The Bogus Benefit – Preference in Federal Hiring – Part II

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Vietnam War Memorial, DC ReducedIn my previous article on the “bogus benefit” of “preference” in the Federal hiring process, I highlighted the article by Ken Olson in the American Legion Magazine, which carried the title of “bogus benefit,” as well as the fine work of the Inspector General of the Department of Energy whose investigation of the hiring practices at the Bonneville Power Administration substantiated the charge that Prohibited Personnel Practices were used in 49% of the hiring cases over a three year period – 1200 hires in all – in order to circumvent the legal rights of veterans and non-veterans alike. I also stated that at least two Federal Agencies, the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) and the Office of the Special Counsel (OSC), whose mission is to ensure that veterans preference laws are obeyed, utterly fail to perform their mission.

In this article I will focus on the Federal Agency that is the worst offender in terms of violating the employment rights of veterans – the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The numbers truly are astonishing, per the official statistics tabulated by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The latest statistics are from FY 2013, and are posted here. Page 03 tells the essential story, in a couple of very stark and painful numbers. Overall, the Federal Agencies generally do comply with veterans’ preference requirements since 30.1% of Federal jobs are held by veterans. At HHS, the percentage is 6.9% , less than one-fourth the average. Why? I have asked the question many times, and have never received a rational (or even irrational!) answer. The real answer is that HHS has an organizational culture that openly discriminates against veterans, first of all, as any reasonable person would conclude by simply looking at these statistics, and HHS’s failure to provide any explanation, but also buttressed by the very hard evidence of internal HHS documents that openly discuss methods that can be used to circumvent the rights of veterans.

Over 20,000 jobs. Please check my math, and then re-check it, since one of those high paying and secure jobs could be yours. If HHS simply hired the same average percentage of veterans as the other Federal Agencies, more than 20,000 veterans would have a job. It is the starkest number of all. Year after year, the senior leadership at HHS has been aware of this failure to honor the rights of veterans, yet year after year they fail to do anything about it. Of the various ways in which the rights of veterans are violated, perhaps the most infuriating is that HHS would hire a non-American for a position for which the stated “key” job requirement is American citizenship! It does not get much worse than that.

On March 21-23, there will be another hearing on HHS’ habitual violation of the rights of veterans at the Denver Field Office of the MSPB, which is actually located in nearby Lakewood, CO. It is located in the high-rise building at 165 South Union Blvd., Lakewood, 80228, and the phone number is (303)-969-5101. Please be there by 8:30 am.

When I told an MSPB judge (NOT the one who will be preceding at the March 21-23 hearing) that other veterans might be attending the upcoming hearing, he asked me: “These Vietnam buddies of yours, are they in the Hell’s Angel’s”. I was literally momentarily speechless at this breathless display of negative stereotyping by someone who is supposed to be impartial in his judicial duties. So, please, if you come, and I hope you do, keep in mind that proper dress and decorum are essential, in order to defeat the negative smears and stereotyping. If only 10 veterans attended the hearing, providing that all important “sunlight” on the proceedings, it would have a dramatic impact on the quality of justice rendered.

Future articles to be published before the hearing will include a small portion of the evidence against HHS, as well as a summary of the salient issues that will be before the Court.

John Paul Jones

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