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Veterans’ Preference in the Job Search

Veterans’ Preference in the Job Search

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

If you’re part of the Military community and you’ve spent any time at all looking for a job, you’re probably at least vaguely familiar with the term “Veterans’ Preference.” For most of us, though, that’s the extent of it…we have a vague familiarity with the words, something that gives us a conceptual warm and fuzzy, but we’re not quite sure why.

Simply stated, Veterans’ Preference is a policy that may allow an applicant to receive preference in the hiring process over non-Veterans. State and local public-sector programs and companies in private enterprise may have their own preference policies in place, but for the rest of this post, we’ll be talking about Veterans’ Preference in the federal jobs environment.

According to OPM (the US Office of Personnel Management that serves as the country’s chief Human Resources agency and that oversees its federal hiring processes), Veterans of the US Armed Forces have been given some degree of preference in appointments to federal jobs since the Civil War. Veterans’ Preference was used to “recognize the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform, restore Veterans to a favorable competitive position for Government employment, and acknowledge the larger obligation owed to disabled Veterans.” In its current form, the policy has its roots in the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944 (codified in Title 5, United States Code).

If you really want to do a deep dive on the subject, you should supplement your education with a visit to OPM’s web page for HR professionals at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/veterans-services/vet-guide-for-hr-professionals/. While you’re there, you’ll find that, by law, preference in hiring “applies to permanent and temporary positions in the competitive and excepted services of the Executive branch,” but that the Legislative and Judicial branches of the Federal Government are exempt, unless made subject to the Veterans’ Preference Act by some other law. If you find yourself longing for more on the topic, I’d also visit https://www.fedshirevets.gov/job-seekers/veterans-preference/. You’ll be able to really get in the weeds about when preference applies and the type you’re eligible for, which we’ll just touch on here and now…

Types of Veterans’ Preference (Federal level). Veterans’ Preference eligibility can be based on dates of active duty service, receipt of a campaign badge, receipt of a Purple Heart, or a service-connected disability, but know that not all active duty service qualifies for Veterans’ Preference. Only Veterans discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions are eligible for veterans’ preference. Military retirees at the rank of Major, Lieutenant Commander, or higher are not eligible for preference in appointment unless they are disabled veterans (but this doesn’t apply to gray-area retirees, those Reservists who won’t draw military retired pay until age 60.) There are three types of preference eligibility: sole survivorship (0-point preference), non-disabled (5-point preference), and disabled (10-point preference). Here are a few of the details:

…0-point preference eligibility. You were released or discharged from a period of active duty from the armed forces, after August 29, 2008, by reason of being the only surviving child in a family in which the father or mother or one or more siblings: 1) Served in the armed forces, AND 2) was killed, died as a result of wounds, accident, or disease, is in a captured or missing in action status, or is permanently 100 percent disabled or hospitalized on a continuing basis (and is not employed gainfully because of the disability or hospitalization); WHERE the death, status, or disability did not result from the intentional misconduct or willful neglect of the parent or sibling and was not incurred during a period of unauthorized absence. (While no points are added to a scored application for 0-point eligibles, they are listed ahead of non-preference eligibles with the same score or in the same quality category.)

…5-point preference eligibility. You served on active duty in a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or badge has been authorized; OR for more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, during various periods of time over the last 65 years or so. (I refer you back to the OPM webpage earlier in this post for the exact dates.)

…10-Point preference eligibility.  You served at any time, AND 1) you have a service-connected disability, OR 2) you received a Purple Heart.

How Veterans’ Preference is applied & other things you’ll need. When applying for Federal jobs, eligible Veterans should claim preference on their application or resume; when agencies use a numerical rating and ranking system to determine the best qualified applicants for a position, an additional 5 or 10 points are added to the numerical score of qualified preference-eligible Veterans. When claiming Veterans’ Preference, you’ll typically need to provide a copy of your DD-214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or other acceptable documentation. Applicants claiming 10-point preference will usually need to submit form SF-15, Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference, or other acceptable documentation (such as a letter from the VA that contains details on dates of service, discharge status, and disability rating).

 

The informal feedback I’ve received over the last decade indicates that most of us in the general population of job seekers have mixed feelings about Veterans’ Preference. I, for one, appreciate the gesture our national leadership put in place all those years ago, but I can’t say as I’ve ever benefited from being awarded those preference points in the application process. I’ve heard many folks say they’ve applied to countless position and (even with points applied) have never even been called for an interview, and therefore are less than enamored with the policy. Still others make no bones about their dislike and distrust of the process, believing that nepotism and the ‘good old boy’ system is still alive and well, regardless of what OPM has to say.

My take is that you’d have to have a look deep under the hood to gauge whether or not Veterans’ Preference in the federal hiring arena has had the kind of impact its writers had hoped it would. But if you’re applying for a position or a program that uses Veterans’ Preference and you’re eligible, I encourage you to use it to your advantage – you’ve earned it. Remember that Veterans’ Preference doesn’t guarantee a job to those that qualify, and it typically doesn’t apply to internal agency actions like promotions, transfers, reassignments, and reinstatements.

Personally, I never thought Veterans’ Preference would be that ‘X’ factor that got me the job, but rather that it might be what gives me that competitive edge one day, and propels me to the interview phase of the job search. And here’s hoping that it will for you, too.

