Dear fellow students,
As many of you already know, President Trump issued an executive order on January 23rd to freeze the hiring of Federal civilian employees across the executive branch with the exception of military personnel. The President’s memorandum can be found here. At present, this freeze includes all hiring at the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BoP), and the Indian Health Service (IHS). Taken together, these three Federal departments are host to more than 700 APA-accredited internship slots, the vast majority of which are accredited through the VA.
For those of us applying for internship this year—myself included—this has raised a frightening question. Will the VA, BoP, and IHS be able to honor their commitment to support internship for the 2017-2018 training year? This question is all the more pressing as the due date for Rank Order Lists for applicants and sites alike is this coming Wednesday, February 1st at 11:59PM EST. The Association of Psychology Postdoctoral and Internship Centers (APPIC) has received many calls from concerned students wondering what exactly is going on and whether or not they can expect to have an internship next year if they match to a VA site.
In the past week, the APAGS office and I have been in close communication with all relevant parties, including the APA Education Directorate’s Government Relations Office, the VA training community, and APPIC. This has been an “all hands on deck” situation: All relevant parties have been working around the clock to obtain reliable and authoritative information about the freeze and its potential impact on students and sites participating in this year’s match. At this point, I can share the following facts with you about the situation:
(1) The hiring freeze was announced as a 90-day freeze which would end with the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) implements a plan to shrink the size of the federal government. Presumably, this means the freeze will end in April.
(2) Unlike other federal agencies, the VA is funded on a two-year rather than a one-year funding cycle. Right now, Congress has appropriated the funding for our next class of interns/residents. The funding is available to support this training.
(3) In the interim, the VA’s acting Secretary has asked OMB/OPF to declare health professions to be exempt from the freeze, and the VA anticipates that clinical trainees might be included under such an umbrella, if this is granted. However, this is not yet a guarantee.
(4) On January 26th, APA wrote a letter to the VA’s Acting Secretary, Robert Snyder, requesting that “clear and explicit guidance” regarding the implications of the freeze on VA training for health service psychologists. The letter highlights the the importance of the VA’s internship programs for ensuring a well-trained psychology labor force within the VA system and the critical role that psychologists play in serving the health needs of the nation’s veterans. The VA’s Acting Secretary acknowledged receipt of APA’s request and is currently taking it under consideration.
(5) As some of you are aware, requests have been made for APPIC to delay the Rank Order List submission deadline so that more information about the federal hiring freeze can be obtained. As of Friday, January 27, 2017 at 11 am, no such delay has been imposed, and Rank Order Lists for applicants and sites are still due by the February 1st, 11:59PM EST deadline. Accurate and reliable updates about the status of the match can be obtained from the APPIC Match-News E-Mail List. If you are participating in the match and do not subscribe to the listserv, I strongly encourage you to do so. You can register for the APPIC Match-News listserv here.
I want to emphasize that this remains a fluid situation. We cannot say definitively when the hiring freeze will be lifted or when the VA’s Acting Secretary will issue further guidance regarding the VA’s training programs. As APAGS chair, I remain committed to providing you accurate and reliable information as soon as it becomes available, and will continue to do so in the coming days
I believe it is important to acknowledge that this is an unprecedented situation for the APPIC match that is occurring amid a turbulent moment in our nation’s history. The internship match process is stressful enough without federal hiring freezes, right? Despite it all, I want to reassure all students participating in this year’s match that APA and the training community are doing everything within their power to advocate on behalf of students seeking VA, BoP, and IHS internships.
For those of us who are still pondering their Rank Order Lists, the fundamental question remains: Should this information inform how I choose to rank my sites? And if so, how? In truth, I cannot provide definitive answers to these questions. If you are a match participant this year, I encourage you to consider the information provided and exercise your judgment to make the decision that is in the best interest of your training and your career. Speaking personally, however, I intend to #RankTheVA on my list. The VA system takes great pride in training clinical psychologists, which it has done continuously since the establishment of the psychology internship training year in the 1950s, and it would be an honor to serve the mental health needs of our nation’s veterans during my training year.
If you have remaining questions or concerns, please comment to this blog post, or contact the APAGS Office. You can email questions directly to Nabil El-Ghoroury, Associate Executive Director for APAGS.