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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…

 

 

What’s the Best Job ‘Fit’ After Military Service?

What’s the Best Job ‘Fit’ After Military Service?

Contributed by Alan Rohlfing

 

You don’t have to be in transition from active service to be thinking about where you might land your next civilian job, but many folks who are in the process of separating find that much of their time & energy is spent on exactly that: where will they spend the next chapter of their professional life, and will it be a good ‘fit’?

Many people who find themselves looking for work upon separation from active service, also find themselves in one of two camps…those that are planning to slide right into a civilian occupation or position doing exactly what they spent most of their time in uniform doing; or those that want nothing to do with their military skill sets, who seek something shiny and new.

Over the last 10 years or so, I’ve spoken to a whole lot of Troops in both camps…Service Members retiring after 20 or 30 years of active service, young men and women separating after their first enlistment, and Warriors whose careers were cut short due to medical discharge. Thinking about those conversations now, there’s no rhyme or reason about why folks choose to follow a certain path after military service, and how they (or you or me) define “best fit” is very subjective…for some, it’s simply an opportunity to do something new, a break from what they’ve been doing most of their adult life.

If you stay put in a career field where you’ve got history, you may find yourself among the most qualified job applicants out there. On the other hand, if you’re looking to change careers, you may find yourself looking at job offers at low rates of pay, given your experience…or no job offers at all. You may find yourself bitten by the entrepreneurship bug, and have a passion to be a small business owner (more about that at https://militaryconnection.com/blog/a-few-tips-for-the-would-be-entrepreneur).

Wherever you find yourself, take advantage of all the resources you can during your time on active duty: take personality quizzes, enroll in certification programs at local colleges, and get credentialed for your skill sets all throughout your military service. Sign up for aptitude tests, check out projected salary ranges, and participate in seminars and workshops. Check out skills translators like CareerOneStop, a site sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor (https://www.careeronestop.org/Toolkit/Jobs/match-veteran-jobs.aspx). Here you can use their Veterans Job Matcher to “find civilian careers that might be a good match for your military skills.”

I’m a firm believer that those of us in the Military community – which includes Spouses – are more likely to succeed at our vocational goals than our counterparts from the general population. That said, you probably shouldn’t wait until terminal leave starts to figure out what that next chapter might look like. How soon should you start, you ask? Well, an old crusty E-9 once told me that he encouraged Troops to start preparing for life ‘back on the block’ right after the Newcomer’s Brief at their first duty station. And there’s some wisdom to that, even though you might think you’re a lifer.

Prepare for that transition process early, prepare often…and all the while, take stock of where your head is, where your heart is, and what’s wise, regardless of what you think you’re owed.

Until next time…

 

Common Challenges to a Smooth Civilian Transition

Common Challenges to a Smooth Civilian Transition

 

Transition. According to Dictionary.com, it can be used as a noun or a verb, but in most cases it’s the “movement, passage, or change from one position, state, stage, subject, concept, etc. to another.” According to most of us that have worn the uniform recently, however, it means that we have taken that monumental step of separating from the military. And while the objective is usually to have a smooth-as-velvet transition, there always seems to be…challenges…to that goal.

 

For the rest of this post, I’m just going to pontificate on a few of those challenges, from my point of view. Many of you know that my perspective is that of a 30-year Army guy, but it’s also one that’s been influenced by dear friends from every branch of the Service. Some of these challenges were faced head-on by many of the strongest-willed men and women I know – with equal parts success and struggle.

 

And the point of a blog post like this one? Well, it’s doubtful you’ll have the ‘a-ha’ moment you’re looking for or have a revelation to put your struggle into deeper meaning…but maybe you’ll come to the realization that there are loads of warriors out there with the same struggles as you and I. And sometimes it’s good to reflect on the challenges…to a smooth transition…that we have in common.

 

Challenges within ourselves. Some of our biggest challenges during the transition from active duty to the civilian sector are internal. How we feel, how we cope with the change, how we internalize things…can have a tremendous impact on our new reality. Some of us feel the loss of our sense of purpose. Some struggle with no ‘command structure’ in place to help hold them accountable. Others feel like everything is so boring or ‘blah’ and miss the adrenaline rush that comes with certain assignments. And many of us feel isolated or alone, even when surrounded by family and friends with whom we’re desperately trying to reconnect.

 

Challenges with employment. Even if we qualify for an active duty retirement or VA compensation, most of us will be looking for our next job. And for sure, the job search can be traumatic enough, even if you’re not transitioning from military service. How a jobseeker goes about finding a job has undoubtedly changed…if you’re looking for your next job, you’ll have to craft resumes and cover letters, navigate applicant tracking systems, and deal with interviewers and talent managers. If you’ve already transitioned from the Service to a civilian employer, there’s a good chance you had to start a rung or two down the corporate ladder from where you should have been able to start, and you’re finding that often promotions come at a different pace and may be few and far between. Finally, if you’re a traditional National Guardsman or Reservist coming off a deployment and returning to your previous employer, you’ll probably face your own unique challenges with your old position, your team at work, and your supervisor. That’s a whole other topic in itself, and one we’ll cover later this year.

