Electronic compliance report isn't helping veterans get jobs with private contractors

By Joe Davidson
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 5, 2010; 8:33 PM

Everybody loves veterans.

Holidays are named for them. Parades are devoted to them. Politicians of all stripes make a public display of embracing them.

But when it gets right down to how Uncle Sam serves former service members, the picture can get murky.

Testimony submitted for a congressional hearing last week demonstrated that employment of veterans with companies that do business with the federal government is an area that leaves much to be desired.

The House Veterans' Affairs subcommittee on economic opportunity heard witness after witness describe serious weaknesses with the government's oversight and enforcement of affirmative action laws and regulations designed to promote employment of veterans with private contractors.

"Veterans are undergoing tough times in the area of employment," said Joseph C. Sharpe Jr., director of the American Legion's National Economic Commission. "With the Bureau of Labor Statistics reporting unemployment for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan as high as 23 percent, the employment of veterans is a top issue. It is the duty of Federal contractors to comply with the law and employ veterans and disabled veterans."

He added that the employment of veterans "is directly affected by non-compliance from Federal contractors . . ." and that "veterans should be considered and hired first by these contractors and subcontractors who receive contracts from the Federal government."

Much of the testimony focused on the dull but important topic of paperwork.

Actually, a big problem, according to several witnesses, is the lack of paperwork connected to a report contractors are required to file on veteran hiring.

The report, known as VETS-100, is filed electronically.

It's an important report that gets to the heart of the hiring issue. Federal contractors use it to tell Uncle Sam how many vets they employ.

The Labor Department "has encouraged and promoted efforts to increase reporting, particularly through electronic submissions," Les Jin, deputy director of Labor's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, told the panel.

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