- Associated Press - Saturday, June 27, 2015

MONTGOMERGY, Ala. (AP) - The Central Alabama Veterans Health Care System has stopped hiring medical support staff as the department tries to cope with a $2.6 billion budget shortfall nationally.

The Montgomery Advertiser (http://on.mgmadv.com/1KhGc2q ) reports the hiring freeze affects administrative areas such as human resources, police and customer service. The hiring freeze dos not affect doctors and nurses who provide health care services directly to veterans.

The medical support and compliance portion of the system’s budget will be $5 million short for the remaining three-and-a-half months of the fiscal year, according to a bulletin to CAVHCS employees from interim director Robin Jackson.

However, the hiring freeze will not affect staffers tasked with helping veterans schedule their medical appointments, VA spokesman Amir Farooqi said.

The budget shortfall and hiring freeze caught the attention of Congressional leaders who have pressed the VA to reduce waiting times for veterans seeking treatment.

“There’s not a funding problem, there’s a gross mismanagement problem,” said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery.

Sloan Gibson, the deputy secretary of the VA, said the $2.6 billion shortfall is due in part to increased demand from veterans seeking care.

“As we are improving veterans’ access to care across VA, veterans are responding and seeking VA care at higher rates,” Gibson told the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee this week.

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Information from: Montgomery Advertiser, http://www.montgomeryadvertiser.com

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