 

Challenges, period. If you aren’t wrestling with your own internal concerns and you have the job thing all figured out, consider yourself lucky (and maybe even among the fortunate few). But that doesn’t mean you won’t face other, just as stressful, challenges. Things you’ll need to take care of won’t be free, and often we underestimate the costs of transition. There’s a decent chance you’ll have to figure out who provides the services you’ll be using, from health care to child care and everything in between. You may still have bouts of post-traumatic stress or depression, for the simple fact that you’re in transition from military service means you’re moving on from one of the most impactful, stressful, demanding, and rewarding journeys a person can take.

 

At the end of the day, most of my colleagues just assume that this transition will be challenging, but it’s hard to predict how so. The transition between ‘military life’ and ‘life after military life’ will be different for everyone…different for retiring 40-somethings than for 20-somethings getting out after their first or second tour.  What are some things you can do? Take advantage of the DoD’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) and get smarter on those subjects that will impact you. During the transition, make sure you eat well, get plenty of rest & exercise, and plan your approach to this next stage of your life. Be your own advocate and reach out if you need a hand with the transition – to a battle buddy, a Vet Center, the VA, or a Veteran Service Organization. Until next time…

 

The ABCs of the Transition Assistance Program

The ABCs of the Transition Assistance Program

 

The ABCs of the Transition Assistance Program

Contributed by Debbie Gregory

Transitioning back to civilian life after spending four years (or more) or even an entire career serving in the military is a big step. Figuring out where you’ll live, if you’ll be working or going to school, or where your children will go to school are life-changing decisions. The military’s Transition Assistance Program (TAP) strives to help make the process easier.

The process begins with pre-separation counseling, ideally done 12 to 24 months before separation, when a counselor discusses education, training, employment, career goals, financial management, health, well-being, housing and relocation with the service member and his/her spouse.

TAP is the result of an interagency collaboration. The basic TAP curriculum is broken down into three main parts: Department of Defense (DoD), Veterans Administration (VA) and Department of Labor (DoL).

During the DoD portion, service members go through three different classes:

Resilient Transition- The differences that can be expected when going from the military to the civilian world

Military Crosswalk- A look at how the skills acquired through military service can translate to the civilian workplace and how they can be used in applying for jobs, resumes and interviewing.

Financial Planning- A comparison of civilian salaries and military pay, the change in taxes, and how transitioning can impact finances.

During the VA portion, representatives discuss the benefits available through the VA and how to apply for them.

The DoL portion is an employment workshop that uses a military operational approach to planning employment, with discussions that range from gathering intelligence to identifying resources to plan development to timelines.

Around the 90-day mark from separation, service members are evaluated as part of the Capstone portion to see if they are ready to transition or if they feel they need more assistance. The program is accessible online at the Joint Knowledge Online website at http://jko.jten.mil/courses/tap/TGPS%20Standalone%20Training/start.html.

Veteran’s Global War on Terror Memorial Moving Forward

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By Debbie Gregory.

It’s been a few years since former Army Aviation Officer Andrew Brennan began his quest to ensure veterans of the Global War on Terror have a memorial in Washington, D.C.

But, finally, the Pittsburgh veteran’s effort to memorialize his comrades’ sacrifices is set to move forward.

The stumbling block has been the 1986 Commemorative Works Acts, which requires a war to be over for 10 years before a memorial can be built.

On August 3, 2017, the Senate cleared the way for the Global War on Terrorism memorial, unanimously passing the first bill in recent history approving a national war memorial before the fighting is over. The bill cleared the House on July 28th.

For those who have fought in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001, the memorial will be a place to honor their dead and wounded, even as those numbers continue to climb.

“Ten years from the end of never … is always never,” Brennan said as he testified at a congressional hearing.

The bill now goes to the White House, where Brennan said staff have assured him it has the president’s support.

The next step is a detailed 24-step bureaucratic process that will include choosing a site, which could take two years; selecting a design through competition, which could take up to three years; and constructing the memorial.

The memorial will include six themes: endurance, sacrifice, all-volunteer, global, multicultural and unfinished.

The foundation has raised about $300,000 so far, but it is estimated the project will run $40 to $50 million to staff, plan, design and construct the project. Brennan said he expects the memorial to be built by 2024.

“This memorial will be wholly dedicated to our 7,000 brothers and sisters who deployed with us but did not return, and their survivors,” Brennan said. “It is dedicated to the 1 million wounded warriors who are reclaiming their lives back here at home. It is for the soldiers, airmen, sailors and Marines who struggle in their transition from combat deployments.”

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.