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Senate Votes To Scale Back Federal Job Preferences For Veterans

June 17, 2016

The Senate recently drafted a version of a vast military defense policy bill, the Defense Authorization Act, that will end one of the advantages veterans enjoy when applying for federal work. The bill, which was approved on Tuesday, will no longer allow hiring managers to give preference to veterans for Federal work positions over equally-qualified non-veteran applicants when changing jobs within the federal government. Veterans will still be given preference over non-veterans for entry level positions but will not be afforded the same benefit when changing jobs to another role as federal government employees.

The change will be applied across all government jobs and is expected to affect thousands of veterans. When the bill to allow hiring managers to give preference to veterans over non-veterans was introduced it was seen as the greatest attempt to compensate for military service since the draft was ended in the 1970s. Lawmakers are now stripping veterans of this benefit due to accusations that the policy breeds contempt for veterans holding federal government positions among non-veterans government employees.

The language that puts an end to this practice flew under the radar and was added to the bill unopposed. An excerpt of the language has been taken from the bill and can be seen below.

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While non-veterans argue that the bill is unfair many lawmakers argue that it was simply misinterpreted. Non-veterans argue that the bill forced hiring managers to hire veterans that were unqualified for certain jobs over more qualified non-veterans. Rep. Jeff Miller is one lawmaker that is unhappy with the decision to remove the benefit to veterans. He argues that the policy was introduced to act as a sort of “tie breaker” when two equally matched applicants both applied for the same job. Miller said that hiring managers have been misinterpreting the bill and that veterans shouldn’t be punished for their incompetent understanding of the law. He stated:

“The way veterans preference works is that when a hiring decision comes down to two equally qualified candidates and one is a veteran, the veteran gets hiring preference… Anyone who believes otherwise is misinterpreting the law.”

The legislation has been approved but is still pending. It will go to a conference committee between the Senate and House to be discussed further before being finalized. The House version of the bill does not include the changes to veterans preference. Several groups, such as The American Federal of Government Employees, the nations largest federal government employee union, oppose the bill and hope the decision will be overturned.