Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., took the lead on a letter to VA's chief of staff.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., took the lead on a letter to VA's chief of staff. Carolyn Kaster/AP

VA Denies Accusations of Restricting Hiring at Local Facilities

Senators say new policy was initiated to push veterans toward private sector care.

The Veterans Affairs Department on Thursday pushed back against reports that it is restricting hiring at its local facilities nationwide, saying it has only tightened a freeze at its central office in Washington, D.C.

VA’s rebuttal came after a group of Democratic senators wrote to Peter O’Rourke, the department’s chief of staff, accusing the agency of instituting “additional bureaucratic layers of approval for hiring frontline employees.” The senators, led by Jon Tester, D-Mont, the ranking member on the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, pointed to a memorandum from February that they said restricted the number of positions field offices could hire directly without first seeking approval from headquarters. In April 2017, VA lifted a hiring freeze on most Veterans Health Administration and Veterans Benefits Administration positions, but still required approval from the under secretary and the chief of staff.

The senators said VA was severely restricting the number of positions local facilities could hire without first getting such approval. Curt Cashour, a VA spokesman, said there was a “misunderstanding” and the senators’ accusations were “false.” Instead, he said, the memo concerned only an ongoing hiring freeze at VA’s central office. He maintained that moratorium would not impact recruiting efforts in the field.

“It’s not having any impact on hiring and recruiting anywhere outside of VA central office in Washington,” Cashour said.

Eliminating positions in Washington would actually enable the department to send more resources to the field, he said.

“Under President Trump, VA is committed to ensuring local offices and facilities throughout the department have all of the staff they need,” Cashour explained. “This includes eliminating duplication and top-heavy, bureaucratic management structures within our headquarters so those resources can be redirected to the field.”

Marnee Banks, a spokeswoman for Tester, noted the memo made no specific reference to the central office and said VA was changing course as a result of congressional pushback. Even the central office freeze would have a "crippling effect" on hiring, she said, as it would affect human resources positions. 

VA has long struggled with a high vacancy rate, though recently ousted Secretary David Shulkin said the figure was in line with what any large organization should expect. The department hired 40,000 workers in 2017, but due to attrition and turnover saw a net gain of just 8,300 employees. The department maintains 33,000 vacancies, which the Democrats warned could worsen under their interpretation of the recent memo.

“We are very concerned with the process outlined in this memo, and the impact it will have on veterans seeking care and benefits at VA facilities across the country,” they wrote. “While we are certain that there may be positions across the enterprise that may not need to be filled, it is disturbing to think that VA may be disadvantaging its own facilities in order to push more veteran care into the private sector.”

They asked for information about the true purpose for the central office oversight, how long it takes to provide hiring approval, the number of vacancies in positions now requiring a waiver and what communications VA has had with field staff and labor representatives.

Cashour said VA appreciated their concerns, would respond to their letter directly and would clarify that the memo “does not apply to positions in the field.”

This story has been updated with additional comment.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.