President Trump’s hiring freeze on federal workers appears to have suspended efforts by VA Puget Sound Healthcare Network to fill hundreds of job openings.
President Trump’s executive order to freeze the hiring of federal workers appears to have suspended VA Puget Sound’s efforts to fill some of more than 570 open positions.
Just how many of these positions at VA Puget Sound Healthcare Network could be filled under the freeze depends on how the executive order is carried out.
The order signed Monday states that, outside of the military, no new federal positions may be filled, and no positions may be created except in limited circumstances.
The Department of Veterans Affairs, in a written statement, said front-line caregivers would qualify for a public-safety exemption included in the executive order.
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That would appear to allow the VA Puget Sound to move ahead with hiring for 40 positions for doctors and 136 slots for nurses considered to be critical to health-care delivery.
But when asked to clarify the definition of front-line caregivers, a VA spokesman responded by saying, “We hope to be able to provide more as the situation develops.”
The VA Puget Sound Healthcare Network serves more than 105,000 veterans in 14 counties. It handled more than 1 million appointments during the fiscal year that ended Sept. 30, and in recent years has been one of the nation’s fastest-growing VA networks.
In Washington, as in other parts of the nation, veterans have complained of long wait times for services, and Trump, during his campaign, harshly criticized VA performance.
The clampdown on VA hiring has prompted protests from Congress, including from Washington’s Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, both Democrats, who joined 51 other members of Congress to ask Trump to exempt the VA from the hiring freeze.
“Our nation’s veterans should not be made to sacrifice any more than they already have while you review federal hiring,” the letter stated. “For years, VA has faced chronic medical personnel shortages, particularly rural areas.”
The letter also noted the freeze could extend wait times for veterans seeking disability, survivor or education benefits.