Veterans Employment Opportunity Act Plays Key Role in Feds’ Vet Hiring Uptick

An OPM report shows that veterans’ rights in the federal hiring process contributed to more veterans being added to the federal workforce.

With a new report showing that more than 72,000 veterans were added to the federal executive branch’s payroll in the 2010 fiscal year, federal managers are patting themselves on the back for ramping up hiring of such workers as President Barack Obama directed them to do in 2009. It is promising to see in this report that executive branch agencies hired 2,000 more veterans in the 2010 fiscal year than the previous fiscal year, but it is far too early to be breaking out the champagne.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) on June 15 announced the executive branch’s increase in veteran hiring, which is detailed in a report titled Employment of Veterans in the Federal Executive Branch for Fiscal Year (FY) 2010. This report also showed that 542,600, or 26.3 percent, of the executive branch’s 2.06 million employees were veterans. Veterans accounted for 25.6 percent of all new hires in fiscal year 2010.

The OPM report shows that veterans’ rights in the federal hiring process provided under the Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998 (VEOA) contributed substantially to this growth. Almost 20,800 veterans were hired through VEOA appointing authority in the 2010 fiscal year. Perhaps the employment statistics could have been higher if veterans did not have to clash so much with agency hiring authorities over their VEOA rights – a trend seen in the latest annual report issued by the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

The uptick in hiring follows the November 2009 launch of President Obama’s Veteran Employment Initiative for the Executive Branch. Through an executive order, Obama created Veterans Employment Programs at agencies that were tasked with helping veterans identify and secure federal employment. Executive Order 13518 also created a Council of Veterans Employment which was formed to advise the president and OPM director on the employment initiative.

The OPM press release announcing the hiring results declared “President Obama’s Veterans Employment Initiative Succeeding”. One very important factor behind that success was the VEOA. This law makes certain veterans eligible for federal agency job openings that are otherwise offered to “status applicants,” who are current or former competitive federal service employees. These positions are announced under merit promotion procedures involving outside recruiting, and agencies must accept applications from preference eligible veterans.

Another important preference afforded to eligible veterans in the federal employment hiring process is the addition of five points to their competitive examination, which is based on a maximum score of 100 points. Disabled veterans can receive a higher 10-point preference, as can certain members of veteran’s family, such as a spouse or mother, depending on the veteran’s disability or death. These extra points boost the chances of preference eligible veterans and certain members of their families of securing employment with federal agencies, which consider the top three candidates from an examination list when filling a position.

Veterans who believe their preference rights were violated have many options, including filing a complaint with the U.S. Department of Labor’s Veteran’ Employment and Training Service (DOL VETS) and appealing to MSPB. In the 2010 fiscal year, MSPB’s regional and field offices received 212 VEOA complaints, according to the independent quasi-judicial agency’s annual report. Veterans who believe their VEOA rights were violated should contact a federal sector employment law attorney.

About the Author

Mathew B. Tully is a founding partner of Tully Rinckey PLLC. He concentrates his practice on representing federal government employees and military personnel. To schedule a meeting with one of the firm’s federal employment law attorneys call (202) 787-1900. The information in this column is not intended as legal advice.