Is It Time to End Veterans Preference Hiring?

In August of this year, the US Merit and Protection Board released a report entitled “Veteran Hiring in the Civil Service: Practices and Perceptions.” The findings of the report confirm what most diversity and inclusion practitioners in the federal government are afraid to admit in fear of being struck down by the righteous defenders of God and country- bias exists in veterans preference hiring. Who were the biggest cheerleaders of these findings? Why the Godfather of all veterans preference hiring, our sacrosanct Department of Defense.

These same practitioners are quick to agree that affirmative action has seen its best days and Indian preference hiring has outlived its usefulness. Heavens forbid we touch a hiring program for the men and women of our country who put their lives on the line every day. Never mind that plenty of other public servants do the same yet do not enjoy the bounty of preference hiring like veterans. Some that come to mind are law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics, teachers, correctional officers and the list goes on and on.

The report reminds us that any form of favoritism in federal hiring is a prohibited personnel practice and in this case, a higher cause of disengagement for the rest of us who are trying to play within the rules. Who can disagree that in these dark days of engagement levels across the entire federal government, do we really need any more institutionalized bias in the federal government?

Could one of the main drivers of veterans preference hiring be its ultimate demise-diversity? As a post-racial Generation of Millennials take over the federal government, will they be the eventual arbiters of veterans preference hiring? The generation that gave us Barack Obama as a President for two straight terms, the Occupy Wall Street movement and a constant reminder of weariness from a generation that has known nothing but war since 911.

As the jobs veterans do become more technologically advance in the form of drones and smart bombs, will there come a day when conflicts will be fought without the level of public sacrifice that defenders of veterans preference hiring depend on?

As military budgets decrease under sequestration and the weight of the military-industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned us about chokes in a toxic churn of special interests, will our country change its focus from the war on terror to the war on poverty. Will homeland security be defined not by how safe the country is but how less hungry its children are?

Wouldn’t that be a change of heart where social workers can enjoy preference hiring as they process food stamp applications for the very veterans we claim to want to so desperately hire.

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Eva Fulton

No, it is not time to end it. The means and ends are justified – consider that the federal government has already trained us in far more ways than the average employee already. We are groomed to be leaders and followers. Consider that the veteran hiring preference is a form of getting a return on the taxpayers investment.

Andrew Krzmarzick

I wouldn’t end it…but it needs to be recalibrated. The #1 thing I keep hearing across the board from people in and out of government is that vets preference leaves both hiring agents and prospective applicants bitter because they’re not sure if the best candidate is really being hired…and really ends up looking like the job went to the person with the most ‘points’ (vs. based on true merit). I’d contend that nobody wants that perception.

Joyce tabb

As a 20 year veteran who was hired as “veteran preference” in the government, I’m a little offended by your article. I actually did not want to work for the government because of the politics after I retired from the military, and worked in the public section. I was asked constantly why I didn’t apply for a government job because of my veteran status. When I was laid off for two years in a row, I then decided to apply for government jobs. I wasn’t considered, nor offered a job interview, for over 100 government applications I applied for online. It took the 101 application before I finally got a phone call. Remember, I now have over 20 years of experience in accounting. So, if your impression is that all veterans really get preference, let me correct you. Not so. It may be offered, but really not considered. My personal experience.

richard. regan

I am sorry you were offended by a blog post that was based a federal government report.

Lets try to clarify things. Veterans’ Preference gives eligible veterans preference in appointment over many other applicants for federal jobs. That is a fact. What I think you may be saying in your post is veterans preference does not guarantee all veterans a job.

Veterans’ preference eligibility is based on a number of things like dates of active duty service, receipt of a campaign badge, Purple Heart, or a service-connected disability. Not all active duty service may qualify for veterans’ preference.

Only veterans discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions are eligible for veterans’ preference. This means you must have been discharged under an honorable or general discharge.

If you are a “retired member of the armed forces” you are not included in the definition of preference eligible unless you are a disabled veteran OR you retired below the rank of major or its equivalent.

Veterans’ preference applies, to virtually all new appointments in both the competitive and excepted service. Veterans’ preference does not guarantee veterans a job and it does not apply to internal agency actions such as promotions, transfers, reassignments and reinstatements.


I feel like I am back in the 1960s with the War on Poverty. How much has been spent on that and we have even more people in poverty then back then? Irrespective of how technogical our military becomes, there is no substitute for “boots on the ground” as we are finding out in Iraq and Syria, and we will shortly find out in Afghanistan. The mantrsa seems to be “Let’s fight wars remotely with drones and robots, so that we don’t have to witness the blood and gore up close and personal.” We can have our war and go home at night, have dinner with our family and watch the war on TV like a video game. Sorry to say liberty and freedom have been fertizilized by the blood of our soldiers because there are bad people in this world who are fighting war in the old fashioned way, hand-to-hand, not from 20,000 feet in the air, and we must engage them on their level, because they can avoid the bombs, but not the soldiers. I am a great believer in merit in job hiring and veterans preference like hiring the handicapped is just one element in the process. If you end veterans’ preference, are you also going to eliminate all other preference programs? In many respects we veterans are handicapped by the years we spend in the military versus our civilian counterparts, because we spend the better part of our lives moving every 2-3 years all over the world and then when we get out, no one wants to hire us because we don’t have the civilian track records our non-military counterparts have. It is a fact of life as I have gone through the process two times, once in 1975 and again in 1993, because the soldiers’ lament is: you win a war, you lose your job; you lose a war, you lose your job. The common thread is “you lose your job.” Speaking of veterans’ preference you should understand that in the 1990s we could not even apply for a civil service job in many instances unless we had prior civil service status and DoD was the biggest offender. It was not until 1998 when the VEOA was passed that it forced the Government to accept our applications. No one is obligated to hire a veteran if there is someone more qualified. All you get is 5 or 10 points which does not guarantee you a job. I am also a hiring official and have hired people that were not veterans. They key is not relying on what civilian personnel sends you for recommended candidates as I insist on seeing all the applications and then I determine who’s best qualified. Perhaps the pendulum has swung too far in the wrong direction, but eliminating veterans’ preference will not address the problem nor the obligation this country owes its veterans for securing our liberty and freedom at the risk of their lives. That’s my bottom line.

Earl Rice

The Veterans Preference criteria allows for Veterans to have more opportunities in Federal hiring processes. It does NOT guarantee any Veteran a job. And, if the employer want to bypass a Veteran to hire a non-Veteran, there are processes to do such. The most stringent process is for 30% or more disabled Veterans. However, to restate, it does not guarantee a Veteran a job. The only reason that it has become more evident now is we have been in a state of war for 13 years, and anyone who has served 180 days or more on active duty, any part of which is after 9/11/2001, is considered a Veteran. Thus there has been a hug influx of Veterans into the job market. My experiences have been that 90% of the Veterans only need a chance to prove themselves. And for those that can’t, well during their probationary year they can be let go without cause, no harm no foul. And, just so you know, as an HR practitioner, I have bypassed Veterans (even though I am a 30% or more disabled Veteran). I really don’t want to set up anyone for failure. And to add a bit of a story here, I was a police officer before I came back into the Army. I served out my time but was pretty banged up. My question was “Who would hire a COP that can’t run?”. Pretty rhetorical question there. I first worked for a software company in the private sector. But they off-shored my job (to somebody that would work for a month on what I would make in a day). At that point, I went into the Federal Government. And got to see my income drop in half (even with my Army Retirement). I am glad there was Veterans Preference, because without it I would never have got a break. And, since that time I have been promoted 5 times, which goes back to my remark that most Veterans only need a chance to prove themselves.