There was a time when veterans weren’t appreciated. Instead of coming home to a warm welcome and plenty of “thank you for your service” statements, they got spit on. As a result, there weren’t many people jumping at the chance to care for and hire veterans. Thankfully, a lot’s changed since the Vietnam War, but that doesn’t mean some veterans aren’t having a hard time reintegrating themselves back into civilian life and employment. Fortunately, federal regulations have been put in place to help, and many veterans are classified as protected. Keep reading to find out what a protected veteran is and if you fall into that category.
Leaving the military can be one of the hardest choices military members make. Some are forced out medically, some reach higher tenure, some retire, and others just don’t want that lifestyle anymore. Whatever the case may be, unless you’ve been kicked out under dishonorable conditions, you’re a veteran, you’ve served your time, and now it’s time to look for employment in the civilian world.
Unfortunately, despite the background, education, experience, and discipline veterans have, it feels like it isn’t enough to land a job of equivalent value and purpose outside of the military—especially if you’re a disabled veteran—Your scars may show on the outside, or they may be held deep within, either way, they still cause a heavy load when it comes to finding employment.
Luckily, there are federal laws put into action protecting veterans from being discriminated against based on those scares, visible or not. This protection is found under the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 or VEVRAA. It requires companies working with the federal government not only to hire protected veterans but to proactively recruit, retain, and promote anyone who falls into this category.
What gave rise to the new VEVRAA rules?
Despite all the laws in place to help protect veterans, it does not mean things are fixed. Unfortunately, veterans still face discrimination, and of those that do not, most face the fear of discrimination anytime they move from one job to the next. Therefore, more regulations have been put in place to help combat those fears and help more disabled veterans get into the workplace.
Which veterans have obligations under the new VEVRAA final rule?
The title of VEVRAA kind of gives part of the answer away. Protection is given to Vietnam-era veterans serving on active duty for more than 180 days between Aug 5, 1964, and May 7, 1975. The protection also covers disabled veterans receiving compensation from the VA, those who have at least 30% or more disability, or 10-20 percent if it causes a serious employment handicap, and those who were discharged as a result of their service-connected disability. Recently separated veterans are also protected for three years after leaving the service. You also qualify as a protected veteran if you served on active duty during a war—Indian wars, Spanish-American War, WWI, WWII, the Korean conflict, etc.— campaign or expedition and received a campaign badge or received an Armed Forces Service Medal. In all cases, the veteran must be discharged under anything other than dishonorable to be considered a protected veteran.
You may be questioning the VEVRAA currently because recruiting, hiring, and promoting protected veterans don’t really sound like a lot of protection. Luckily, there’s more to it than that. The act also covers anti-discrimination protection, which we’ll cover shortly.
Which employers have obligations under the new VEVRAA final rules?
One of the biggest questions disabled veterans have about protection is, who has to abide by the VEVRAA rules? The answer is any employers with a federal contract or subcontract. However, in those contracts, there’s a minimum monetary requirement. The contracts or subcontracts must be of $100,000 or more.
What are employers required to do?
Under VEVRAA, employers have to meet minimum standards. If they do not, they could face significant consequences.
Set a Benchmark
Employers are required to set a hiring benchmark. They can do this by one of two methods. First, they can create their benchmark based on the national percentage. This percentage comes from the veterans who are currently working. Second, if they don’t choose this first option, then they can create an individualized benchmark. This benchmark is simply based on their own perception of national data found within their state or region.
Invite Voluntary Self-Identification
Voluntary self-identification is when a veteran voluntarily identifies as being a protected veteran. Employers simply invite voluntary self-identification by asking if the veteran would like to volunteer this information. So, basically, the rule is exactly what it sounds like.
Comply with OFCCP Rules
Complying with OFCCP rules means being transparent. For example, if the OFCCP is investigating, the employer must provide on and off-site documentation.
Track the Effectiveness of Veteran Recruiting and Hiring Efforts
Veteran employers are required to keep track of how effective their efforts are in hiring veterans for their company. They can keep track by listing the number of protected veterans who have applied for the job, listing the number of job openings and filled positions, listing the total number of applicants, including those not protected, veterans. With that data, employers should track how many of the applicants who were protected veterans were hired and the total number of applicants hired, including those who are not protected, veterans.
Employers must also:
- Provide access to job listings
- Communicate to subcontractors
- Conduct outreach and positive recruitment
How can you get more information about VEVRAA?
