the ONS-TC Pay Scale, click THIS LINK, then:

  1. Click Nurse Locality Pay Schedules in the middle of the web page
  2. Scroll down to the second group of Locations and look for District of Columbia (DC)
  3. Click the Microsoft Excel link to the right of District of Columbia (DC)
  4. Open the Excel Doc then scroll to lines 76-80. These are the pay scales for TC RN’s.

If you are a non-VA applicant: VHA RN’s use the Title-38 pay scale system. There are Five Levels in the system: Nurse I, Nurse II, Nurse III, Nurse IV, and Nurse V. Within each level there are a dozen or more STEPS. Each step represents an increase in pay.

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**Nurse I has three levels within the level, which is confusing. The others have only one level.

Most RN’s working in the VHA System are Nurse I or Nurse II. A small percentage of nurses achieve Nurse III — mostly managers with higher level education. Nurse III is also the terminal level for non-appointed positions. Nurse IV and V are appointed positions.

Most VISNs (regional groupings of VHA facilities) give full-time and part-time nurses STEP INCREASES (pay raises), every other year. VA travel nurses proceed through the pay scale slower due to our intermittent work status.

In other words, because we work less than full-time nurses we receive pay raises less frequently. In addition to working fewer hours than full-time nurses, we also have an entirely different methodology applied to how they accumulate our days worked. I will discuss this further down in a different section.

The Federal Government also commonly provides annual cost of living adjustments (COLA) at the beginning of the year. This is not a guarantee every year.

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The Per Diem

Your per diem, known as M&IE, is a daily amount of money to cover your meals and incidentals. The amount is tied to locality, and from what I’ve seen runs about $30 to $40 per day. I imagine it could be higher if in an expensive location like NYC.

You will not be fronted the money. When you complete the MONTHLY VOUCHER, and the voucher is approved by the travel team AND the facility, the per diem will be deposited into your bank account. This means the money is given to you retroactively — typically around day 10 of the following month.

Because the money is in your bank account, it can be spent how ever you like. If you choose to cook food in your hotel room and have a monthly food budget of $300, but you receive $1,000 for your monthly per diem, the unspent $700 is essentially part of your pay.

It does not work like this with your other expenditures, i.e., gasoline, lodging, rental car. You must provide receipts for these things and will be reimbursed only for the amounts on the receipts. This is different from most non-VA travel nurse jobs.

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4. Selecting an Assignment

VA travel nurses receive a weekly email with a list of all the requesting facilities. The list includes the different areas of nursing: ICU, Medical/surgical/Telemetry, Mental Health, CLC (long-term care), E.D., Cath Lab, Oncology, Dialysis, Community Care, O.R., PACU, and P.A.C.T..

You will be hired to work in one of these specialties. You cannot work outside of your specialty.

Some areas of nursing have tremendous need. For example, Medical-Surgical has over 40 facilities requesting anywhere from one to ten VA travel nurses.

Some areas of nursing have substantially less need. Right now dialysis nurses have two facilities requesting help. Having said that, the list ebbs and flows.

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Do All VHA Facilities Use the TNC?

There are over 170 VA Medical Centers in the U.S. Not all of them are aware of the Travel Corps, and not all of them choose to use us. Those who make requests for VA travel nurses will appear on the list.

Do VA Travel Nurses Work 8s or 12’s? Days or Nights?

Details found on the facility request list include the facility name, city and state, discipline of nursing, number of nurses needed, and whether the shifts are 8’s/12’s, or Days/Nights/Rotating.

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Not every facility specifies if their travel nurse jobs are 8-hour or 12-hour shifts. Also, the shift descriptions are not uniform, so they may include some of the following:

  • 0700-1930 (great!)
  • Variable and Rotating (useless)
  • Mon-Fri; 8 hours/day (great!)
  • Days/Nights/Weekends (useless)

Some travelers don’t really care what shift they work. For others it matters very much. I live in a motorhome with my wife and children, so night shift would be catastrophic to our living situation.

