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Walter Reed furloughs: Sequestration mainly to blame, notice says

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"Extraordinary and serious budgetary challenges" are being cited as the reason that thousands of employees at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center are being furloughed this summer, according to a letter sent to employees.

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The letter, which was obtained by Federal News Radio, directly blames budget cuts related to sequestration as the reason that more than 3,500 civilian workers at both Walter Reed and Fort Belvoir Community Hospital will take up to 11 unpaid days off.

"The Department of Defense will need funding in other accounts that can be used to provide the warfighters with what they need to protect national security and fight the war," the letter, dated May 28, reads. "This furlough is proposed to help meet their need while avoiding a deficit of funds in Fiscal Year 2013."

According to the letter, full-time employees will be furloughed for no more than 88 work hours between July 8 and Sept. 29. The number of days which an employee will be furloughed per pay period is yet to be determined and will likely vary.

Hospital officials say that 94 percent of the civilian staff at Walter Reed and 85 percent of the civilian staff at Fort Belvoir are affected by the potential furloughs. Officials also have promised that patient care will not be affected by the cuts.

“The assessment of over 2,500 civilian positions determined that 163 staff exemptions were necessary to maintain the highest levels of care for warrior inpatients and outpatients in rehabilitation and other critical areas,” Walter Reed officials told ABC7 said in a statement.

Hospital officials have refused several opportunities to comment.

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