Tester Gets Trump to Ease Hiring Freeze on VA

Senator: Step In the Right Direction, More Work To Do

(U.S. Senate) – U.S. Senator Jon Tester, Ranking Member of the Senate Veterans Affairs’ Committee, today issued the following statement after the Trump Administration heeded his calls to exempt certain positions at the VA from the federal hiring freeze:

“In the future, I hope the Trump Administration thinks twice before making sweeping decisions that affect veterans and those who serve them. While this announcement is a step in the right direction, I still have concerns that the freeze applies to VA employees directly involved in processing veterans’ claims. Given the progress we have made to eliminate the backlog and tackle the 450,000 appeals still pending, it’s critical that the VA hire the folks needed to care for our veterans.”

Tester recently led a group of 164 members of Congress to demand that Trump exempt the entire VA workforce and any veterans seeking federal employment from the hiring freeze.

Following Tester’s letter, the Administration announced that it is exempting certain positions including doctors, nurses, and psychologists.

Of the 45,000 vacancies identified by the Veterans Health Administration, the vast majority have been identified as positions in direct patient care or impacting patient access and were exempted shortly after Tester’s letter. At Fort Harrison in Montana, these exemptions applied to 10 of the 15 currently vacant positions.

However, vacant claims processing positions have yet to be exempted, and VA is currently unable to hire the additional 242 employees it needs to expedite the processing of veterans appeals across the country. Many of these claims have been pending for years and impact a population of veterans who rely upon VA compensation as their primary means of income.

Veterans seeking work in the federal government are also not exempt from the hiring freeze yet they currently make up 31 percent of the federal workforce. Tester is also calling for an exemption of these veterans, many of whom are transitioning from military to civilian life and may be disabled.