If you are partial to the shift you work and it is not explicitly written what shift the facility needs, ask the program specialist if they can confirm the shift for you. If they cannot, it is recommended that you request a phone interview with the facility before accepting the assignment. This would provide an opportunity to ask the manager what they need.

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IMPORTANT INFO: There is a quirk in the system regarding pay on 12-hour shifts. For some unexplained reason, if you work 12-hour shifts you will receive 1.5X pay for the last four hours your work each day. This adds up to a total of 12 hours of extra pay per PAY PERIOD (every two weeks).

ALSO INPORTANT INFO: The downside to this extra pay (for working 12-hour shifts) is you will accrue time toward your step increases (pay raises) at a slower rate than if you were working 8-hour shifts. I’m just the messenger here, but the VHA standard for step increases counts intermittent employee time in days worked, not hours worked.

ALLOW ME TO EXPLAIN: If you work 12-hour shifts you will work 7 days in a two-week pay period (six 12’s and one 8). If you work 8-hour shifts you will work 10 days in a pay period (ten 8’s). The hours are the same (80), but the VA looks not at “hours worked,” but at “creditable days of service worked,” when factoring time toward step increases for intermittent status employees.

It does not work this way for full-time or part-time employees, even though intermittent status employees may work more days or hours than part-time employees.

Now, I have pushed on this and it doesn’t move. And I cannot say that it makes logical sense.

VA travel nurses who work 8-hour shifts spend more “creditable” days at work than those who work 12-hour shifts. And that is the manner in which the VHA views time for intermittent status employees.

So if you work 12-hour shifts, be smart with that extra pay — it’s part of your retirement.

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The Assignment Request Process

A VA travel nurse may request work no sooner than 45 days before their anticipated start date.

To request an assignment, contact the program specialist via email and submit your top three choices. DO NOT reach out to the facility directly.

The program specialist will acknowledge the VA travel nurse request and submit the resume.

The Travel Corps may be motivated to send you to one place over another for unspecified reasons. This is part of the program and part of the VA travel nurse job requirement.

Per our agreement with the VHA, the Travel Corps may choose where to send us two out of every three assignments. That is what the small print says. However, I have yet to be told where to go on assignment since my first assignment. And furthermore, I spoke with our longest tenured VA travel nurse and she said that she hasn’t been told where to go in eleven years (since her first assignment).

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It will take a few days to a few weeks to hear back after requesting an assignment. The facility may accept your resume without an interview, or they may wish to interview you over the phone. The program specialist will give them your phone number if they choose to interview you.

If the facility accepts your resume without an interview you will receive an email saying you have accepted an assignment to the facility.

If for any reason they do not accept you — which can happen — the program specialist will inform you.

What Happens After You’ve Been Accepted?

When you receive the email that says you have accepted an assignment you are ready to make plans. You can research hotels and look up things to do. You are going to that location!

The Travel Team (those who arrange travel and manage vouchers) will reach out to you via email to discuss travel plans. Will you be flying or driving? Will you be staying in a hotel, campground, or in corporate housing? Will you need any time off during the 13-week assignment?

If you need any time off during the assignment, you must make the request before the assignment begins. The Travel Team will ask you this specific question after you accept the job.

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Shortly before the assignment begins you will receive an email from the program specialist called ASSIGNMENT INSTRUCTIONS. All the dates, times, people, and places will be included so you know where to go and who to see.

You will travel (fly) to the location the day before the assignment begins (typically a Sunday) and check into your lodging. Per diem is provided on travel days.

If you travel by other means you can leave whenever you want, but the Travel Corps will only pay for your lodging the night before the assignment begins.

You will then arrive at work the following Monday (unless otherwise arranged).

What Do I Do Between Assignments?

This is entirely up to you! I try to keep our program specialist and the travel team abreast of my intentions, but I don’t believe this is necessary.

We’ve tried working three-straight 13-week assignments and then three months off. We’ve also tried taking a month off after each 13-week assignment. We prefer the latter, fwiw.

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Will there always be work?

