Serving Catholics in the Department of Veterans Affairs

The vision of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs is “to provide veterans the world-class benefits and services they have earned — and to do so by adhering to the highest standards of compassion, commitment, excellence, professionalism, integrity, accountability, and stewardship.” Catholic priests are endorsed by the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA to provide pastoral care to veteran-patients in the 153 VA Medical Centers in the United States.

Opportunities for Priests with the VA

  1. The Department of Veterans Affairs employs Catholic priests as chaplains in various types of positions.
    • Full time – 40 hours per week
    • Part time – 10 to 35 hours per week
    • Intermittent – No regularly scheduled hours
    • Contract – Specific number of visits
    • Fee-basis – Paid per visitFull-time and part-time positions with the VA are GS (or General Schedule) employees of the Federal government.
  2. When a VA Medical Center cannot employ a Catholic chaplain, provision can be made for the VAMC to engage a Catholic priest under contract. Contract priests are NOT chaplains or VA employees and are restricted to ministry with Catholics.

Current open positions are advertised at USA JOBS or at VA Careers.

Requirements for Serving in the VA

The Department of Veterans Affairs has established various requirements for hiring chaplains.

  • U.S. Citizenship. (Note: Contract or fee-basis priests VA can be permanent residents (Green Card holders.)
  • Master of Divinity (M.Div.) or Equivalent.
    • Applicants must possess a Master of Divinity degree or equivalent educational qualifications as evidenced by a graduate-level theological degree from a college, university or theological school accredited by a member of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. NOTE: For applicants who do not possess a Master of Divinity degree or equivalent educational degree, an approved educational equivalency review from a nationally recognized board certification body for chaplains (see paragraph f) is acceptable.
      Foreign Education – To be creditable, theological or related education completed outside the U.S. must be submitted to a current affiliate agency of the National Association of Credential Evaluation Services (NACES) listed at https://www.naces.org/members.
  • Minimum of 4 units of Clinical Pastoral Education (CPE) or Equivalent.
    • Note: While priests seeking employment as VA chaplains must have 4 units of CPE to be hired permanently, priests seeking a contract do not need to meet this requirement.
    • The VA accepts CPE training from accredited Department of Education institutions.
  • Minimum of 2 years of professional experience.
  • New AMS Endorsement (within 1 year).
  • Board Certification.
    • Applicants must be a Board Certified Chaplain certified by the Board of Chaplaincy Certification Inc. (BCCI) ® or nationally recognized certification body that utilizes the BCCI ® Common Qualifications and Competencies for Professional Chaplaincy or a certifying organization that has a reciprocity agreement with BCCI ®. Exception: Non-certified applicants who otherwise meet the eligibility requirements may be given a temporary appointment under the authority of 38 U.S.C. § 7405(c)(2) for a period not to exceed two years. This exception only applies at the entry level. For the journey level and above, the candidate must have board certification.

Before granting the required Ecclesiastical Endorsement, the AMS requires the following:

  • Application requesting the AMS Endorsement for VA via the myAMS portal | My Applications tab.
  • Completion of Declaration Statements and the Confidential Questionnaire.
  • A Letter of Good Standing from the diocesan bishop/religious superior of the priest’s current assignment.
  • Proof of the priest’s Youth Protection training (Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, article 12).
  • Current Child and Youth Protection Training Certificate.
  • Submission of a DVD of the priest celebrating a Sunday Mass (including a homily of at least five minutes).
    • The AMS will dispense from this requirement for priests applying for a fee-basis position.
  • A one-page statement sharing the priest’s reason for his interest in VA chaplaincy.
  • For foreign-born priests: Results of the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL)
    • The AMS requires a minimum total score of 80, with a score of no less than 16 in each section: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

Application Process

Qualified Catholic priests interested in serving as a chaplain in the Department of Veterans Affairs are encouraged find an open position and make the two required applications.

  • To find open VA chaplain positions, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/. In the Search bar, type in Catholic chaplain.
  • Apply to the Department of Veterans Affairs online: va.gov/chaplain | Employment Information and Resources
  • Apply for the AMS Endorsement for the VA via the myAMS portal | My Applications tab

Veterans receive hiring preference. Also note that it is the individual VA Medical Centers that interview and hire priests. The AMS is not involved in hiring beyond the granting of the ecclesiastical endorsement. Once hired at a specific VA Medical Center, the priest must inform the AMS so that he can be granted faculties to minister in the Archdiocese for the Military Services, USA.

Specific questions concerning Catholic ministry in the Department of Veterans Affairs can be addressed to Bishop Joseph Coffey, Episcopal Vicar for Veterans Affairs, at jcoffey@milarch.org. Questions about the AMS endorsement process can be addressed to Ms. Deborah Stevens, Vice Chancellor for Veterans Affairs, at ViceChanVA@milarch.org.