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Hill: improve VA's hiring practices

Hill: improve VA's hiring practices
National Commander Clarence Hill addresses the National Executive Committee during the Spring Meetings this week in Indianapolis. James V. Carroll

The department created to serve veterans could be doing a lot better in the realm of hiring veterans. How to help correct that problem was a hot topic during The American Legion's National Executive Committee Spring Meetings in Indianapolis this week.

According to data provided by the Legion's Economic and Veterans Affairs & Rehabilitation Division, veterans make up just 41.3 percent of VA's Central Office workforce and only 28.1 percent of the Veterans Health Administration. Some regional offices also have percentages that dip into the mid-20s. That, Hill said, is unacceptable.

"The fact that veterans comprise only 30 percent of VA's workforce is not just a shame - it's a disgrace. Well, I'm mad as hell about it, and I'm certain most of the people in this room are too. But what I'm feeling is a constructive anger, not a pointless rage," Hill said in his closing remarks. "What The American Legion is seeking is a partnership with the VA, not a war of words. We want to work with the agency that was created to serve veterans, not against it."

Hill said the Legion wants VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to send to his entire department a letter stating that the policy of veterans' preference needs to be adhered to.

Per the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944, the federal government must favor returning war veterans who were honorably discharged when it sets out to hire new employees. Veterans aren't guaranteed federal jobs, but they do receive greater consideration for them. Each veteran who left the service honorably has a veterans' preference point total. Veterans receive an extra five points in the numerical score system, while disabled veterans get 10 points.

"We believe VA should have a workforce made up of 75 percent veterans," Hill said, generating a loud round of applause. "We want to help them in this regard - not as adversaries but as constructive partners. This is not just about VA. In fact, VA ranks first among non-Defense agencies in the hiring of disabled veterans and second only to DoD in the overall number of veterans.

"This is about who we are as a nation. This is about the homeless person on the street who we pass by because we feel threatened. It's about who he or she was yesterday - the shining soldier from Iraq in a crisp uniform with rows of medals. Are we to tell the Marine who helped liberate the nation of Afghanistan that they are unqualified to work as a government employee for the Department of Commerce? Wouldn't any citizen want the former Naval intelligence officer to protect their community as a civilian police detective? Or how about an airman working as a computer specialist at your local bank?

"America has been at war for 20 years, whether everybody in society realizes it or not. There is a huge population of young people that answered the nation's call since August 2, 1990, when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. The No. 1 priority for most people leaving the military is to find a job. The American Legion will be there for them."

Hill appointed an ad-hoc committee on employment and veterans preference issues, regarding VA's hiring practices and the ways the Legion can work with the department to increase the amount of veterans in its workforce.

Check back at www.legion.org for more NEC coverage.

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noneya

May 8, 2010 - 3:22pm

I have worked for a VA Hospital and the "veterans come first" is a bunch of crap. I'm a S/C vet and have been told that the veterans are a bunch of big babies by a non-vet co-worker. It's all about who you know and you know the rest. I have also had my private insurance billed for a S/C condition because the MCCF is all about meeting the "revenue goal" for the big bonuses the big shots get. There's a conflict of interest where MCCF bills for the VA but also decides if it's S/C or not. They're under pressure to meet the "revenue goal" so if they need to bill a S/C employee's insurance, so be it, they can appeal--good luck with that. Now that they're centralizing MCCF, the revenue goal isn't being met--interesting.

Terry1952

May 7, 2010 - 8:14am

Why does Veterans Dept. not allow the disable vet. the rights to use the PX and Commissary. Title 5 gives us the rights to get 10 pts. for a job the 30% rule could be used to let disable vets shop on base and help out the PX and Commissary and help out the homeless veterans. The President could do this as a E.O.

capp1981

May 7, 2010 - 12:34am

I too agree, Vet's should comprise at a very Minimum 75% of the total VA work force. Veterans are looking for employment, now more than ever. Prior to my disability (2008) I too was seeking employment through VA preference. During my second deployment as a member of the National Guard I received one interview with the DLA at Redstone, this was after 10 or 12 applications to other “vet supported” federal and state employment human resource offices. Mid 40’s with a bachelors in business didn’t help me then, when president Bush was suppose to be helping. I hope today someone can direct those in hiring positions to qualify more veterans. We must have a way to monitor the progress or it will be, “business as usual” or “who you know!”

CLCollins

May 6, 2010 - 9:52pm

I agree 100% and that is how it should be for us Veterans.

vlucuab

May 6, 2010 - 8:17pm

Commander Hill, I truely stand behind you 100%. I'm a retired US Army Soldier and a VA recipient. I served in a campain of 1993 Somalia, Africa. I mirror your cause to fight for the VETS. I to was a victim of equal opportunity employment from the Veterans Administration recruitment system. I applied for a position of Administrative Support and base on my skills, knowledge and abilities to mention education...VA did not hire me. I have over 30 years of experience in Human Resources and I'm not sure why I was not hired by VA. I would assume that VA would classify me as over qualified and to old. I'm aware that VA would not admit to the fact that concluded their decision was base on my over my qualification...I can't help but to think this was the case of my non-selection. I hope Commander Hill prevails with the fight for our rights to employment so it would open up deaf ears in VA. I salute you Commander Hill for your fight and support with the Veterans Preference Law.

Bdecsm

May 6, 2010 - 7:41pm

I read and quite agree with the commander's comments. I retired from the Army in 2001 and, although I am also a service connected disabled veteran, I gave this preference little thought. I felt it could be better used by those in greater need than myself. I settled into a teacher/mental health career. Months ago, my wife and I decided to move to MD. I began putting in resumes against DOD and VA positions that I felt very qualified for. I even checked the veteran preference block each time. On each position, I have been notified that I was not the most qualified and not hired. Please note that on all DOD/VA applications the form also requires a birth date. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure that my resumes are representing a 60 year old. My point is I have lost faith in the same system that stated years ago would stand by me. Keep up the great work, Mr. Clarence Hill, because I, too, will NEVER believe that those without benefit of service trump those that did serve.

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