This is a totally legit question! Sometimes you may find your field of nursing is lacking in opportunities on the list. I remember a time where there were only three locations on the list in mental health and I asked the program specialist what happens if there are no jobs available.

I was assured THERE WILL ALWAYS BE WORK if you want to work. That’s all I have to say about that.

One final thing about assignments… People often ask about VHA facilities in Hawaii, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, Guam, and other international destinations. While I am no authority whatsoever on this topic, I have not seen any of these locations on the list. But you know I’m looking out, y’all!

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5. VA Travel Nurse Benefits

Other than the opportunity to travel, meet new people, experience new workplaces, all while remaining under the predictable umbrella of the VHA, what benefits will you receive with ONS-TC?

Firstly, I am not a specialist in VA benefits so I’m not going to discuss health care plans. And furthermore, I cannot get into how the retirement packages work.

But Here’s the Biggest Rub: If you are already a full-time or part-time VHA employee and you TRANSFER into the Travel Corps, you will maintain your FEHB (health care) and retirement benefits.

If you are new to the VA and enter the system as an intermittent employee with ONS-TC, you will receive the FEHB, but NOT the retirement benefits.

You might want to read that again.

Aside from that, there are some subtle differences between the full-time and intermittent status benefits worth discussing.

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Healthcare: Our Healthcare plans are the same: We pay the same and the plans cover the same. Between work assignments the VHA continues to pay their portion of the plan for VA travel nurses. When we return to work for our next assignment our due portion for the missed months will be taken from our paychecks.

*If we don’t work for a calendar year we will lose our healthcare benefits.

Pension: VA travel nurses pay into the plan ONLY while we are working. We cannot add funds to the plan but by working. The Veteran Affairs Hospital System will enroll us into the plan automatically, and they will deduct our portion of the contribution only while we are working.

Therefore, we will build toward retirement substantially slower in the ONS-TC versus full-time work in a VA facility. This is because we work about 9-10 months per year rather than twelve.

401K: The VHA contributes to our 401K only while we are working. We cannot add funds to our 401K when we aren’t working.

Keep in Mind: If you enter the VA System via the Travel Corps you will not receive the Pension and 401K benefits.

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Vacation and Sick Leave

To get straight to the point, you have none. The thought is, you can take time off between assignments. If you need time off during an assignment it must be established through the travel team before the assignment begins.

During the assignment you may request that your manager schedule you in a particular way so you can have days off at your desired time. However, there is no requesting vacation once you’re on assignment.

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If you get sick during an assignment you will not be paid for the days you miss. Please notify the program specialist immediately if you miss days or if your schedule is rearranged, as they will need to make adjustments in LEAF, our scheduling program.

If you get Covid or suffer an injury, it becomes a workman’s comp concern. Employee health at your TDY facility can help you navigate that process.

If you transfer from within the VA System, 2 things will happen:

1 You will be cashed-out for all accrued Annual Leave to a balance of zero. They tax it con mucho gusto but, Hey! Big paycheck!

2 Your Sick Leave will be frozen until you retire or transfer back to full/part-time VHA employment.

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6. The Travel Team

More than any department, VA travel nurses interact with the Travel Team. The Travel Team has a few primary functions:

  • Government Credit Card Procurement and Management
  • Travel and Lodging Arrangements
  • Voucher Submission

The Travel Team will reach out to you often. One of the travel coordinators will be assigned to you, and most questions and needs will be addressed by them.

The travel manager will step in on a supervisory level as needed (or if your coordinator is off-duty).

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Before an Assignment

Your travel coordinator will ask how you intend to travel. If you choose to fly they will book the flight for you. All airline travel will be booked by the Travel Team, never by the RN. If flying, you will travel the day before your assignment begins. In my experience, the travel team books direct flights at appealing hours. In other words, you won’t be ponging around the country on red-eyes with long layovers.

Sometimes the Travel Corps feel like budget restraints are in place — Thrifty Car Rental, Doh! — but flying isn’t one of them. A direct flight at 10:00 am is a thing of beauty that lasts forever.

