The VA has added more than two dozen occupations to its initial list of some 100 that are exempt from the general federal hiring freeze.

The VA is one of the agencies taking a top-down approach to deciding which positions fall under the exceptions for public safety and national security; others in contrast are requiring lower-level management to recommend specific positions for exceptions, a process that some members of Congress have criticized as taking too long.

The initial VA list of exceptions, issued just days after the hiring freeze memo, also was criticized, although for a different reason: it left out positions involved in processing benefits claims at a time the department is working to reduce a large backlog. The latest set of exceptions specifically includes claims examiners, appeals review officials and associated support positions.

The memo from VA Secretary Dr. David Shulkin further stresses that for high-priority needs, reallocation of existing employees through details, temporary promotions, and noncompetitive reassignments is authorized.”