Although the Department of Veterans Affairs stated it was lifting its hiring freeze in the wake of an increased budget, the VA is leaving more than 4,000 jobs unfilled unless they are specially approved by top VA leadership as addressing an “absolute critical need.” The VA stated a need for a leaner structure as it allows more veterans to seek private medical care.
Many veterans organizations are concerned that the VA is headed toward privatization of care. They are worried that the department previously warned of the need to address the disability backlog but are now backtracking by refusing to hire more workers who could help to alleviate the excessive appeals wait times.
VA chief of staff, Vivieca Wright Simpson, stated a need for “deliberate hiring strategies” as the VA builds “a future VA of Choice.”
The backlog of cases is expected to exceed 1 million within the next ten years, and the average wait time for an appeal will increase to 8.5 years. Current wait times for an appeal of an initial benefits decision are five years on average.