For decades, Uncle Sam gave military veterans a break by giving them extra points when they were applying/testing for certain federal jobs. The so-called Veterans Preference law also gave vets extra job security when their agencies were slimming down via a RIF (reduction in force). VP is important because Uncle Sam is one of the largest employers of veterans in the nation. Both the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments have huge numbers of vets. Now VP is in danger of being watered-down and phased away without anybody noticing.
The Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act contains language that would make veterans preference a one-time perk. Vets could take advantage of it when they were hired, but after that they would be treated like any other employee during a RIF or each time they applied for another job.
Back when many if not most people either were vets, or had friends or relatives who were or had been in service, VP was widely accepted. Now with the all-volunteer military relatively few Americans even know anybody in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps or the Coast Guard. We cheer them at ball games. And the expression thank-you-for-your-service, while well-intentioned, has become almost as automatic as have-a-nice day!
Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert McDonald/AP
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Congress, back in the day, was chock full of vets. From World War II, Korea or as peacetime troops because of the draft. Presidents Truman and Eisenhower were Army. Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Ford and Carter and Bush (G.W.) were in the Navy. For a long period of time, most members of Congress were military veterans. Now more members of the House and Senate qualify for the Millionaires Club than the American Legion or the Veterans of Foreign Wars.
Military personnel get honored at special baseball games and concerts. But while that is nice, it isn’t much help in getting or keeping a job.
What’s interesting is the apparent low level of interest in the proposal to limit the use of VP to a one-off operation.
A federal lobbyist said his people had ”reached out” to a number of his organization’s members, both vets and non-vets. Off the record, he said a majority seemed to favor the Senate plan to make VP a one-time-only option. Another said he found the absence of protest “downright deafening.” He said people supporting (or at least not loudly opposing) the change either “genuinely believe ‘lifetime’ VP is a relic of the Cold War and should be phased out, or the fix is in.” As in they are going to get something for doing nothing!
So, why the silence from groups that not so long ago would have been fighting tooth-and-nail to protect the vets? Good question. If you are a dues-paying member you might want to ask how a long-established benefit for one of the nation’s largest minority groups is about to fade away without even a robotic thanks-for-your-service to mark the take-away.