Why is any program needed to give Disabled Vets a chance to work for Congress?

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image18_400 Having been fortunate enough to be hired under the Veterans Preference Law (three times with three different federal agencies), yes folks there is a federal law that ALREADY covers this Wounded Warrior program why is the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) doing a photo-op with politicians who have been in violation of that law since John Kerry and John McCain were Lieutenants in Vietnam?

The concern we have with this is that it is yet another distraction from the real issues facing America’s Veterans. Instead of the DAV, VFW, American Legion, VVA, or whomever outrageously fighting to make Veterans Preference a reality instead of a joke, at least the DAV is doing this political photo-op that makes a mockery out of Veterans Preference laws that frankly are and have been a joke. Ask anyone hired under Veterans preference and they will tell you that (1) it is common practice [automatic] for the civil service to apply Veterans Preference when a Veteran applies for a federal job, and (2) a federal agency will only hire you if it wants to there are no guarantees.

     

All this special programs is telling us is that a Congressional Fellowship program controlled by Congress and select VSOs is going to give us a Veterans’ Preference-Veterans’ Preference in hiring. It’s smoke and mirrors. What any VSO with half their brains tied behind their back should be doing all along is asking the hard questions NOT courting the Speaker of the House (though that too has its political benefits for VSO leaders that’s all just our leadership). Our VSO leaders need to knock off the photo ops and start seriously pressuring Congress to honor and respect the Veterans preference laws already on the books.

BASIC QUESTION: Why haven’t members of Congress been recognizing Veterans Preference all along? Why do politicians want to make it appear as if Vets Preference is something NEW? We realize that Wounded Warrior, Inc (the efficient fund raising effort for younger Disabled Vets benefits, that the VSOs and VA benefit in controlling the program, but where exactly does the Disabled American Veteran benefit from being selectively chosen by VSOs to work for Congress when legally we don’t have to go through ANY VSO for Veterans Preference, and this program is in direct violation of federal codes by allowing VSOs to control access to it. There’s nothing in the long existing law allowing such control by a few Veterans over the many who are not members.

Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
GS-14, U.S. Civil Service-Retired
Veterans Advocacy Editor
VT News Network 

Program Gives Disabled Vets Chance to Work for Congress

By Joseph R. Chenelly

An extract:

Disabled veterans have long been affected by what goes on in Congress. Now wounded_warriorswith the House of Representatives’ Wound Warrior Program, veterans with at least a 30 percent disability rating have an opportunity to work on the staffs that drive the legislative process. The program was established to create two-year fellowships that provide employment opportunities for wounded or disabled veterans within congressional offices when job vacancies occur.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) leads a
press conference announcing the hiring of new
wounded warriors to work with members of Congress.

"The DAV applauds the House leadership for creating this program," said National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson. "This program benefits both veterans and lawmakers. Disabled veterans gain valuable insights into the inner workings of the democracy they fought to defend. At the same time, elected officials experience of disabled veterans as capable workers and gain better understanding of the issues they confront as result of their disabilities." The program was put together at the direction of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and Committee on House Administration Chairman Robert Brady (D-Pa.).

In a letter ordering the program to be developed, the trio of lawmakers wrote, "From our visits with our wounded military over the past several years, we are well aware that these service men and women possess a wide range of valuable skills and experiences, as well as enthusiasm for hard work, which would be enormously valuable to any employer."

Applicants must be veterans of Operation Enduring Freedom or Operation Iraqi Freedom and must have a 30 percent or greater service-connected disability rating from either a military Physical Evaluation Board or the VA. The veterans must also be honorably discharged and posses a high school diploma or GED certificate. Positions are available in member, committee and leadership offices in Washington and in district offices nationwide. If a fellowship is located within a Representative’s district, the appointment is contingent on the elected official’s continuous representation of that district.

Wherever possible, those selected for the program will be given the opportunity to transition into full-time employment, but employment is not guaranteed at the conclusion of the two years. [In other words these are in common civil service lingo Temporary Hires] Salaries will vary from job to job, depending on the duties and recommendations from the office or Congressional Member that has hired the wounded warrior. There is no reimbursement for relocation expenses.

