The House has voted overwhelmingly to make no changes in the hiring preferences veterans receive when seeking federal jobs, taking a position opposite to that of the Senate.
The House voted 409 to 14 late Thursday in favor an amendment stating that “no funds may be used to revise any policy or directive related to hiring preferences for veterans of the Armed Forces.”
The amendment, offered by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-Ariz.) is a response to several provisions in the Senate-passed version of a defense-spending bill to limit the advantage veterans have when applying for federal jobs.
The more far-reaching of the two would apply hiring preference only for an initial federal job being filled on a competitive basis, and not for any afterward.
“While this change might seem innocuous, it could have serious negative implications for the men and women who served our nation in uniform,” Gallego said during House consideration of his amendment. ”Under the Senate proposal, if a particular federal job isn’t a good fit, or if a veteran wants to move up the ladder at a different agency, he or she will be deprived of this benefit.”
“Simply put, the Senate language is a step in the wrong direction. After years of painful progress in combating economic distress and homelessness among our veterans, now is not the time to dilute a system which has proven highly successful in promoting veteran employment,” said Gallego, himself a veteran of the Marines.
The other Senate provision would reinstate a general policy that military retirees cannot move into civil service jobs within six months of their retirement, ending an exception that has been in effect since 9/11 and that has been commonly used.
The House vote comes in advance of a conference between the two chambers on the defense-spending bill. The amendment was added to an unrelated spending bill passed by the House on Thursday but effectively stakes out the House’s position going into that conference.
Veterans preference does not guarantee veterans a federal job, but it generally moves them ahead of non-veterans for positions being filled competitively. Most such positions are filled through a process called category rating, in which candidates are grouped according to their qualifications; veterans are listed first at each level, and hiring managers generally must select them over non-veterans. Some other positions are filled through a points-based system in which veterans receive extra points, boosting their standing.
In the 2014 budget year, veterans accounted for 33.2 percent of total new hires by federal agencies; excluding part-time, seasonal and temporary positions, the percentage was 47.4.
Preference does not apply to actions such as promotions, transfers and reassignments, however. There are separate preferences in more limited circumstances for jobs being filled on a non-competitive basis.