In federal contracting, veterans still ignored

An American Legion official told a congressional subcommittee on Sept. 29 that federal contractors are lax in taking government-mandated steps to recruit and hire qualified veterans.

Joe Sharpe, director of the Legion’s Economic Division, appeared before the House Veterans’ Affairs Subcommittee on Economic Opportunity. He criticized federal contractors and subcontractors for failing to follow the edicts of the Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Program.

In his written testimony, Sharpe referenced the particular law that requires certain employers doing business with the United States to “take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment qualified special disabled veterans, veterans of the Vietnam era and any other veterans who served on active duty during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized.”

Those employers, Sharpe said, are supposed to partner with local employment representatives, the VA Regional Office nearest them, veterans counselors on college campuses and local veterans groups, such as The American Legion, in order to identify appropriate job candidates. The employers are also required to electronically file a yearly report on their recruiting efforts on behalf of veterans.

Sharpe said The American Legion found that “federal contractors have not consistently enlisted the assistance and support of the above-mentioned persons and organizations in recruiting and developing on-the-job training opportunities for qualified veterans.” Some employers have also failed to file the required annual report because “there is little if any consequence to non-compliance in the program,” he said.

To help solve these problems, The American Legion is suggesting stricter enforcement of the program’s rules and that the mandatory report should not be filed electronically. Instead, it should bear the physical signature of a Local Veterans’ Employment Representative to certify that the employer is making proper efforts to recruit veterans.

Additionally, Sharpe said, “The American Legion recommends that a Federal Contractor Veterans Employment Program be created and placed under the direction of the DoL’s Veterans and Employment Training Service, so this program can receive proper oversight, as well as input and guidance from stakeholders.”

According to Bureau of Labor statistics, unemployment among veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars is as high as 23 percent, more than double the jobless rate among the general population.

“It is vital that eligible veterans receive a fair and proportionate amount of employment from federal contractors, so these veterans can build and maintain a good quality of life, while they contribute to the United States economy,” Sharpe said.