What is Veterans Day and Why Is it on November 11th?
Veterans Day is a federal holiday. Veterans Day is a holiday honoring all American veterans who have served in the U.S. military, whether during a war or peacetime.
The date for celebrating Veterans Day is on November 11 every year. November 11th is the anniversary of the end of World War I in 1918. The holiday was originally called Armistice Day. It was established by Congress in 1938 to commemorate the veterans of World War I.
In 1954, after World War II and the Korean War, Congress changed the name of the holiday to Veterans Day. The name change was intended to include veterans of all wars.
Changing the Date of Veterans Day
Veterans Day was not always observed on November 11.
In 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act.
While the Act may have denigrated the rationale for the original holidays, it permanently moved two federal holidays to Monday holidays—Washington’s Birthday and Memorial Day — instead of their original dates. The Act also made Columbus Day a national holiday. It was also to be celebrated on a Monday.
The purpose of the Monday holidays was to create long weekends with three days off ending with the holidays. Just think of Memorial Day Weekend as a shopping weekend with plenty of sales. The reality is that shopping is often on the minds of more Americans than remembering those who died in defense of our country.
This Monday Holiday Act also impacted Veterans Day. Under the Act, Veterans Day was moved to the fourth Monday of October starting in 1971.
Changing the Date of Veterans Day Once Again
While the law generated more time off from work and another opportunity to go shopping, many Americans did not like the change. November 11th was originally selected as that date had historical and patriotic significance. The armistice’s date ended World War I, the so-called “Great War.”
Some states continued to observe Veterans Day on November 11th. Others followed the federal date for the holiday.
The result was confusion and inconsistency. In 1975, President Gerald Ford signed a law that restored Veterans Day to its original date of November 11. This change became effective in 1978. On September 20th, 1975, President Gerald R. Ford signed Public Law 94-97 (89 Stat. 479), returning the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date of November 11th.
Federal Employees and Federal Holidays
Federal employees are given a day off with pay for a number of holidays. There are eleven holidays in 2023.
Most Federal employees are entitled to paid holiday time off when excused from duty on a designated holiday. This includes Veterans Day.
Designated holidays include official federal holidays or “in lieu of” holidays; Presidential Inauguration Day, when it is applicable (this holiday is specific to the Washington, DC, area); and federal holidays declared by executive order, which are treated as holidays for pay and leave purposes. Most federal employees are entitled to holiday premium pay when they are required to work during designated holiday hours.
All full-time employees, including those on flexible or compressed work schedules, are entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday when a holiday falls on a day when an employee does not have a scheduled workday. According to the Office of Personnel Management, part-time federal employees are not entitled to an “in lieu of” holiday. But, if an agency’s office or facility is closed due to an “in lieu of” holiday for full-time employees, the agency may grant paid excused absence to part-time employees who are otherwise scheduled to work on that day.
Most federal employees are entitled to a paid holiday on Veterans Day. There are exceptions if the employee is required to work for reasons of national security or public need. If Veterans Day falls on a Saturday, they observe the holiday on the previous Friday. If Veterans Day falls on a Sunday, federal employees observe the holiday on the following Monday.