Too many vets spoil the soup?

The Department of Veterans Affairs, the third largest federal agency, is one of the top employers of veterans. About 32 of every 100 VA employees are military veterans. And while it makes sense that an organization that serves veterans is largely staffed with vets, some people think that may be one of the reasons the VA “scandal”, like the weather, is a regular feature on the nightly news.

Not me. But some people.

When it comes to veterans, Defense and the Department of Transportation are the civilian agencies with the highest percentage of employees who are military vets. Overall, DoD’s workforce was almost 46 percent veterans in 2012, and that number is believed to be higher today thanks to the Obama administration’s push to hire more vets. The Air Force has the highest percentage of vets (56 percent) followed by Army (48 percent) and Navy (41 percent). Transportation’s workforce is almost 36 percent vets. That includes many air-traffic controllers who got their initial training while on military service.

Agencies with the lowest number of vets include the Environmental Protection Agency (8 percent), the Department of Education (9.7 percent), Agency for International Development (8.9 percent) and the National Science Foundation (7.6 percent).


Since World War II, there have been veterans-preference programs designed to make it somewhat easier for military vets to get certain federal jobs — and keep them during layoffs. At one point after the war, some low-level jobs were actually reserved for veterans.

Because of the government emphasis on hiring vets, people who work for the government are more likely to be, or work with, a veteran than folks at CBS News, the place where you bought your car or your local bank.

Since news of the VA scandal broke, lots of people, in politics, the media and government itself, have come up with reasons why cooked books and delayed treatment happened.

Some people blame the bonus system: Officials and employees falsifying records to make it appear they were giving speedy service when it wasn’t happening. Others say executives ordered employees to keep two sets of books. Two mirror-image politicians, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) are cosponsoring legislation that would make it much, much easier for the VA to fire career executives without existing, pesky, due- process procedures that can delay the process. The bill, similar to legislation in the House, has provisions to permit vets to seek care (paid by the government) from private doctors, and channels $500 million in unobligated VA funds to hire more doctors and nurses.

Although been-there-done-that veterans would seem to be a perfect match for the VA, some people think they may be part of the problem. For example, Monday’s column was about the difference between the way cover-ups and scandals are handled in government vs. the Detroit automakers. The latter “forgot” for several years to warn people they were driving potential death traps.

The column prompted a number of responses, which is always nice even if they aren’t always nice. One that caught our eye here said:

“As long as the VA continues to insist on hiring veterans instead of the best person for the job, they will continue to get sub-par results. While there are certainly veterans who can bring a wealth of experience and the necessary job skills, many are just veterans who are ill-equipped for the job they are hired for, especially many of the highly placed types who can’t lead outside the military model.”

Most who commented came to the defense of veterans preference hiring programs. As one said, “in a society where the vast majority of people don’t even know anyone in the military, these vets represent the best of us.”

Another commenter said that arguing against veterans-preference hiring programs is “the same as arguing against affirmative action hiring programs for women, minorities or the disabled. Should we ignore them and look for the ‘best’ qualified person?”



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