Veterans fear effects of Trump’s hiring freeze on VA care


BECKLEY, W.Va. (AP) — President Donald Trump’s recently announced hiring freeze for federal employees will affect vacancies across West Virginia’s four Veterans Affairs Medical Centers, a fact that is worrying to some veterans who fear longer wait times.

A government website advertising job vacancies within the VA lists 56 openings in West Virginia, including jobs for licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, physicians assistants, doctors and chiefs of staff, the Register-Herald reported (http://bit.ly/2ktsBwk). The site lists 1,200 VA openings nationwide.

Ron Jennings, a 43-year-old Beckley native and U.S. Army retiree, said he fears the hiring freeze will increase veterans’ wait time for health care services and force some veterans to have to travel to other VA hospitals.

Republican U.S. Rep. Evan Jenkins also expressed concerns about a blanket hiring freeze.

“Our veterans need and deserve access to timely, high-quality VA medical care close to home, and I have deep concerns about a one-size-fits-all hiring freeze,” Jenkins said. “There are federal agencies and departments where money can be saved without affecting the care our veterans have earned.”

The hiring freeze is a “temporary measure” that will allow officials to fix ongoing problems within the VA, said Amy Graham, a spokeswoman for U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito.

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer confirmed during a news conference Tuesday that the freeze includes positions through the Department of Veterans Affairs but exempts military jobs and jobs deemed necessary for public safety.

“Hiring more people isn’t the answer,” Spicer told reporters. “It’s hiring the right people.”

The U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, with 350,000 employees, is one of the largest agencies affected by the hiring freeze. The agency provides health care for around 9 million veterans each year at more than 1,200 medical facilities nationwide.

The four VA medical centers in West Virginia are located in Beckley, Clarksburg, Huntington and Martinsburg.

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Information from: The Register-Herald, http://www.register-herald.com

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