If you choose to travel by other means, the cost of a flight (government subsidized) will be awarded to your first voucher to be used how you see fit. I typically see about $300 in my first voucher — as much as $750 — I think of it as gas money for the motorhome.

Luggage will be reimbursable up to two bags (about $140 total per flight).

The Travel Team will book a hotel for you. If you would like to stay at a specific hotel, you must:

A. Check to see if the hotel is available in the Concur system. Most major hotels are found in Concur, but you should absolutely check first.

B. Let your travel coordinator know with plenty of advanced notice.

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If you want to change hotels after they book your lodging or once the assignment has begun, you may do so if, A. The hotel is in Concur, and B. You call DULUTH and give them all the information. The travel coordinator may have additional instructions, so speak with them before making any moves.

Duluth is yet another component of the Travel Corps the VA travel nurse must know. The Travel Team handles most of the communication with Duluth, but on occasion it is your responsibility (like when you change hotels). The Travel Team will let you know when you need to call them.

Corporate housing is short term rental property — houses, apartments or condos that come furnished. There are a handful of companies that act as agents for TDY nurses. If you prefer to lodge in corporate housing you will be provided with phone numbers by your travel coordinator and must arrange for it yourself. Call one of the numbers and the agent will attempt to set you up.

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The one time we tried to use corporate housing there was no one who would accept the government rate. We called the number and an agent attempted to find us a place, but they returned empty handed.

If you prefer to use an RV like we normally do, you can reserve yourself a campsite. Your travel coordinator will ask you for all the information. It’s pretty simple. The cost of full hook-up RV sites almost always comes in under the government rate.

Keep in Mind: If the campground/RV park has fees for electricity usage, or the corporate housing requires you to pay the utilities, the voucher will not reimburse the cost. Some campgrounds that have extra charges will roll all the costs into one nightly rate to help you out. Some will not.

Also in that vein, if you travel with a pet and the hotel/campground/corporate housing requires pet fees, they will not be reimbursed. Any damage you or your pet do to the room will not be reimbursed by the federal government. The VA travel nurse would be wise to keep those pet fees off of the government credit card to avoid voucher hiccups and a dangling credit card balance.

Just remember Nightly Rate and Taxes are the only reimbursable lodging items.

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You can choose to stay somewhere with a nightly rate in excess of the government rate, but you will be responsible to pay the difference. You can charge it to the government credit card, but the voucher will not be reimbursed for any monies in excess of the government rate. You will be required to call the credit card company (VISA) and pay off the difference.

The Travel Team will book a rental car for you. Some facilities provide a government car instead. Government cars can have mileage restrictions.

About two weeks before you travel to an assignment: You will receive an email from the Travel Team with all of your flight, rental car, and lodging information called the CONCUR ITINERARY. This is the master plan for your travel arrangements.

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How Do VA travel nurses Pay for Everything?

The two methods of payment are:

A. The government credit card

B. Any other method you choose to use.

The airline ticket will never be paid by the VA travel nurse.

Your lodging and rental car must be paid using the government credit card. This is a bummer if you like to collect airline miles or hotel points on your personal credit card.

The gasoline can be paid using the government card OR another method. During the voucher process you will designate how you paid for the gasoline and the reimbursement will be applied to the government card or deposited in your bank account with the M&IE.

If you have checked baggage on your flight you will use the government card or another method. During the voucher process you will designate how you paid for the baggage and the reimbursement will be applied to the government card or deposited in your bank account with the M&IE.

All food and laundry will be afforded by your own payment methods. Food will be reimbursed as your M&IE per diem and deposited into your account after the voucher is approved. Laundry will be reimbursed (up to $20 weekly) by using the MISSING RECEIPT FORM when submitting it in the voucher. Laundry reimbursement will be deposited into your account.

TNC Pay Scale
VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

What is CONCUR?

Concur is a government computer system used to manage TDY. TDY is travel or assignment at a location other than the traveler’s permanent duty station.  When you are traveling you are on TDY.

The Concur system is where you can review and adjust your vouchers. It is where you will submit all costs and receipts. It is where you can see which hotels are valid for government reimbursement.