- You can view VEVRAA Final Rules, here
- For Questions and Answers, you can see the OFCCP document, here
Veterans sometimes get a bad rap; that’s why Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Plans (DVAAP) exist—more on that later. But, unfortunately, there are plenty of people who’ve never served running around thinking we all have PTSD and will fly off the wall at any given time. We’re all terrified of loud noises, will freak out if we see a middle easterner, can’t stand large crowds, have night terrors, and if something sets us off, we’ll go around shooting everyone in the head. Fortunately, this isn’t true. But, unfortunately, it can cause employers to be apprehensive about employing a veteran, even if we’re better qualified than the other candidates.
Protected veterans have protection from this type of discrimination. We aren’t saying discrimination doesn’t happen just because some law exists saying it’s not allowed. If that were the case, criminals wouldn’t own guns, and they wouldn’t go shooting up schools. What we’re saying is, the government is attempting to help veterans make it outside of the military, and when things aren’t going according to law, we can take action.
Employers who don’t hire disabled veterans need to have an excuse other than, well, they have PTSD or, well, they’re too broken to do this job. They have to make reasonable accommodations for that veteran so they can work like everyone else.
Equal Opportunity Employer Statement
Per, Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, below is what’s covered under the laws of discrimination.
- Unfair treatment because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
- Harassment by managers, co-workers, or others in the workplace, because of race, color, religion, sex (including pregnancy), national origin, age (40 or older), disability, or genetic information.
- Denial of a reasonable workplace accommodation that the employee needs because of religious beliefs or disability.
- Retaliation because the employee complained about job discrimination or assisted with a job discrimination investigation or lawsuit.
Keep in mind. However, every job is different; some companies aren’t governed by the above depending on their type of employer and the number of employees they have.
Affirmative Action Plan
For the protection of veterans, most Federal Government agencies are required to have some type of Affirmative Action Plan or a DVAAP in place, which means they have a plan to recruit, hire and advance disabled veterans. In addition, this plan is required to be updated annually to show the agencies’ accomplishments and efforts in employing and advancing job opportunities for protected veterans.
5 Point Preference
If you are a qualifying veteran, when you apply for a job, you get a 5-point preference. This 5-point preference gives you points toward a federal job, which could be the difference between you being hired or some kid just because they have “education.”
10 Point Preference
If you’re a qualifying disabled veteran, you get a 10-point preference. Just be prepared; you’ll need more proof than just your DD-214. In most cases, you’ll have to provide a Schedule A Appointing Authority letter and an SF-15.
SF-15 is a form used when a veteran is applying for a 10-point veteran preference. If you’re applying for a federal job on sites such as USA Jobs, there will be a place to upload documents such as this. It’s a straightforward form—army proof— self-explanatory and only two pages long. You can find the document here.
Schedule A Letter
Schedule A letter, or as officially called, the Schedule A Appointing Authority is proof you have over 30% disability, giving you a 10-point veteran preference. It’s a very easy process; I’ve done it myself. You simply give the representative your SSN, run your information to find your percentage, and then write you a fancy letter confirming you have at least a 30% disability rating through the VA. Generally, you can upload this onto federal hiring sites, like USA Jobs, without any issues.
National Defense Service Medal
If you have a National Defense Service Medal, you’re a qualifying veteran. First, however, you need to make sure it’s reflected on your DD-214. Your DD-214 is like gold; if it’s not accurate, its value will depreciate. This means if you’re about to be a veteran, when you submit your DD-214 Worksheet, make sure it’s right, and then make sure again. The last thing you want is for your dates of service or anything that will get you benefits to be wrong. It’s much easier to get it done right the first time than it is to try and go back and get it fixed after you’ve been out for over a year.
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Non-competitive vs. Competitive
Yes, we get it; this is where things might get a little confusing because maybe, no one has told you the difference between non-competitive and competitive employment. Maybe the first time you’ve seen this phrase was when you went onto the federal hiring site, and it asked, “are you applying for noncompetitive employment” or “are you applying for competitive employment.” If this is you, we aren’t judging; we’ve been there too. And we can assure you, marking the right box could literally be the difference between you being hired or not.
What is noncompetitive employment? You could literally search the internet and find it in .58 seconds—yes, we tested it—but for those of you who didn’t, you can keep reading here. We value your most high readership more than the other guys anyway.
