WASHINGTON — The Department of Veterans Affairs announced a plan today to curb non-veteran unemployment by hiring personal friends and family members into vacant positions.
The move comes after news broke last month that the VA currently has 45,000 unfilled positions across the country. Recruitment efforts to fill those positions are moving forward at a snail’s pace, however, slowing veterans’ access to quality healthcare.
“Today marks a special day for the VA," said Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert Wilkie during a press conference. “I am not only promising to hire all of my friends and family members, but I am also directing all VA executives nationwide to pledge that they too will make every effort to hire their friends and family members."
The recruitment effort is being lauded nationwide by VA officials who are excited at the prospect of being able to openly admit they have already been giving their personal contacts cozy jobs for years.
“This new pledge is going to ensure we have support directly from the top to begin accelerated hiring efforts to make sure there is a zero percent unemployment rate among our immediate and extended family members,” said David Sanders, director of the Iowa City VA Medical Center. “We are talking about quality, full-time jobs here. They deserve to be filled by Americas best and brightest — my kin.”
Non-veteran employees make up about 68 percent of the VA's nationwide workforce. The new initiative aims to make that number much higher.
“The rest of my family and friends can finally breathe a sigh of relief today," said Roland Williams, human resources officer at the VA Minneapolis Healthcare System. “The VA needs people who are leaders and who are driven to accomplish the mission at all costs. Who better to fill that role than my personal network? Giving my nephew his first job right out of college makes great business sense.”
Opponents of the new initiative say the efforts will likely exclude veterans, whose nationwide unemployment rate is 2.9 percent, according to the Department of Labor.
VA executives disagree and suggest the new initiative will help rapidly fill the vacant positions, some of which have been vacant since the '90s. The faster hiring times will result from skipping the time-consuming USAJobs application process, interviewing, and conducting reference checks, which are unnecessary when preselecting close relatives and placing them into high-paying jobs.
“Our non-veteran friends and family members have endured a lot. They are stressed, suffering, underemployed, and they need job opportunities immediately,” said Donny Allison, associate director of the Dallas VA Healthcare System. “Taxpayers expect me to improve the federal employment opportunities for everyone I personally know and everyone they know. There is no need to look anywhere else for high-quality candidates, especially outside of my family tree.”
Wilkie is leading the nationwide effort. He is currently planning a Christmas hiring fair at his personal residence. Invitations to the event – which promises guaranteed employment with no interviews – have already gone out to his entire family.
"If you didn’t get one, well, tough shit," added Wilkie.