News Releases

Federal hiring freeze will delay veterans’ access to care and benefits, and affect veterans seeking federal jobs

There are open jobs at VA facilities in Washington state, including those in Seattle, Spokane, and Mt. Vernon 

Murray: “At a time when we are working to help veterans get the care they earned in their service to our country, this action would only impede the department’s ability to follow through” 

(Washington, D.C.) —Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, joined members of both the Senate and House to demand President Trump exempt the entire Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) and all veterans seeking federal jobs from his executive order that freezes federal hiring. The members’ letter emphasized that the hiring freeze will add to the chronic workforce shortages that are plaguing the 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. Washington state VA facilities have reported at least 300 current job openings. According to the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, the VA has reported it currently has more than 45,000 vacancies nationwide.

“At a time when we are working to help veterans get the care they earned in their service to our country, this action would only impede the department’s ability to follow through, including at facilities in our state,” said Senator Murray. “I strongly urge President Trump not to break the promise he made to put veterans first while he was on the campaign trail, and exempt the VA from the hiring freeze to allow caretakers, claim processors, and so many others to be hired and get to work.”                                             

In the letter, the members wrote: “A hiring freeze at the 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. Our nation’s veterans should not be made to sacrifice any more than they already have while you review federal hiring.”

The members also 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 disabled and transitioning from the military to civilian service.

For a list of the members of Congress who signed the letter, click HERE.

The entire letter to President Trump is available HERE, and is below.

Dear President Trump:

We are deeply troubled that your freeze on the hiring of federal civilian employees will have a negative and disproportionate impact on our nation’s veterans.  As such, we urge you to take stock of this hiring freeze’s effect on our nation’s veterans and exempt the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) as well as any veterans seeking federal employment from your Memorandum Regarding the Hiring Freeze. 

While there can be no debate that the federal government, including VA, should be more efficient in its delivery of services to all Americans, 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.  Our nation’s veterans should not be made to sacrifice any more than they already have while you review federal hiring. 

Have you considered how this hiring freeze will affect VA’s ability to provide veterans with access to health care?  For years, VA has faced chronic medical personnel shortages, particularly in rural areas.  As a result of the hiring freeze, the Department’s inability to hire clinicians and the administrative support teams to schedule appointments will have a direct impact on the number of veterans on waiting lists at facilities across the country.  Further, this will have an impact on community providers, who will be forced to continue waiting for delayed payments without VA having the ability to hire employees to process payments on their claims.  We urge you to re-evaluate this hiring freeze and take into account veterans who will face increased delay in accessing health care.

Have you considered how this hiring freeze will affect VA’s ability to provide veterans with decisions on their appeals for disability compensation?  More than 450,000 appeals are pending – that means that more than 450,000 veterans are waiting for the U.S. government to provide them with benefits earned while a disability was incurred while serving in our armed services.  Our nation’s veterans cannot afford an unnecessary wait to receive the benefits they have earned serving our 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 -- whether it’s disability, survivor or education benefits, or whether it’s vocational rehabilitation or job training services.

Have you considered how this hiring freeze will impact those veterans who apply to federal jobs?  Veterans comprise 31 percent of the federal workforce and most receive a well-earned hiring preference when they apply for federal jobs.  An across-the-board freeze will hurt these veterans – many of whom are transitioning from military to civilian service, and many of whom are 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.

Should you move forward with this hiring freeze, one issue that must not be overlooked is VA’s little-known mission of providing support to national efforts to prepare for, respond to, and recover from natural disasters, acts of terrorism, and man-made catastrophes.  We urge you to classify VA’s delivery of health care as a national security and public safety responsibility, as outlined in your Presidential Memorandum Regarding Hiring Freeze, and exempt it from this hiring freeze.  To do otherwise is to jeopardize the national security and public safety of our nation. 

Mr. President, this hiring freeze will have a dramatic impact on the quality of health care and benefits veterans receive.  We urge you to reconsider.

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