VA travel nurses submit a voucher — an electronic record of all expenditures and receipts — every month while on TDY.

Each expense is entered into Concur and digital receipts are attached.

  • Rental Car and Lodging require (at least) one receipt per month
  • Laundry is submitted weekly
  • Gas is submitted as utilized

Your travel coordinator will train you on how to use Concur while you are onboarding. It is a fairly complicated system and it can take a few months to get the hang of it.

TNC Pay Scale
Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse, Travel Nurse Jobs

Obtaining Receipts (and Receipts in General)

The Federal Government is notoriously persnickety about receipts, which is one of the more frustrating components of the VA travel nurse lifestyle. If you ever get the feeling that your head is going to explode, chances are it’s because of vouchers and receipts.

To prevent an unsightly mess, remember this: The federal government loathes TDY fraud. All the hassle, all the rejection, all the nausea comes from a very good place known as fraud prevention.

Here’s an Example: Lodging and rental car receipts have to show the total charge AND a zero balance due. This is because the facility needs to know that you actually paid for the room/car with the government VISA card and didn’t just show the Travel Team an invoice (a bill).

Because there are very specific requirements for the receipts you will probably need to articulate to the hotel clerk how to present the charges. If you don’t, and the receipt is not correct, your travel coordinator or the TDY facility will likely reject it (sometimes it slips through). After this happens a few times you will get very good at specifying what you need from the hotel clerk.

The rental car receipt can be even more frustrating than lodging because there is no human being to approach at a counter. The car company will typically email you a receipt each month, sometimes on the 1st of the month and sometimes based upon which day you rented the car.

TNC Pay Scale
VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

The rental car receipt may not have a zero balance on it. If it doesn’t, I recommend talking to your travel coordinator to see if they have a good phone number or email address for the rental car agency. It is your responsibility to motivate the rental car company (or hotel) to create a workable receipt for you. The Travel Team can advise you, but you will do the legwork.

The reason I recommend seeking advisement from your travel coordinator is the rental car customer service department can send you into consternate rage. I’m serious, and I’d rather not see you on my inpatient psychiatric unit. Rental car customer service is the devil’s hot hell.

Know This: Every hotel and rental car agency has a way to create the receipt you need — you just have to track down the right person at the company who knows how to make it on the computer. Sometimes this is as easy as calling the airport counter where you rented the car.

Sometimes it is a much, much darker path you’ll walk. For times like these, use your travel coordinator. And perhaps Lamotrigine.

TNC Pay Scale
Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse, Travel Nurse Jobs

Gasoline receipts are straightforward. Be sure to get them from the pump or clerk.

Gas receipts will be scanned using a phone app called ADOBE SCAN. Scan and email the receipts to your VA email address and upload them into Concur as instructed by your travel coordinator.

Laundry receipts typically don’t exist. Use the Missing Receipt Form. Your travel coordinator will get you a copy of it.

Your vouchers can be completed at work or at home. It’s easier at work because you can sign onto the Concur system using your VA PIV card (your main form of VA identification). If you want to use Concur at home you’ll need sign-on information from your travel coordinator.

If you ever find yourself in the situation where a voucher is being refused — for whatever reason — and your credit card exceeds the max limit because it hasn’t been paid down (due to the unpaid voucher) yet the hotel is trying to run additional charges, speak to your travel coordinator. They can potentially increase the credit limit on a temporary basis until your voucher goes through.

TNC Pay Scale
VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

The Facility TDY Team

The facility has their own “Travel Team” that manages all the TDY coming in and out of their facility.

When you submit your voucher the first thing that happens is the Travel Team will review it and make sure it looks good. They then pass it along to the facility for ultimate approval.

Some facilities scrutinize vouchers tighter than others. If you end up at a persnickety place, you’re gonna learn how to do a perfect voucher or suffer a stroke in frustration.

Enough about those people. Remember they are only doing their jobs. Preventing fraud is their ultimate purpose and they take it seriously.