Applicants must be referred to the program by a veteran’s service organization recognized by the Department of Veterans Affairs, the VA itself, or the veteran’s branch of service. To apply for a referral from the DAV, contact the National Service Office closest to where you live.

This is the part of the program that WE at VT believe is in violation of standing federal codes on Veterans Preference, and why it is that mainstream VSOs are not speaking out on beefing up the existing Vets Preference laws instead of trying to control access to any special program. It is not the Wounded Warrior program that we question, but how it is controlled and who determines access. In a word Bullshit! Frankly, knowledge of the Vets preference laws and system is power despite it being a JOKE!!!

DAV MAGAZINE JULY/AUGUST 2009 PAGE 32

veterans_pref

WHAT DOES THE LAW ON VETERANS PREFERENCE "ALREADY" SAY IN PLAIN ENGLISH?

      In order to explain this in such a way that someone like me with a high school GED can understand is to get the legal bullcrap out of the way first. Readers you see as I said it is not the Wounded Warrior Vets Preference program that we question but the fact that the rules of engagement reflect not only how much the mainstream VSOs take Vet Preference (VP) overall serious – there are reasons why VP is a JOKE and to get at those reasons WE the collective Veteran community regardless if we are members of a VSO or not must encourage our leadership of VSO and challenge them to provide us the rank and file, but especially all American Veterans who want to work with a status report on achievements our and your VSO has made in the past decade or so getting the federal government, and yes the Congress is part of the federal government hiring practice outside of elected officials.

     Staff members on Congressional staffs ARE NOT elected officials, but according to programs like this they are selected, and that brings into question improper personnel hiring practices that need to be examined by the Office of Special Council. However, than is not going to fly because who polices members of Congress? WE THE PEOPLE DO!

     Though I may be wrong, God pray let me be wrong, I don’t seriously think that Congressional representative have intentionally NOT hired Veterans, we simply believe this program is a prime example of just how IGNORANT of laws and federal codes regarding VP members of Congress and whomever on their staff responsible for hiring is. Well knowledge is power, and we are going to try providing you the knowledge on how to apply for federal employment including positions that open up on a Congressional staff at local or national level without having to go through a VSO.

      First step is finding out where and when there are vacancies on a Congressional staff, what the job description is, and make sure if you want to work for a politician that you know the rules and regulations government civil service employees like you know who the President, various house and senate leaders are. If you don’t know who these people are, we don’t advise seeking employment with them. Point: you need to know a little something about political science even having a degree would be helpful but not necessary. Now OK that’s common sense, but who in Congress has common sense? When sense doesn’t work, you need to know the law!!!

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      In legalize intended to confuse us Vets who want to apply using VP, the law is called TITLE 5, PART III, Subpart A, CHAPTER 21 of Federal Code § 2108. For those of us with a GED the law is simply called Preference Eligible Disabled Veterans, and that law folks has been around a lot longer than either Nancy Pelosi or DAV National Adjutant Arthur H. Wilson give it credit for. Again, why is the DAV not questioning the fact that Congress has ignored and possibly violated this law in hiring practices since Vietnam [when Vets were determined to be among the discriminated against minorities]. Representative Pelosi can almost be excused for her ignorance of the law, but we refuse to believe that Arthur H. Wilson doesn’t know what Veterans Preference is?

How Current is This law? The most recent Classification Table update to VP law we have noticed was Tuesday, March 3, 2009. Point: this law has been in effect since at least the Korean War and still is!!!

Definitions of What is:

(1) "Veteran" means an individual who-

(A) Served on active duty in the armed forces during a war, in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, or during the period beginning April 28, 1952, and ending July 1, 1955; (You qualify for VP)

(B) Served on active duty at any time in the armed forces for a period of more than 180 consecutive days any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976, not including enlistment in the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard or as a Reserve for service in the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, or Coast Guard Reserve; (section B really means Vietnam Era Veterans qualify for VP)

(C) Served on active duty in the armed forces during the period beginning on August 2, 1990, and ending on January 2, 1992; or (Persian Gulf War Vets qualify for VP)

(D) Served on active duty at any time in the armed forces for a period of more than 180 consecutive days any part of which occurred during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last date of Operation Iraqi Freedom; and who has been discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions; (this means that all Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans qualify for Veterans Preference and do not need Wounded Warrior control to get it)

(2)More to the point: "disabled veteran" means an individual who has served on active duty in the armed forces, has been separated there from under honorable conditions, and has established the present existence of a service-connected disability or is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension because of a public statute administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or a military department;

(3) "Preference eligible" (VP) means, except as provided in paragraph (4) of this section-

(A) A veteran as defined above; or

(C) A disabled veteran;

However there are others who also qualify for VP:

(D) The unmarried widow or widower of a Veteran.

