Would-be Pentagon employees and Veterans Affairs staffers with job offers in hand may still be left unemployed by President Trump's federal hiring freeze.

At issue is how the freeze will be implemented, and exactly when White House officials define someone's switch from a job candidate to incoming employee.

On Monday, Trump ordered a halt to all hiring of federal civilian employees and the creation of any new positions, in an effort to rein in federal bureaucracy. The action does not apply to members of the military, and does contain exceptions for positions deemed necessary "to meet national security or public safety responsibilities."

It also included a promise that the order "does not revoke any appointment to federal service made prior to Jan. 22, 2017."

That doesn't apply to every offer, however.

Guidance released late Thursday by Mark Sandy, acting director of the Office of Budget and Management, said that any candidate who received a job offer and a start date on or before Feb. 22 is considered an active government employee and "should report to work on that start date."

But individuals without a firm start date or a start time after Feb. 22 haven't been offered the same assurances.

"(In those cases), the agency head should review the position to determine whether the job offer/appointment should be revoked, or whether the individual should report for duty on an agreed upon start date," the guidance says.

Those decisions will be based on "merit system principles, essential mission priorities, and current agency resources and funding levels."

That could leave some incoming defense and VA employees -- and applicants to dozens of other federal agencies -- caught in employment limbo, with their future paychecks decided by agency heads based on political considerations.

Earlier in the week, White House Press Secretary said that administration officials do not anticipate the freeze will hurt customer service or agency operations, noting that agency landing teams are "talking about ways that we can create greater efficiencies, eliminate duplicity and maximize the tax dollar" without cutting programs.

And the OMB guidance reiterates that department heads "are permitted to make reallocations to meet the highest priority needs, ensure that essential services are not interrupted, and ensure that national security is not affected."

But critics have said that stagnant levels of staffing or reduced personnel levels at some agencies could harm services, pointing in particular to benefits backlogs and patient wait-times at the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Leo Shane III covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He can be reached at lshane@militarytimes.com.

Leo covers Congress, Veterans Affairs and the White House for Military Times. He has covered Washington, D.C. since 2004, focusing on military personnel and veterans policies. His work has earned numerous honors, including a 2009 Polk award, a 2010 National Headliner Award, the IAVA Leadership in Journalism award and the VFW News Media award.

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