Feds talk: How do you feel about veterans’ preference for federal hiring?


A U.S. Army officer listens to a speaker with the U.S. flag in the background at the Hiring our Heroes job fair in New York on March 27. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid).

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The Partnership for Public Service this month released a report calling for controversial civil-service reforms, including changes to the federal government’s hiring practices.

Federal agencies select new employees based partly on a points system, awarding extra points to job applicants who are former U.S. troops. The partnership recommended keeping that veterans’ hiring preference in place.

We wondered how federal workers feel about the existing guidelines for veterans. A Federal Eye survey last week asked federal employees to share their thoughts on the matter, in addition to other elements of the civil-service system.

Not all respondents agreed with the preference policies. Peter Gamba, a Treasury Department employee from the Harper’s Ferry area, said the guidelines are “more than frustrating” and “a real road block to those of us who did not serve.”

“When two qualified workers apply for the job, the most qualified should get it, not the one who was a veteran yet not as qualified,” Gamba added.

Even military veterans complained about the rules.

“I am totally opposed to [veterans-preference] hiring and believe it’s bad for good government and bad for the country,” said Robert Mikol, a former U.S. Marine who works in Alaska for the Bureau of Land Management. “I am seeing former members of the military and military spouses get jobs that they are truly unqualified for.”

Other federal employees expressed strong support for the preference policies.

“Those men and women who voluntarily served their country should be given first choice to employment with the very government they defended,” wrote Christine O’Rourke, a Nuclear Regulatory Commission employee from Pottstown, Pa. “However, rules should not be so restrictive that they make fair competition for those who did not serve.”

Bill Asch, a National Institutes of Health employee from Seattle, said he supports veterans preference but wishes the application-review process worked more efficiently. “I like veteran’s preference, and my dad (USAF) did too,” he said. “No real complaints, other than how long things take to process. Need faster decisions.”

It’s worth noting that the government does not make promises to hire former troops who apply for any given position. Veterans receive the extra points, but other factors — including greater experience or qualifications — could give non-veterans an edge in some cases.

Keep the responses coming, federal workers. We plan to share more of them in coming days as we explore other topics, including your top priorities for civil-service reform, how you would feel about switching to a merit-based pay system and your thoughts on political appointments.

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Follow Josh Hicks on TwitterFacebook or Google+. Connect by e-mail at  josh.hicks(at)washpost.comVisit The Federal Eye, and The Fed Page for more federal news. Submit news tips and suggestions to federalworker@washpost.com.

Josh Hicks covers Maryland politics and government. He previously anchored the Post’s Federal Eye blog, focusing on federal accountability and workforce issues.

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