What’s wrong with veterans preference? It depends who you ask

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helping vetsAgencies are hiring more veterans to the federal workforce than ever before. But veterans and agency managers say they’re confused by veterans preference regulations, because they’re too complex and ambiguous.

“It’s subjective,” Daniel Smith, assistant director of the veterans employment and education division at the American Legion, said during an April 20 hearing before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. “There’s no way to know if veterans preference is actually being followed. You have an HR manager or a hiring official inside of a closed door. They have two applicants. One’s a civilian, one’s a veteran. There’s no way of knowing if they’re using veteran preference. … When veterans preference is used, it works.”

This confusion is evident based on at the number of veterans preference appeals cases the Merit Systems Protection Board dismisses because they have no merit, said Michael Michaud, assistant secretary for the veterans employment and training service at the Labor Department.

MSPB closed 590 veterans preference appeals cases in fiscal 2015, he said. Of the 590, the board said 5.4 percent of them had merit.

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