01.26.17

Peters, Stabenow Demand Trump Exempt Entire VA from Hiring Freeze

Federal Hiring Freeze Will Delay Veterans’ Access to Care and Benefits, and Hurt Veterans Seeking Federal Jobs

WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Senator Gary Peters, a former Lt. Commander in the Navy Reserve, and U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow joined a group of 53 members of Congress to demand President Trump exempt the entire VA and all veterans seeking federal jobs from his executive order that freezes federal hiring. The Senate and House Members say Trump’s hiring freeze will have devastating impacts on veterans and their families.

“A hiring freeze at VA will delay veterans’ access to health care and resolution of their disability claims, which for many of our nation’s heroes provides a sole source of income to them and their families,” wrote Peters, Stabenow and their colleagues.  “Our nation’s veterans should not be made to sacrifice any more than they already have while you review federal hiring.”

Additionally, the Members called on Trump to exempt all veterans seeking employment from his hiring freeze, underscoring that veterans make up 31 percent of the federal workforce. A hiring freeze across the federal government will hurt veterans, many of whom are transitioning from the military to civilian service and may be disabled.

“The negative impacts of this freeze will be felt across the country and disproportionately affect those men and women who have honorably served in our military,” they added.

The Senators and Representatives emphasized that the hiring freeze will add to the chronic workforce shortages that are plaguing VA, and that more doctors, nurses and administrative staff are needed at VA facilities to reduce wait times across the country and make payments on time.

VA has reported it currently has more than 45,000 vacancies.Dr. David Shulkin, Trump’s VA Secretary nominee, has said "I need to fill every one of those openings in order to make sure that we're doing the very best for our veterans."

VA has also reported that more than 40 percent of its senior officials are currently eligible for retirement.  Efforts to replace each of these employees would be dramatically impaired by the hiring freeze. There are currently more than 450,000 veterans waiting for VA to fulfill the government’s commitment and provide them with the benefits they earned while serving the country.

“We urge you to re-evaluate this hiring freeze and take into account the effect it will have on veterans who will have to wait longer for earned benefits,” the group added.

Acting VA Director Robert Snyder this week said VA will continue to hire front-line caregivers despite the President’s executive order, but Peters, Stabenow and the other members want the entire VA exempt from the hiring freeze—including support staff, schedulers, IT specialists, and payment processers.

The text of the letter to President Trump is available HERE, as is the list of members of Congress who co-signed the letter with Peters and Stabenow.