If you were to sit down and read the federal laws protecting the employment rights of veterans and providing preferences for their hiring, you might guess that a former service member is almost guaranteed to be selected for a federal job. Having five or ten points added to your score can make a real difference in whether or not you make the cut-off for interviews.

Unfortunately, at other times the experience is quite to the contrary, as in this real life example.

An agency hired a non-vet candidate over a disabled vet without complying with the rules for seeking OPM permission to bypass the vet and the opportunity for the vet to challenge the proposed bypass. When the veteran complained, the agency cancelled the selection of the non-vet and brought the  vet in for an interview. The agency decided it did not want to hire the vet, but HR told management that OPM would turn down a bypass because the vet did in fact meet the qualifications for the position.

So management cancelled the vacancy, then reposted the job at a higher grade, and hired someone else.

The vet complained this was a violation, but the Department of Labor said no, that it was because of a bad interview. DOL found that an interview was provided, so the vet did get consideration as intended by the law.

The vet then pursued a claim of disability discrimination, which the agency won because the court found the vet was not hired because of interviewing poorly. The fact that the description of how the interview went reflected negative stereotypes about the disabled that could not be aligned with the vet’s actual personality did  not persuade the court otherwise.

Laws are only meaningful to the extent they are enforced by investigative agencies and the courts. But even where a vet might otherwise prevail, he or she cannot do so without knowing what protections are available. A just released report from the Merit Systems Protection Board helps in that regard: Veteran Hiring in the Civil Service: Practices and Perceptions.

Here’s hoping claims of being grateful for the service of veterans is someday matched by full enforcement of laws protecting their employment rights. In the meantime, our firm is available to make sure you can maximize the benefits of your military service when it comes to federal employment. Among other things, that may mean enforcing your rights not to be bypassed without a chance to respond or not being punished for having been on military leave.