Back on topic, non-competitive employment means you’re hired differently than the rest of the general public. Instead, you have something like a hiring authority—we mentioned that above—showing you have special circumstances, such as 30% disability or more. Generally, you don’t have to go through the entire hiring process, like those under competitive employment.
Now we’re left with the competitive side of things. This is basically exactly what it sounds like. You’re in full competition mode here. You’re competing just like everyone else, on the same court, with the same ball. Now add in the fact that there are 100s if not 1000s of people on that court, all after the same ball; standing out can be pretty difficult.
This is why, if you can, applying under non-competitive is the better option. But, unfortunately, if you don’t qualify, you’ll have to go the competitive route.
Protected Veteran Benefits
Besides qualifying for non-competitive hiring, a lot of other benefits come with being a protected veteran. Options for paid and non-paid internships are some of those benefits. So, while you’re waiting to get a full-time position, you can intern and build up more work experience.
Veterans and Military Intern Programs
For veterans who need civilian work experience, the VA offers various types of employment opportunities. The opportunities fall under the Department of Veterans’ Affairs Programs or Veterans and Military Intern Programs.
Non-Paid Work Experience
Non-paid work experience or NPWE is a service offered by the VA to help place veterans in government jobs. Non-paid does not translate to the veteran making zero money; it’s not like a non-paid college internship. Instead, it refers to the fact that the employer has no obligation to pay the veteran; instead, the veteran receives a subsistence allowance from the VA.
Because there’s no “red tape” to hiring and firing, they don’t have to pay the veteran. There’s a minimal amount of paperwork required from the agency. The employer is more likely to take on the veteran and give them the valuable work experience they need.
On-the-Job Training Program
OJT, something every military member knows about. Well, it’s not just something that exists only in the military; it’s on the outside too. And, the VA is prepared to give you the OJT you want and need to be successful in competitive employment.
Both the veteran and the agency benefit from the VA’s OJT program. The employer gets a hard-working veteran, and the veteran gets the necessary tools, equipment, and uniforms provided to them via the Department of Veterans’ Affairs. But, again, like all these programs, reasonable accommodations should be made if needed so the veteran can receive the same opportunities as their fellow co-workers.
Compensated Work Therapy
Compensated Work Therapy or CWT is a great option for veterans who are having trouble getting started in civilian work because of their disability. The VA offers a variety of options, including some specifically for veterans with PTSD, TBI, and short or long-term employment barriers. If this is you, or you know someone struggling, read our article about CWT here for more information.
Disabilities come in many forms. Some are visible, like a missing limb. Others, not so much. That could look like PTSD or any other form of pain in your body. People can’t see that your back hurts on a daily basis. They can’t see that lifting, squatting, even walking puts you in a great deal of pain. Yet, you still have to work. How can you get a job if you have a disability, but no one will hire you because of that disability? You turn to the legal system. Since protected veterans have the right to reasonable accommodation, point preference, etc., you need to let your employer know this.
However, if your disability won’t get in the way of employment, we don’t necessarily advise advertising such disabilities on your resume. No, employers can’t discriminate against you, but that doesn’t mean they won’t—even subconsciously.
Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance
If you’re one of the people we talked about applying for a job under non-competitive terms, you also might qualify for Service-Disabled Veterans’ Insurance (S-DVI), which you don’t have to be rated at 30% for. Even disabled veterans with a 0% rating qualify for S-DVI. So, if you qualify for non-competitive employment, you should look into this as well and make sure you’re not missing out.
What happens if you’re seeking employment or work for a company that’s not abiding by the federal regulations concerning military service? First, you report it to the U.S. Department of Labor. Below are the reporting procedures per the Department of Labor if you’re a Reservist or Guard member.
- The U.S. Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS) is authorized to investigate and resolve complaints of USERRA violations.
- For assistance in filing a complaint, or for any other information on USERRA, contact VETS at 1-866-4-USA-DOL or visit its website at http://www.dol.gov/vets. An interactive online USERRA Advisor can be viewed at http://www.dol.gov/elaws/userra.htm.
- If you file a complaint with VETS and VETS is unable to resolve it, you may request that your case be referred to the Department of Justice or the Office of Special Counsel, as applicable, for representation.
- You may also bypass the VETS process and bring a civil action against an employer for violations of USERRA.
If you’re a veteran, you can file your complaint through the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP), Veterans’ Employment and Training Service of the Department of Labor, or Local Veterans’ Employment Representative (LVER).