In the March, 2016 American Legion Magazine, Ken Olson wrote an article entitled “The Bogus Benefit.” The title refers to the purported “benefit” that veterans receive: “preference” in the hiring process for Federal Agencies. Many veterans already know that “benefit” is theoretical at best; at times, military service is regrettably seen as a potential negative since there is a strong assumption that veterans, particularly those who have been in combat, suffer from PTSD.
Olson substantiates the belief that many veterans feel by citing the work of the Department of Energy’s Inspector General Gregory Friedman. In 2013 he investigated the allegations of anti-veteran bias at the Bonneville Power Administration. The report of that investigation can still be read here. After the publication of the report, the top five administrative personnel at the Bonneville Power Administration were replaced. In brief: real consequences for real wrongdoing! Much more needs to be done in order to ensure that non-veteran Federal hiring authorities truly do grant preference to veteran applicants, as is required by both the law (the VEOA) as well as Executive Order #13518, which was issued on Veterans’ Day, 2009, and specifically directed the Federal Agencies to increase the number of veterans that they hire.
It is the responsibility of at least two Federal Agencies, the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) and the Office of the Special Counsel, to ensure that the laws related to the preference due veterans are truly obeyed. Both Agencies utterly fail to perform their assigned mission. Unlike I.G. Friedman at the Department of Energy, when these agencies are presented with irrefutable evidence of wrongdoing related to veterans, they choose to do nothing.
“Sunlight is the best disinfectant” is an old, but very true adage. There has been recent media attention focused on the MSPB since, over the past month, they overturned the decisions of the senior leadership at the Veterans Administration to discipline and/or terminate three of their senior administrators for wrongdoing. These non-veteran bureaucrats got their jobs back, and received full back pay. And the “legal logic” that provided the basis for favoring the bureaucrats over the veterans? One that your traffic cop would not abide by: “But officer, why are you giving me a ticket for running a red light when other cars have also run a red light?” That “logic” never works with the traffic cop, but the “logic” of “disparate treatment” worked with the MSPB.
I have now, most regrettably, been engaged in a seven-year battle with the Department of Health and Human Services over their PROVEN violation of my veterans’ preference rights (as well as the rights of many other veterans). On March 21-23, there will be another hearing on this issue in Denver. 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.
The venue, and some of the issues that will be addressed at the hearing will be related in subsequent articles.
John Paul Jones