Until next time…

 

 

Family Vacations

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Make time to make memories! It sounds so easy, doesn’t it? But Armed Forces Vacation Club knows how difficult it can be for military families to find time to take a vacation. So when the stars (and schedules) align and you’re able to carve out a week or even just a few days of time, we want to help you make the most of your vacation. Here are some tips to get you started:

  1. Stick to a budget – Nothing adds extra stress to a vacation like being surprised by how much everything costs. Try to do some pre-planning to anticipate things like how many meals you need to eat out, which activities you’ll need to pay for and any other additional costs that could pop up. A little extra research can help remove the sticker-shock factor of your vacation.
  2. Look for accommodations with extra space – Spending time together is always special, but sometimes you need just a little added space to keep those happy feelings going. Traditional hotel rooms can tend to be a bit cramped, and make it feel like you’re on top of each other. Try out a vacation rental for some breathing room – accommodations typically separate living and sleeping spaces, so you can protect those sacred nap times!
  3. Don’t over plan – Vacation is meant to be at least a little relaxing! Don’t get us wrong, having a plan is ALWAYS a great idea, but know your families limits and don’t plan to push them beyond. Try starting with one planned activity per day and go from there.
  4. Capture the moment – Remember to clear out some space on your smartphone before you set off on vacation so that you’ll be ready to take lots of pictures of all the smiles, activities and more while you’re away. Grab a few disposable cameras for the kids to document the trip from their perspective too!

Remember these tips when planning, and the memories you make on your family vacation are sure to be your most valuable souvenirs.

Looking for more tips on how to plan the best possible Family Vacation, check our AFVC’s Family Vacations article and more in their Vacation Planning Resource Center.

P.S. Don’t forget that Armed Forces Vacation Club offers free membership for all active duty, guard, reserve and retired members of the Armed Forces, as well as civilian employees of the DOD. Join today!

Army Faces Challenges in Recruiting 80,000 Troops

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By Debbie Gregory.

With only thirty percent of applicants being qualified to join the U.S. military, the U.S. Army is facing a big challenge to meet its  recruiting goal of  80,000 new soldiers.

Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Snow, commanding general of United States Army Recruiting Command,  is charged with signing 62,500 recruits for the U.S. Army and 15,400 for the U.S. Army Reserve in fiscal 2017, which runs Oct. 1, 2016, through Sept. 30, 2017.

Rising obesity rates in the U.S. have made recruiting people especially challenging, but  Snow is not in favor of changing or adjusting the requirements to enlist because he believes that doing so would ultimately reduce the quality of the military.

“We don’t want to sacrifice quality,” Snow said. “If we lower the quality, yes we might be able to make our mission – but that’s not good for the organization. The American public has come to expect a qualified Army that can defend the nation. I don’t think the American public would like us to lower the quality of those joining the Army if they knew it’s going to impact our ability to perform the very functions or nation expects us to do.”

In January, the Armed Forces will implement a five-part test to measure physical fitness, called the occupational physical assessment, to make sure male and female recruits will meet the physical requirements for the job.

Other requirements for joining any branch of the U.S. Military include: U.S. citizenship or a green card ; at least 18 years old, or 17years old with parental consent; a high school diploma.

Additional requirement to join the Army include: be aged 17-34; have no more than two dependents; pass the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude test with a minimum AFQT score of  31.

“If there comes a point where young men and women are unwilling to raise their right hand and commit an oath to something bigger than themselves, yes, it could be a national security challenge,” Snow said. ” “I have too much confidence in my team of recruiters, and I think the youth of today gets a bad rap.”

Military Connection salutes and proudly serves veterans and service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, Guard and Reserve,  and their families.

Tax Perks for Serving Uncle Sam

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By Debbie Gregory.

The government does offer some special tax perks so that those who serve don’t have to add income taxes to their list of worries.

When it comes to filing tax returns, military service members have circumstances that differ from civilian tax payers. Due to the varied types of pay service members receive, it is important to identify the types of pay and allowances that are not considered gross income. These exclusions generally include allowances for housing, travel, relocating, combat  pay and death allowances. While not subject to tax, they still may have to be detailed when filing the tax return.

Work-related travel expenses (such as business-related meals, lodging, laundry, and business phone calls) that have not been reimbursed are deductible when you are traveling away from your permanent duty station for longer than an ordinary day’s work and you need sleep or food

Armed Forces Reservists who travel more than 100 miles away from home in connection with their service can deduct travel expenses as an adjustment to income.

Service members on active duty who move due to a permanent change of station are entitled to a deduction for reasonable non-reimbursed moving expenses related to travel and the cost of moving household goods and personal effects.

If you are a member of the Armed Forces serving in a designated combat zone, then you can exclude certain pay from your income. The month for which you receive this pay must be a month in which you either served in a combat zone or were hospitalized as a result of wounds, disease, or injury obtained while serving in the combat zone. You need only serve for one or more days in a month to qualify for exclusion for the entire month.

Members of the military serving in combat zones get an automatic 180-day extension from the IRS for filing tax returns, paying taxes and filing refund claims. The automatic extension also applies to making qualified contributions to an IRA. However, this exception does not apply to Social Security and Medicare taxes.

And one final tax perk: free tax preparation is available through MyFreeTaxes for qualified Veterans, active-duty military, and their families. In addition to e-filing, MyFreeTaxes also provides in-person help to individuals and families earning $20,000 or less in 2015. For more information, please visit: www.myfreetaxes.com.