GOP chairmen push Trump to exempt VA in hiring freeze

GOP chairmen push Trump to exempt VA in hiring freeze
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Two top Republicans on Capitol Hill are pushing President Trump to offer clarity to the Department of Veterans Affairs over his federal hiring freeze.

Sen. Johnny IsaksonJohn (Johnny) Hardy IsaksonCongress punts on disaster aid amid standoff with Trump, Dems Overnight Defense: Transgender troops rally as ban nears | Trump may call more troops to border | National Guard expects 3M training shortfall from border deployment | Pentagon to find housing for 5,000 migrant children Pompeo: Russia complying with nuclear treaty that's up for renewal MORE (R-Ga.) and Rep. Phil Roe (R-Tenn.), the chairmen of the Senate and House Veterans' Affairs committees, respectively, urged Trump in a letter Thursday to exempt VA direct patient care providers from the hiring freeze.

“On behalf of the over six million veterans nationwide who rely on the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system, we are writing to respectfully request that you provide guidance indicating that exempting VA direct patient care providers is consistent with the tenants of and latitude permitted in your January 23rd Executive Order pertaining to a Federal civilian employee hiring freeze,” they wrote.

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The chairmen’s letter comes on the heels of a separate one on Wednesday signed by dozens of Democrats that called on Trump to exempt the entire VA from his hiring freeze, saying it could delay veterans’ access to health care and resolution of their disability claims.

Trump signed an executive order Monday that freezes all federal government hiring except in military. There are also exceptions for public safety and public health jobs.

In line with the order, acting VA head Robert Snyder has said the department would “exempt anyone it deems necessary for public safety, including frontline caregivers.”

In Isakson and Roe’s letter, they said direct care providers play a critical public health role and so exempting them would be in line with Trump’s order.

“One of our government's highest priorities - and VA's single most important mission - is to provide timely, high-quality care to the men and women who have bravely served our nation in uniform,” they wrote.

“As VA direct care providers play a critical public health role, we believe that this action is in line with your intent to exempt positions necessary to meet public safety from the effects of this hiring freeze.”

The pair also appealed to Trump’s repeated statements during the campaign about problems at the VA.

“Also, as you have rightfully recognized many times before, the VA healthcare system is currently in a state of crisis,” they wrote.

“We must ensure that, while we work toward our mutual goal of VA healthcare reform, VA is not further hampered by an inability to recruit high-quality clinicians to meet the immediate health care needs of our veterans.”