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General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale


The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a standardized, government-wide compensation system used to determine the salaries of federal civilian employees in the United States. It consists of 15 pay grades (GS-1 to GS-15) with 10 pay steps within each grade. Salaries within the GS pay scale are determined by an employee’s job title, location, and experience level, ensuring equitable compensation across federal agencies.

Key Takeaways

  1. The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a system used by the U.S. federal government to determine the salaries of civilian employees, including those working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).
  2. GS Pay Scale consists of 15 grades, each with 10 steps, and incorporates factors such as location, experience, and job responsibilities to calculate an employee’s paycheck. A VA employee’s progression through the scale is typically based on their tenure and performance.
  3. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) annually reviews and adjusts the GS Pay Scale to account for changes in the cost of living, inflation, and industry standards, ensuring competitive compensation for VA employees and other federal workers.


The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is critical for understanding VA benefits because it serves as the primary mechanism for determining the salary and advancement potential of federal employees, including those working at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

The GS Pay Scale consists of 15 grades, each with ten pay steps, and establishes a transparent and uniform system for compensating federal workers across agencies.

By providing a standardized structure, it allows veterans receiving VA benefits to predict their earning potential and advancement opportunities in federal employment, ensuring equitable and competitive compensation.

Consequently, awareness of the GS Pay Scale is essential for veterans seeking government positions and for assessing the overall value of VA benefits.


The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale serves a critical purpose in establishing a standardized, transparent, and fair system for compensating federal employees, specifically those in white-collar occupations within the United States government. As one of the key components of the VA benefits system, this structured pay scale aims to ensure that the salaries of government workers are both competitive within the market and commensurate with their individual skills, qualifications, and work levels.

By creating a consistent framework for remuneration, the GS Pay Scale not only promotes a sense of equity amongst colleagues but also aids in the attraction and retention of talented professionals within various departments and agencies. In practice, the GS Pay Scale comprises 15 distinct pay grades, each consisting of 10 steps that represent incremental pay increases based on an employee’s documented performance, length of service, and job responsibilities.

This systematic approach enables a clearly defined career progression for government employees while permitting merit-based salary adjustments. Furthermore, the GS system incorporates locality-based adjustments, which account for differing living costs across the country, ensuring that federal salaries remain competitive in relation to their respective regional job markets.

Consequently, the GS Pay Scale serves not only as a vital tool for managing and maintaining a qualified and dedicated public workforce, but also as a beacon of consistency and fairness in employee compensation across the federal government.

Examples of General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale

The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a system used to determine the salaries of federal employees, including those working for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) in the United States. It consists of 15 grades (GS-1 to GS-15) and ten steps within each grade, with salaries increasing in accordance with experience and performance. Here are three real-world examples of jobs that fall under the GS Pay Scale:

VA Claims Examiner (GS-9): A VA Claims Examiner is responsible for adjudicating claims for veterans’ benefits, such as disability compensation, rehabilitation services, and pension benefits. They may work at a VA Regional Office, reviewing veterans’ claims based on service records, medical documentation, and other evidence. A GS-9 position typically requires a bachelor’s degree or equivalent experience, and the salary range for this grade may fall between $45,627 and $59,316 per year, depending on location and step.

VA Nurse (GS-11): A VA Nurse provides essential healthcare services to veterans in a VA hospital, clinic, or long-term care facility. They may specialize in areas such as critical care, geriatrics, or mental health, and work as part of a multi-disciplinary team to deliver patient-centered care. Generally, a GS-11 position requires a bachelor’s or advanced nursing degree and relevant nursing experience. The salary range for this grade may vary between $53,433 and $69,462 per year, depending on location and step.

VA Research Scientist (GS-13): A VA Research Scientist carries out scientific investigations and studies that contribute to the development of new treatments, diagnostic tools, and health interventions for veterans. They may work in fields such as biomedical engineering, clinical psychology, or pharmacology, and can be found at VA research centers or affiliated universities. A GS-13 position usually requires a Ph.D. or equivalent research experience, with the salary range falling between $76,721 and $99,741 per year based on location and step.Note that the actual salary ranges for GS Pay Scale jobs can vary depending on the geographic location due to locality adjustments, and the salary mentioned above may not be precisely accurate for every employee in each example.

FAQs about General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale

What is the General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale?

The General Schedule (GS) Pay Scale is a system that determines the salaries of white-collar federal employees in the United States. It consists of 15 grades and 10 steps within each grade, with each step having a corresponding pay increase. Salaries are based on education, experience, and location.

Who is covered under the GS Pay Scale system?

The GS Pay Scale system covers most white-collar federal employees, including professionals, administrators, technical, clerical, and general support roles. However, it does not apply to employees in the Senior Executive Service, the Uniformed Services, or the Federal Wage System.

How is the GS Pay Scale determined?

The GS Pay Scale is determined by Congress and overseen by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM administers the pay scale and may adjust it annually based on factors such as inflation, changes in the labor market, and legislation.

What factors affect an employee’s GS Pay Scale position?

An employee’s GS Pay Scale position is affected by their job title, duties, education, experience, and any specialized skills relevant to the role. The employee’s location can also impact their pay due to locality pay adjustments to compensate for cost of living differences.

How does the GS Pay Scale promote career advancement?

The GS Pay Scale promotes career advancement through its step and grade system. As employees gain experience and demonstrate proficiency in their roles, they may progress through the 10 steps within their grade. Additionally, performance-based promotions may lead to advancement into higher grades, resulting in increased pay and responsibilities.

Related VA Benefit Terms

  • Federal civil service system
  • GS pay grade and step
  • Locality pay adjustments
  • Salary tables
  • Cost-of-living adjustments (COLA)

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