Determination as to Whether Hiring Freeze Violates U.S. Code

B-198103: Published: Feb 19, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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GAO was asked if the hiring freeze imposed by President Reagan violates a section of the U.S. code which requires that the Veterans Administration (VA) be provided with the full funded personnel ceiling for which Congress had appropriated funds for the year in three specified accounts. GAO agreed with the VA position that the presidential hiring freeze was not applicable to the positions which Congress has required to be released for fiscal year 1981. GAO also believes that the funds needed to fill these positions may not be deferred or otherwise withheld during the year. Congress appropriated these funds for medical care, medical and prosthetic research, and medical administration and miscellaneous operating expenses. The Director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) must authorize VA to fill at least the mandated positions and must make available sufficient funds to pay their salaries. The Director of OMB is administering the freeze and it is by his directions that executive branch agencies are not hiring. Exemptions from the freeze include situations where medical, hospital, or health care is furnished directly. The Director of OMB granted an exemption from the freeze to VA with respect to positions delivering direct health-care services but not for administrative and other positions funded under the specified appropriation accounts. The Director will consider requests for exemptions for these positions on a facility by facility basis. The OMB interpretation of the statute would defeat the intent of Congress and GAO rejects it. The President cannot use his executive powers to defeat this statute. He has a constitutional obligation to see that it is fulfilled.

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