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Federal Hiring Freeze Spares Firefighters, Ices VA

February 17, 2017 
By Steven Wishnia and Neal Tepel

Tucson, AZ – President Donald Trump’s Jan. 23 executive order freezing federal hiring alarmed many people in Arizona, who feared it would prevent the Forest Service from adding extra firefighters during wildfire season.

The firefighters will be exempt because the order allows hiring seasonal employees, a National Park Service spokesperson said after nine Western Congressmembers sent the federal personnel agency a letter Feb. 1 warning that the “inability to hire seasonal firefighters to combat wildfires seriously threatens public safety in our states.” The freeze, however, is likely to hit the Veterans Administration, which was racked by scandal last year when investigators found that more than 200 veterans had died while waiting to see a specialist at the Phoenix VA hospital. “Well guess what, you just made that wait longer,” Marilyn Park, a legal representative for the American Federation of Government Employees, told the Tucson Sentinel, saying the scandal “highlighted the starving staff and resources that they were forced to stretch.” An official of the Phoenix VA Health Care System said the agency has scores of unfilled jobs in Arizona, but will “continue to function as best as it can.” Read more

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