WASHINGTON – The trickle-down effects of sequestration, budget cuts and federal worker furloughs has made its way to Walter Reed’s civilian workforce. And the news that caregivers will be sent home instead of tending to wounded warriors has one veterans group fuming.
WTOP has confirmed that workers at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda have received notices of furloughs, which are set to take affect on July 8.
The center released a statement Friday saying that more than 2,500 civilians work at Walter Reed out of a total staff of 7,000 people, including military personnel and contractors.
The center says the civilian furloughs will not impact patient care. Staffing remains at the same levels as during the peak of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan even though the number of injured soldiers has decreased.
“Wounded warrior care is our top priority and will not be compromised,” the statement says. “The assessment of over 2,500 civilian positions determined that 163 staff exemptions were necessary to maintain the highest levels of care for warrior inpatients and outpatients in rehabilitation and other critical areas.”
Jason Hansman, senior program manager for health with the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, calls the furloughs outrageous.
“We’re now starting to see how the sequester is going to be affecting real people on the ground and, especially now, our military troops that are seeking critical care.” Hansman says.
Hansman says the Defense Department and Walter Reed had months to prepare for the furloughs but still haven’t answered some basic questions.
“How are they going to do scheduling to make sure that they are still 100 percent operational for these returning service men and woman,” he says. “Vets need to know and I think the nation deserves to know what’s going to happen.”
Nick McCormick, legislative associate for IAVA, says he expects public pressure to mount over the coming days. The veterans group will ask Congress to restore funding and avoid furloughs.
Outrage over delays at airports across the country when air traffic controllers were furloughed in April spurred Congress to step in, allowing the Federal Aviation administration to shuffle money around to keep the controllers on the job.