The Washington Post

Veterans Day: How many veterans work for the federal government?

Members of Winona's American Legion placed more than 1,000 American flags on the headstones of veterans in May at a Minnesota cemetery. (Andrew Link/AP)

President Obama and the first lady plan to host a breakfast for veterans and lay a wreath at Arlington National Cemetery before traveling to San Diego for other veterans events.

For the Obama administration, it might as well have been Veterans Week as several federal agencies spent considerable time and effort almost one-upping one another in a collective effort to remind Americans that the federal government is doing its part to employ military service members and veterans seeking new jobs.

So how many military veterans does the federal goverment employ? Roughly one in four of 2.1 million federal employees is a veteran, according to statistics compiled by the Office of Personnel Management. The agency also suggests that more than 1 million federal jobs are tied to supporting the military — either at the Pentagon or other security agencies.

And one-third of the federal government’s new hires in the first half of fiscal year 2011 were veterans, according to President Obama’s Council on Veterans Employment.

The council reported in July that the federal government hired 34,788 veterans in the first half of fiscal year 2011, up from 32,825 hired during the first half of FY 2010.

And while the Obama administration is pushing health clinics and private employers to hire more veterans and the Senate passed a veterans jobs bill and Washington rededicated a memorial to veterans of World War I — federal agencies spent the week touting their impressive veteran numbers.

“USDA Celebrates Veterans Day, Honors More Than 10,000 Veterans Working At USDA” blared the press release sent by the Agriculture Department on Tuesday — four days before the holiday.

The department noted that about 6.1 million veterans live in rural and farming communities and that a quarter of its new permanent hires are veterans. The Forest Service also plans to waive fees this weekend at its recreation sites.

Close on the heels of USDA, the Department of Homeland Security sent word on Wednesday morning that it would also honor its veterans with a department-wide commemoration ceremony. DHS employs more than 50,000 veterans, according to a spokesman, and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano honored them at an event Wednesday.

“America is a stronger nation not only because of what our veterans have given, but also because of what they continue to contribute,” she said.

Over at the Justice Department, Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. on Wednesday honored the 19,000 military veterans working for the Justice Department.

“You are agents, attorneys, investigators, and members of our support staff,” Holder told staffers at a Veterans Appreciation Ceremony. “You are managers, mentors, innovators, and invaluable contributors to the department’s most vital missions.”

At the Labor Department, officials touted the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, which is helping veterans transition into the civilian working world — and often assisting low-income veterans with job opportunities.

The department's blog, called Work in Progress , highlighted the story of George Dean, an unemployed Air Force veteran from Delaware who received assistance from Labor Department officials securing a housing voucher, food stamps and clothing.

Officials with VETS then helped Dean find a job. Because Dean didn’t have a car to get to job interviews, agency employees secured him a bike with the help of a local police station and counseling center.

Similar stories are occurring across the country every day.

Further reading:

Obama administration calls on health clinics to hire military veterans

Federal government is hiring more vets

For more, visit PostPolitics and The Fed Page.

Ed O’Keefe is covering the 2016 presidential campaign, with a focus on Jeb Bush and other Republican candidates. He's covered presidential and congressional politics since 2008. Off the trail, he's covered Capitol Hill, federal agencies and the federal workforce, and spent a brief time covering the war in Iraq.


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