The push to improve employment prospects for veterans after they return home is paying off - about one in every three people hired by the federal government now is a military veteran - but it's also causing confusion and resentment in both civilians looking for the same jobs and those doing the hiring.
The hiring rate veterans is great news for the Obama administration's push to hire more former military members back in 2009. The initiative is now bringing in record numbers of veterans into federal agencies, but the rules and laws that are responsible for that increase are not always so straightforward.
The veterans preference law is supposed to guarantee that a vet is hired, if both the veteran job candidate and non-veteran job candidate are equally qualified. Additionally, if there are several well-qualified vets going after the same job, only one will be hired. Depending upon the federal agency, there are different hiring goals for vets, and hiring staff are graded on how many veterans they hire.
This preferential treatment for vets, though, does not mean that they will be hired over a more-qualified civilian. In fiscal-year 2015, the Labor Department received about 600 complaints from vets that were turned down for jobs, but in only about 30 of those cases should the veteran have been hired.
Even in those 30 cases, though, it is unlikely that any disciplinary action will be taken against the hiring managers. In order to do that, the applicant must prove that the hiring manager "knowingly" passed them over - a bar that is very difficult to reach.
A veteran could have been passed over by a biased hiring manager, a lack of qualifications compared to a non-vet, or even a simple mistake or incompetence. In many cases it's very difficult to prove what is a biased decision and what is the result of incompetence. Additionally, the veteran doesn't often know the qualification level of the other job applicants, and may be unaware that they are under-qualified for the position.
It is unclear what, if anything, will be done about the confusion created for job applicants (both veteran and non-veteran) and hiring personnel, but one thing is certain - despite the fact that veterans are now being hired for federal jobs more than ever, it has certainly been a rocky road to get here.