Jay Cadmus was looking on Facebook when he found out about the executive order President Donald J Trump had signed enacting a federal hiring freeze.
“I thought to myself, 'This is not good’,” he remembers.
Cadmus, a 30-year-old Air Force veteran, had recently returned home after a decade of active duty. Faced with being stationed in Japan for four years, away from his wife and three-year-old son, he had transferred into the Air Force Reserves. “I couldn’t give up the uniform,” he says. But the income earned through the reserves and his disability compensation wasn’t enough to cover their expenses, leaving Cadmus to worry about his family’s future.
They struggled for months, facing eviction notices and rising debt. He tried working with a temp agency, but it was far from reliant, and his wife’s earnings only lightened the load modestly. “She does an amazing job, but doesn’t get paid enough to support all of us,” Cadmus says.
A real break came three months later in the form of a long-awaited job offer at an agency that evaluates defense contracts for the Department of Defense, with a GS-6 salary (in his case, just over $36,000 per year). The family was excited at the prospect of increased financial stability and of possibly being able to buy a home. He accepted the gig in December and then cleared the rigorous security screening.
His first day was set: February 5. Human Resources said he would fly to Atlanta for a week of training, then he would start working out of an office in Salt Lake City.
Thanks to the hiring freeze, that start date has postponed indefinitely. “This morning I got a call from the Human Resources rep saying there is nothing she can do,” he says. He put a down payment on a new car for the commute — a Volkswagen CC — but has been forced to give it back to the dealer. Now, he waits. “I honestly don’t know what I’m going to do now.”
Currently there are nearly 3,000 civilian Defense Department positions listed in federal employment sites, along with almost 2,300 posts in the Department of Veteran Affairs, which cannot be filled until the freeze is lifted.
White House spokesman Sean Spicer stated that the freeze was a move to save money and eliminate job duplication. "I think what the president is showing through the hiring freeze, first and foremost, is that we've got to respect the American taxpayer," he said last week.
Though most veterans are employed in the private sector, thanks to the help of hiring initiatives, federal jobs are a crucial fallback for returning soldiers. Over 30 percent of new Federal hires are veterans, a mutually beneficial situation for the agencies that seek dedicated and hardworking personnel. For proud veterans the gigs serve as a means to build skills without relying on government subsidies.
The current situation has mobilized a group of 53 lawmakers, led by Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont) and Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn), to send a letter to President Trump, urging for an exemption to be made for all veterans. So far the only exemption being made is to “frontline caregivers” per the acting head of the VA, Robert Snyder.
"This freeze raises serious concerns about the president's commitment to veterans and improving the VA," said Paul Rieckhoff, an Iraq War veteran who is the head of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. "Countless IAVA members have contacted us concerned about the future of their health care. Job seekers waiting to hear about a hiring determination just had their hopes dashed.”
Cadmus still hopes for the best, but regardless of the outcome remains perseverant: “I am not the type to beg or ask for handouts. I will just keep praying. I will figure something out.”