VA Plans to Cut 10,000 Jobs This Year on Medical Side of the House

by Braxton Taylor

Following a record hiring effort last year, the Department of Veterans Affairs needs to trim 10,000 full-time positions, mainly from its medical side, by 2025, officials said this month.

The department undertook a massive expansion in the past several years to meet the needs of a growing beneficiary population. In fiscal 2023, the Veterans Health Administration staff grew by 7.4% with the hiring of roughly 61,000 people, for a net increase of 28,000. The same year, more than 6,000 employees were hired by the Veterans Benefits Administration, another arm of the VA.

But with record hiring and improved retention, especially within the VHA, the department now needs to trim roughly 2% of its total 458,000-member workforce as it continues to provide increasing medical care and benefits services to veterans.

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VA officials said the reduction will largely be made through attrition — by not filling positions after employees depart or retire — and likely will primarily affect supervisory and support staff.

During a press conference Monday, Dr. Shereef Elnahal, the VA’s under secretary for health,

said decisions on where cuts are made will be up to medical center heads and regional directors.

He added that the trims most likely would not affect clinicians such as doctors, nurses and other in-demand positions.

“We’re not under a hiring freeze, but nonetheless, medical centers are making strategic decisions about whether to refill positions once they are vacated,” Elnahal said.

Last year, the VHA made a concerted effort to hire personnel for what it called the “Big Seven” occupations — physicians, nurses, housekeeping aides, medical support assistants, nursing assistants, licensed practical nurses and food service workers — while the Veterans Benefits Administration added positions to support claims processing and other services for veterans.

Laura Duke, VHA’s chief financial officer, told reporters last week that the administration needs to trim non-clinical jobs to focus on hiring where it is needed.

“I think what you’re seeing is the result of the extremely successful hiring push that we made in the last year in response to the additional authorities provided under the PACT Act,” Duke said.

She added that the VHA will continue to hire health care workers for geographic areas as well as specialties, like mental health, where the need is greatest.

“We’re going to look at all of the individual markets and make sure that we are aligning the staff with the areas where veterans are coming in to receive treatment and where they are choosing to get that treatment in a VA facility,” Duke said.

According to the VA’s fiscal 2025 budget documents, the department also plans to trim 104 positions from its general administration offices, mainly by not filling current vacancies as well as through attrition.

Jon Rychalski, VA’s chief financial officer, said during a press conference last week that those cuts are mainly in response to requirements of the Fiscal Responsibility Act, which aimed to cap federal agency budgets and reduce spending.

The VA has requested $369.3 billion for its fiscal 2025 budget, up roughly 13% from its recently passed fiscal 2024 budget. The increases would largely focus on medical care, infrastructure improvements and benefits services under the PACT Act, the 2022 legislation that expanded health care and disability benefits to an estimated 6 million veterans.

Congress is set to take up the VA’s fiscal 2025 budget in the coming months with a deadline to pass it by Oct. 1.

Related: The VA Is Hiring at Record Numbers. A Federal Workers’ Union Says It’s Not Enough

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