TNC Pay Scale
Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse, Travel Nurse Jobs

Once the facility approves your voucher you can expect the following:

  • The M&IE and any laundry or gas reimbursements will be deposited into your bank account within a few business days.
  • Your government credit card will be remunerated the submitted amounts.

Always, always, always keep your receipts! The missing receipt form can be used if things go awry — just ask your travel coordinator how to do this. Nevertheless, receipts are very important for a VA travel nurse, or most anyone who pays taxes, really.

After every assignment be sure to call the credit card company or look at the expenditures online to make sure the balance is correct. It happens all the time that a mistake is made, or a hotel adds a charge, and the voucher payment does not wipe out the full balance due on the card. It is the responsibility of the Veterans Affairs travel nurse to stay on top of this. We are responsible for any additional charges on the card.

It is very important to carry a zero balance between assignments. Remember it is a government credit card and shenanigans can result in termination.

TNC Pay Scale
VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

7. Working in a New Facility

Every Veteran Affairs Hospital is run a little bit different. I have worked at eight different VA Medical Centers and each one is a new experience. As a VA travel nurse you will be ready for duty no matter what pattern of protocols roll out the door when you arrive.

The VA travel nurse cannot expect a perfectly run unit when we arrive for duty. These facilities are requesting help for a reason, and it isn’t because everything is operating in top form.

Perhaps a few nurses retired and they need a staffing boost while they onboard new nurses. It could be that nurses are difficult to recruit in certain parts of the country. Unfortunately, you might be looking at a problem with personalities or management, and the nurses are leaving faster than they can be replaced. It happens in hospitals everywhere — hence all the travel nursing jobs — and the VA is no exception.

VA travel nurses are a part of the solution. Our energy and attitudes can help turn the situation around. It’s true! We are not rent-a-nurses — we are VA travel nurses and therefore invested in each and every nursing unit requiring our assistance. Our workplace is the entire VHA system.

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Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse, Travel Nurse Jobs

Access and Authorizations

You might be the first VA travel nurse your facility has ever utilized. This means the first day could be challenging as they try to get you access to myriad systems. These systems include:

Local computer files and folders; CPRS (the charting system); BCMA (the medication system); the Omnicell or Pyxis machines; blood sugar glucometers; door access including keys and electronic access; parking permits; and other things as well.

Some facilities will knock this out in a day; some may take over a month before you have the full range of access and authorizations. Most VA Hospitals need a few days to a few weeks.

Some facilities utilize their Nursing Education department in these situations. Many facilities hand it off to the nurse managers.

With experience you will learn how to help your managers through the process of bringing a VA travel nurse up to speed. You may even guide them before your arrival if you establish a line of communication during the phone interview.

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VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

Your New Co-Workers

Your new co-workers will give you 1-5 days of training. It is important to learn the routine of the nurses, the commonly used notes for charting, and where things are found around the unit. This is the same, but different, at each VHA facility.

If you clearly know what you’re doing they can give you responsibility right away. In Salt Lake City I was passing meds by noon on my first day. On day two I was covering Omega Team.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, the staff nurses might not require much of you at all. How the staff utilizes you is up to them. You’re there to help, not tell them how to run their unit.

TNC Pay Scale
Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse, Travel Nurse Jobs

The unit staff will be very curious about you. Some of them will want to learn about VA travel nursing and you can explain all the details over and over and over (and over and over)…

Or you can direct them to this article! Your vocal cords will thank you. You are welcome.

Folks will want to know about the other places you’ve worked. They’ll want to hear about your travels, and they’ll want to tell you about fun things to do in their town.

Eventually they may ask what you think of their unit, or try to involve you in the frustrating politics of the workplace. Count on it.

I’ve mastered the art of platitudes for these situations. One of the key benefits of being a VA travel nurse is you never need to get involved in the politics. You are above it, and you will soon be gone.

TNC Pay Scale
VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

More On the Job Information

If you have scheduling preferences you can gently request them of your new managers. Be advised to not expect special treatment, as scheduling philosophy varies from place to place. In my experience I’ve been treated as a welcomed guest and accommodated beyond what I deserve. I’ve heard it goes the other way, too.

