Paralyzed Veterans of America Cautiously Optimistic About Hiring Freeze Exemptions for VA Clinical Staff

Most vulnerable veterans putting faith in the White House to protect essential VA medical staff

WASHINGTON, DC— On January 23, 2017, President Donald Trump mandated by executive order a civilian service hiring freeze in all agencies of the executive branch. This act meant no vacant positions existing at noon on Jan. 22, 2017, were authorized to be filled and no new positions were to be created, except in limited authorized circumstances.

The move sparked concern among Congressional members and the veteran community regarding vacancies in Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hospitals that already limit clinician availability and contribute to access issues for veterans awaiting care. Paralyzed Veterans of America National President Al Kovach today issued the following statement as more information is discovered about the executive order:

“If this executive order delays the hiring of doctors and nurses in understaffed VA spinal cord injury centers (SCI) it will unquestionably harm some of our most vulnerable veterans. For example, the number of available inpatient beds is proportionate to the number of staff available to provide care for paralyzed veterans," said Kovach. "Paralyzed Veterans of America (Paralyzed Veterans) has already identified and communicated the need to hire more bedside nurses and doctors to get our veterans into the SCI centers for annual exams, rehabilitation, recovery from surgery, and acute care. The shortage among this essential staff has directly affected in-patient care and appointment wait times for these veterans. If the hiring freeze were to affect hiring frontline staff, the problems would certainly increase."

The White House on Wednesday officially supported the VA's plans to continue hiring certain categories of employees despite the recently announced federal hiring freeze, which could be good news for Paralyzed Veterans’ members.

"We're still trying to determine whether nurse, doctor, and therapist vacancies in specialized services such as spinal cord injury, blinded rehabilitation, and inpatient mental health will be exempted from the hiring freeze. We share everyone’s concern, but all indications show the White House is listening and that senior VA leadership intends to do the right thing. We are encouraged that the care of our most vulnerable veterans will be protected," Kovach concluded.