Saturday, April 07, 2012

Veteran's preference, Oh my! so many responses

I thank everyone for their thoughtful responses.  There are many facets to this discussion, and I guess I tend to look at the argument through my old Navy-issue spectacles.


Here's what I've come away from this discussion with:


a. There is an unfortunate confusion regarding the nature of military service vis-a-vis public service.


b. The phrase "Thank you for your service" may be kind of pro forma these days.


I'll give the last word to Jerry Desko who's comment proves that brevity is, indeed the soul of wit: 


Veteran preference in federal civil service is good. What's the problem?


Thanks all!
Mannie


                                (hey! that's me, bottom row center)



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25 comments:

Jim Rosebrock said...

I respect the hard work, study, and effort made by many students. But while they worked hard at home, others put their own careers and college on hold to serve our nation, and to put themselves in harms way. Veterans are not getting a hand out here. They bring a maturity, level-headedness, experience and world view to the table perhaps not shared by their non-military colleagues. It is not a handout but a recognition of the experience that veterans bring. And what is wrong with our nation giving them a break in hiring. They are there for us. I think it is fair.

Anonymous said...

Veteran preference is a proven way to lowering hiring risk. These guys and gals often know how Gov't offices function.... warts and all. They are less delusioned by the sound of a perfect gov't job and begin producing immediately. Absolutely nothing wrong with honoring those who have voluntarily stepped forward to serve their country. This is a small way to appreciate their sacrifices.
Ron Dickey

Marianne, aka Ranger Anna said...

My folks were both vets. Mom was one of the first women to attend college on the GI Bill. It made all the difference to her, and hence to me.

Yes, I think qualified vets should get the bump. And there in lies the rub. Qualified. I have a nephew-in-law who is a young vet and would have no more business in my position than Bigfoot would. There some jobs for which he's qualified. I think there's a perception that guys like my n-i-l are getting positions for which they are not qualified. But on a level playing field, if a vet has the same level of experience and education that I do, she should have my job.

One of our young trail crew workers asked Secretary Salazar that question at a session with YNP staff last summer. Without hesitation, Sec. S. told the story of a family friend who served overseas tours of duty and was unable to find work in his field. He had education and experience and was still unable to find meaningful work.

I think the qualifier in the future might be related to combat duty stations, but I've no idea how that would look.

In the mean time, I'm telling every young person who asks me about becoming a ranger to join the Coast Guard, see the world, work in a position that has transferable skills. It's only four years and you'll spend at least that long dinking in seasonal positions anyway. Might as well serve your country actively while you hone your rangering skills. Actually, I'm telling all young adults to serve.

Nathan King said...

I got a permanent job without veteran's preference but I can understand the impatience and frustration. The problem isn't veterans but the hiring practices of the agency that make few avenues for advancement.

Anonymous said...

A couple of points/observations:
1."others put their own careers and college on hold to serve our nation" While that may be true, the country hasn't asked its citizens to serve in the military since 1973. Somehow, that doesn't compute with me. You VOLUNTEER to join the military, either because you want to, or because of the opportunities it offers.
2. I have a medical condition that basically prohibits me from serving in the military. So, what about me? How is that fair? Sorry that god had other plans for me. Is that your best answer? I could never serve in the military, yet I love serving my country. Being a park ranger is a way I can serve my country. Why make it harder for me to serve?
3. How come military service is rewarded with continued government employment? If the government is (or at least tries to be) a meritocracy, then why not hire the best man for the job? To me, this is the best argument for no veteran benefit. If veterans bring "maturity, level-headedness, relevant experience, and a unique world view to the table," naturally it seems that they would rise to the top? Giving them a cheat code just seems to lessen their service.

Finally, I think a lot of disgust comes from the fact that while a veteran may be "qualified" for the job, it appears to many non-veterans, that many veterans in particular, view the job as a paycheck, and not a calling or passion. I think what would really help out in this whole debate is to run some numbers. IT can't be that hard to find federal hiring statistics. How about percentage of veteran hires out of total hires in the NPS. That would go a long way in defining the problem, if there is one, or if it is merely a delusion.

