Managing VA and University Effort

A presentation on VA MOUs given by Jamie Caldwell of Loyola University and Zack Odem of the University of Missouri was a nice solid overview of VA and university joint appointments and the need to keep up with MOUs. They even had an old NU memorandum of agreement calculation in their presentation, for someone with clinical effort at the VA.

However, attendees left with the same question they came with: how do you equate university effort with VA hours?

Some attendees thought that the effort for investigators with multiple appointments would exceed 100%, and indeed, a NIH grant officer I sat near and talked to after told me that other support pages she sees often exceed 100% effort for investigators with VA appointments and it makes her cringe. Another NIH grant officer from the same session asked me if there was a best practice with regard to calculating effort for investigators with joint VA appointments, which is interesting. It’s a question for everyone.

A couple of important points:

1. An investigator can have 1, 2 or 5 roles that relate to his/her academic activity but his/her total professional effort will always add up to 100%. An investigator’s other support page should reflect 100% total support including VA effort.

2. You need to state which compensation is included in the investigator’s base pay in the budget justification.

3. The MOU should be updated when the investigator’s commitments change, or every year, whichever comes first, regardless of how the investigator is paid – the MOU establishes available effort to commit on a project regardless of salary.

4. Calculate the MOU however your institution sees fit. At NU, we convert the investigator’s institutional appointment into the units of VA hours and that total effort equals 100%. (Our policy is a full time week equals 65 hours, which is common among academic medical centers.)

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