Federal Protections for Veterans

In 1974, Congress passed the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA). Although “veteran status” is often omitted from lists of protected populations because it falls outside the most prominent legislation,like Title IX or the Civil Rights act of 1964, VEVRAA provides equivalent federal nondiscrimination protections to veterans.

March 14, 2014 was the most recent effective date for revisions to VEVRAA, which streamlined and consolidated protections for certain vets. It’s important to note that not all veterans are protected under VEVRAA, however. The following list was pulled from Duke University’s Office of Institutional Equity info page because it provides greater detail than the lists I’ve found elsewhere. Protected veterans are as follows;

  • Disabled Veteran: A veteran who served on active duty in the U.S. military ground, naval, or air service and (1) who was discharged or released from active duty because of a service-connected disability, or (2) who is entitled to compensation (or who but for the receipt of military retired pay would be entitled to compensation) for certain disabilities under laws administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Recently Separated Veteran: A veteran during the three-year period beginning on the date of such veteran’s discharge or release from active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service.
  • Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran: Someone who served on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service during a war, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized under the laws administered by the Department of Defense.
  • Armed Forces Service Medal Veteran: Any veteran who, while serving on active duty in the U.S. military, ground, naval or air service, participated in a United States military operation for which an Armed Forces service medal was awarded pursuant to Executive Order 12985 (61 FR 1209) (an operation in which the participants encountered no foreign armed opposition or imminent hostile action.)

Only state and federal entities are formally subject to VEVRAA, but all parties receiving $100,000 or more in government funds are considered contractors and also fall under its jurisdiction. There are two types of contractors;

  • Prime contractors bid on and win contracts directly from government agencies. After award, the prime contractor company is the entity that is legally responsible for all aspects of fulfilling the contract
  • Subcontractors join prime contractors’ teams, usually to provide a specific capability or product.

The Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) oversees implementation and enforcement of VEVRAA. Responsibilities of contractors are listed in detail on their info page and include inviting all job applicants to self-identify as protected veterans, reporting information on how many protected veterans are employed with them, how many new hires have self-identified as protected veterans in the preceding year, and other responsibilities.

This data is collected in order to analyze whether a contractor has met their “hiring benchmark.” Hiring benchmarks measure the proportion of veterans employed by a contractor compared to the wider civilian workforce. The DoL has established just under seven percent (6.9%) as the national average of veterans in the civilian workforce. Contractors can adopt this benchmark or calculate their own, as long as they provide evidence and rationale for their selected method.

This benchmark is important because it helps contractors see if their workplace is deterring veterans from applying, discriminating against veterans in the hiring process, or failing to retain veterans once they are employed. If any of these are occurring, the employer has some sort of bias or discrimination to correct in order to be a more open and diverse workplace. Contractors subject to VEVRAA are required to report this information and address shortcomings through prescribed interventions.  Hiring and employment data is collected and reported in a Federal Contractor Veterans’ Employment Report, or “VETS 4212” for short. Every contractor is required to submit this data annually in a VETS 4212 form.

How does this shake out in the real world?

Check back later for a post exploring how veteran protections are applied and measured in a real world scenario.

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