(E) The wife or husband of a service-connected disabled veteran if the veteran has been unable to qualify for any appointment in the civil service or in the government of the District of Columbia;

(F) The mother of an individual who lost his life under honorable conditions while serving in the armed forces during a period named above IF.

(i) Her husband is totally and permanently disabled;

(ii) She is widowed, divorced, or separated from the father and has not remarried; or

(iii) She has remarried but is widowed, divorced, or legally separated from her husband when preference is claimed; and

(G) The mother of a service-connected permanently and totally disabled veteran, if-

(i) Her husband is totally and permanently disabled;

(ii) She is widowed, divorced, or separated from the father and has not remarried; or

(iii) She has remarried but is widowed, divorced, or legally separated from her husband when preference is claimed;

      The only exceptions where this does not apply are federal agencies that have special hiring criteria or require security clearance above Secret: this would be the Senior Executive Service (SES) those federal employees at the highest level usually equivalent to a General or Flag military officer, the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service of DIA, the Senior Cryptologic Executive Service of NSA, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) Senior Executive Service;

[Nowhere is Congressional staff listed though there may be positions within a staff that require special hiring criteria based on the committee the Congress person sits on].

There are also squirrely exceptions for Military Retirees like me:


(4) "Preference eligible" does not include a retired member of the armed forces unless-

(A) the individual is a disabled veteran (using the same 30% rating criteria that Nancy Pelosi is trying to appear as if it is something NEW???); or

(B) The individual retired below the rank of Major or its equivalent; and (that means Major and below. Major Hanafin)

(5) "Retired member of the armed forces" means a member or former member of the armed forces who is entitled, under statute, to retired, retirement, or retainer pay on account of service as a member.

Lastly this lack of basic knowledge that the collective we need to be teaching Congress NOT having photo-ops with Disable Veterans is so important to America’s Veterans during economic hard times that we intend posting a series of article that teach YOU the Veterans, disable or not, how to apply for federal employment, including Congressional jobs without having to go through a VSO.

Robert L. Hanafin
Major, U.S. Air Force-Retired
Veterans Advocacy Editor
VT News Network
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Readers are more than welcome to use the articles I've posted on Veterans Today, I've had to take a break from VT as Veterans Issues and Peace Activism Editor and staff writer due to personal medical reasons in our military family that take away too much time needed to properly express future stories or respond to readers in a timely manner. My association with VT since its founding in 2004 has been a very rewarding experience for me. Retired from both the Air Force and Civil Service. Went in the regular Army at 17 during Vietnam (1968), stayed in the Army Reserve to complete my eight year commitment in 1976. Served in Air Defense Artillery, and a Mechanized Infantry Division (4MID) at Fort Carson, Co. Used the GI Bill to go to college, worked full time at the VA, and non-scholarship Air Force 2-Year ROTC program for prior service military. Commissioned in the Air Force in 1977. Served as a Military Intelligence Officer from 1977 to 1994. Upon retirement I entered retail drugstore management training with Safeway Drugs Stores in California. Retail Sales Management was not my cup of tea, so I applied my former U.S. Civil Service status with the VA to get my foot in the door at the Justice Department, and later Department of the Navy retiring with disability from the Civil Service in 2000. I've been with Veterans Today since the site originated. I'm now on the Editorial Board. I was also on the Editorial Board of Our Troops News Ladder another progressive leaning Veterans and Military Family news clearing house. I remain married for over 45 years. I am both a Vietnam Era and Gulf War Veteran. I served on Okinawa and Fort Carson, Colorado during Vietnam and in the Office of the Air Force Inspector General at Norton AFB, CA during Desert Storm. I retired from the Air Force in 1994 having worked on the Air Staff and Defense Intelligence Agency at the Pentagon.