The facility may have specific colors of scrubs they expect their employees to wear. The Charleston VA provided five sets of very nice scrubs, and they just so happened to be in a color that was flattering to my skin tones. It was appreciated!

The Travel Corps meets with all VA travel nurses on a monthly basis. We use the Microsoft Teams program — it is built into most VHA computers. On occasion it requires a quick download to get Teams.

TNC Pay Scale
Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse, Travel Nurse Jobs

Meetings last about an hour. There are typically a few things the Directors and Travel Team need to tell us, but most of the time is devoted to questions we have about the situations that arise while we are on TDY. This gives the nurses a chance to gain understanding.

For example, one facility was supplying government cars to VA travel nurses rather than using rental cars, and the mileage permitted was only to work and back. Nurses were not allowed any additional miles to go to the grocery store, the gym, a restaurant, or nearby tourist attraction. The facility told the nurse to get an Uber if they needed to grocery shop. Sounds fun, right?

This was brought up during the meeting to everyone’s surprise. Now everyone is aware how that facility manages TDY employees. And our Directors can work to help the facility understand how these things affect the VA travel nurses.

TNC Pay Scale
VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

Scheduling is done on a program called LEAF. The program specialist will email you a link every pay period that takes you to the system. Please input your 2-week schedule into LEAF as soon as possible. If you know your schedule you can submit it as far in advance as you like.

LEAF requires your information be input exactly as requested. The instructions are incredibly clear and attached to the email. If done improperly it will be returned for resubmission.

All work related emails will be sent to your VA email address and your personal email address. This way you can get your emails while you are home between assignments (or off work that day).

TMS is a continuing education system that VA staff need to use throughout the year. Most training modules are completed on a work or home computer, but CPR needs to be done on a manikin at the TDY facility (unless you get CPR certified outside the VA). Staff will know where to find the dummy.

The TNC has begun to employ Nurse Practitioners in a limited capacity. The TNC does not employ LPN’s or NA’s at this time.

A Final Piece of Advice: Sign up for hotel points programs (Hilton, Marriot), and airline mileage programs (Southwest, United). If you don’t have a preferred credit card, get one that earns hotel points or airline miles. This is an amazing perk! You can gather up scores of free nights/flights in points!

TNC Pay Scale
Veteran Affairs Travel Nurse, Travel Nurse Jobs

8. Concluding Thoughts

I sincerely hope this was helpful. It may be too much information, but I’d rather err on the side of too much than leave people with unanswered questions. That said, I’m sure there are more questions out there, so feel free to send them to me at

The past two years have been among the most exciting, enjoyable, and difficult years of my life. Our family has spent the entire time living in a 39′ RV. We’ve been to over 30 states and lived in five new cities. We’ve visited countless museums, national parks, state parks, and fun parks. We have skied, surfed, rafted, climbed mountains, and explored caves aplenty.

VA travel nursing is the adventure of a lifetime. Not only do you get to see the USA, but you have the stability of working for the federal government (something any old travel nurse job will not provide). The VHA and ONS-TC treat us very well. I cannot say that strongly enough.

As far as we are concerned, this is what living the dream looks like. I hope to see you soon!

Thank you for stopping by our website! We are the Hoffmann family, a full-time RV family that has split residence in Seattle, Washington and San Antonio, Texas. We also have special needs children that we homeschool. If you would like to learn more about us, check out our Start Here and Biography pages. In the meantime, God bless and travel happy!

TNC Pay Scale
VA Travel Nurse, VA Nursing Jobs, Veteran Affairs Nursing Jobs

8 responses to “VA Travel Nurse: All You Need to Know”

  1. Drew says:

    I have worked for the VA for 12 years and I am very interested in this program. Thank you so much for the info!

  2. Evelyn Valdez says:

    Hi! I really enjoyed reading your article. I decided to join the travel corps and I found this information very helpful! Keep sharing your journey.

  3. Sarah Samith says:

    These places look beautiful! Would love to be there right now!

  4. Jae C says:

    Thank you for the information.

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