Senate Seeks to Slash Fed Hiring Preference for Vets

The VFW is "adamantly opposed to a Senate proposal" that "harms veterans."

U.S. Army Soldiers serving with the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division speak to each other about the training they are conducting on Forward Operating Base Mehtar Lam, Laghman province, Afghanistan, March 12, 2013. The Soldiers are training Afghan National Army soldiers how to operate the D-30 howitzer. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Claire Baker/Released)

The VFW is "adamantly opposed to a Senate proposal" that "harms veterans."

By Sheryl Estrada

U.S. Army Soldiers serving with the 5th Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division in Afghanistan, March 12, 2013. (U.S. Army photo by Spc. Andrew Claire Baker/Released)

Veterans' preference in federal hiring will be drastically reduced if the House approves the Senate's proposal in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for the 2017 fiscal year.

Republican Sen. John McCain (Ariz.) is chairman of the Armed Services Committee that seeks to limit veterans' preference to a one-time only benefit when applying for a federal job. The changes are in response to officials in the Department of Defense who claim qualified non-veterans are missing opportunities. Prominent organizations, such as The American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, do not approve of the measure. However, a Republican-controlled Congress will ultimately make the decision.

"Veterans' preference was created because military veterans are at a competitive disadvantage when applying for federal jobs," VFW National Commander John A. Biedrzycki Jr. said in a statement on Monday. "For the Senate to intentionally erect barriers to employment and advancement makes zero sense because it harms veterans and weakens the talent pool available to the federal government."

The Senate voted June 14 to approve the NDAA, including a proposal that will eliminate preference for veterans who are already employed at any of the federal agencies. Currently, former military members who are disabled or served in active duty during specified periods or in military campaigns are generally entitled to preference over non-veterans in federal hiring practices. They may use veterans' preference whenever applying for a federal job. The preference laws, however, do not guarantee veterans a job or a promotion.

The laws, which have been established for decades, were a foundation for President Barack Obama's advocacy to compensate veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. In 2009, Obama established an interagency Council on Veterans Employment and a Veterans Employment Initiative.

In regard to the Senate's proposal, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America said that "lawmakers were backpedaling on their support for veteran employment," according to Stars and Stripes.

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The "Limitation on preference eligible hiring preferences for permanent employees in the competitive service (sec. 1134)" proposal states the following: "The committee recommends a provision that would limit the application of points for preference eligible hiring to the first appointment of a preference eligible candidate in a permanent position in the competitive service."

The House Armed Services Committee's version of the bill, which passed in the House in May, did not include a similar proposal. Lawmakers will debate the House and Senate bills in conference.

Dale Barnett, the American Legion national commander, wrote a letter to the group's 2 million members opposing the Senate's measure.

"Department of Defense turned their backs on their former employees, by initiating a provision within the NDAA that dilutes veterans' preference," Barnett wrote. "The institution of veterans' preference is the nation acknowledging that a service member's years of service count for something.

"It may not be relevant work experience or tenure, but it accounts for something that tips the weight in our favor when we share the same education and work experience as our civilian counterpart."

The Senate's version of the NDAA authorizes $602 billion in funding for the DOD and the national security programs of the Department of Energy.

Retirees and Defense Department Positions

The Senate's Armed Services Committee also would like to lessen the probability that military retirees will receive Defense Department positions.

The proposal, "Repeal of certain basis for appointment of a retired member of the Armed Forces to Department of Defense position within 180 days of retirement (sec. 1110)," states, in part: "The committee recommends a provision that would amend section 3326 of title 5, United States Code, to repeal subsection (b)(3) which allows the Secretary concerned to waive the restriction on the appointment of retired members of the armed forces to positions in the civil service in the Department of Defense within 180 days of their retirement based on a state of national emergency."

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According to The Washington Post, after 9/11, which posed an increased threat to national security, many senior officers were hired by the DOD immediately after retirement as civilians to perform the same position they held while in service.

The committee wants to reinstate the 50-year restriction on the rehiring of military retirees as Defense Department civilians, which was waived 15 years ago due to the war on terror. The restriction requires at least 180 days from when a military member retires to when he or she is rehired, if at all.

"The purpose of the law, enacted over 50 years ago, was to ensure that retired military members were not given civil service positions for reasons other than merit, a practice that can, over time, lead to unhealthy results for the civil service, and more immediately undermine long-standing merit principles that seek to ensure the most-qualified individuals are considered for federal employment," the proposal states. "The committee appreciates the unique and broad experience military retirees bring to the civil service, but the committee also recognizes the virtues afforded by career civil servants."

The Military Officers Association of America provided a statement opposing the proposal: "Existing policy is consistent with the country's obligation to provide career opportunities to those who served, especially disabled veterans," spokesman Jonathan Withington told The Post.

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