Senate votes to scale back federal job preferences for veterans


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Via the WaPo

Congress stepped this week into a sensitive issue that’s been quietly roiling the already-challenging hiring system for federal jobs: the Obama administration’s high-profile push to give preference to veterans.

The Senate version of the vast military policy bill that now heads to conference with the House would knock out one of the advantages veterans enjoy when they apply for federal work. They would continue to get a leg up over non-veterans to get a foot in the door. But once they’re in government and want to be considered for another federal post, they would no longer go to the head of the hiring queue.

The change, approved on Tuesday by the Senate as part of its annual defense policy bill, would apply across government and affect thousands of veterans and their close relatives, who also are able to jump the line over non-veterans.

It was high-level Pentagon officials who pressed Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, for a change to the veterans hiring system. These officials have expressed concern to McCain and other lawmakers that too many qualified non-veterans are getting shut out of federal jobs in deference to those who served but may not be qualified for some positions, according to Senate staff.

The veterans language has flown under the radar in a bill with thousands of provisions. But it’s now fiercely opposed by leading service organizations, which had no idea until the legislation was on the floor that the Senate was moving to chip away at the government’s most visible effort to reward military service since the draft ended in the 1970s.

“Is Congress now starting to dial back the goodwill the country’s shown toward veterans’ employment?” asked Lauren Augustine, senior legislative associate for Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, an advocacy group. “Are we now going to set a bad example to the private sector by limiting veterans preference in government?”