Anonymous said...

Veterans do deserve some extra considerations in hiring because they have earned it by their service to the country. Unfortunately in my late teens early twenties, the age at which I might have been enlisted, I can down with chronic colitis trouble that would have kept me out of the military. I've been a NPS ranger now for over 28 years not counting several years as a seasonal. In my entire permanent statis career I've never landed a position in any of the parks I really wanted to work at and I've been stuck at a site I never even actually applied for now for over 24 years. I've applied over 120 times for transfer and came close about five times to realizing my career goal of working at a Civil War site only to be beat out of competion by either minorites or veterans in most cases. I would have quit my permanent job and gone back to being a seasonal just to get a chance at being at a Civil War site, but I've got a family to support, so my current job is just a means of earning a living to me. I don't hold a grudge against anyone for my predictiment, but I wonder where I'd be now if only I had not gotten ill and have served my time in the military.

Jared Frederick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I dont have a problem with Vets Pref in concept, but I do not understand, particularly when it comes to Interpretation how a Vet with no prior study in History, Public History, etc can beat out someone that is a highly trained in those areas, I know of a Ph.D who had several years as a seasonal under his belt that didnt make the cert that was dominated by Vets with no prior experience. I think it should be the tie breaker among QUALIFIED persons, but not the automatic tool for hiring that it is now. I have seen good folks hired for Vets Pref and some terrible ones. I think that at the very least a Vet should have some training in history, public history, etc if they are being hired to work at a historic site.

Michael aubrecht said...

I've seen the benefits on the operational side of our agency and the exact opposite on the administrative side. Too many good contractors who have years doing the job getting bumped by unqualified twenty something vets with no practical work experience. I work in Ops and of course vets have the skills that you don't get anywhere in the private sector but I started in admin surrounded by incompetent vets who only got the job because the came from the military. IMO its a self defeating system that has made the govt. Sector weaker.

Anonymous said...

@Paul,
RE: "What have you done to earn your citizenship?" Well, I was born in the United States, and I am a law-abiding person. Last time I checked, that was all that was required of me. The right to live here was given to me by nobody else except my mother and father. I'm reminded of a quote from James Baldwin: "I love America more than any other country in the world and, exactly for this reason, I insist on the right to criticize her perpetually."

The truth is, it takes every citizen in this country to make it what it is. Veterans aren't the only ones who make sacrifices for their country. What about the teacher in the inner-city school room, the journalist who demands accountability, the firefighter who runs into the burning building, and the protester who demands social justice? Are they not sacrificing for their country? I don't see them demanding a boost when it comes to federal employment. I don't denigrate those who serve their country in other ways besides the military. BTW, I especially like the spoiled child comment - you are really showing the maturity and level-headedness that veterans are know for...

Anonymous said...

I think a lot of college students and non-military really, really don't understand what a veteran had to do to get that five or ten point hiring preference. I hear them say they do. It’s an easy thing to say, but unless you’ve done it; you really don’t know and you NEVER will know.
Even if you never serve in a combat zone, you are up against a lot of things the average American never faces. Your work day begins at 6AM, (sometimes 6:30 depending on the installation), and you’d better not be late. It may end at 4 or 5PM, but often doesn’t. You may get stuck in a duty position you never enlisted for, doing a job you hate but can’t get out of it. Depending on your pay grade you may not be able to afford a place of your own off post. If you are single, you will live in the barracks (whether you want to or not) with a roommate(s) not of your choice and where you will be allotted 66 cubic feet of living space. (I once heard of a company that had six soldiers living in a room designed for two.) If you are married, you will be living in a place of your own off post but will quickly find that your housing allowance does not really cover most of your rent. In fact, you may need food stamps to get by. You can apply for post housing, and maybe in nine months you’ll get a place on post. That has its own problems. You’ll be told when you have to mow your yard and if you put a 75 watt bulb in your porch light most likely the MPs will unscrew the bulb, confiscate it, and report you to your local on-post “mayor” and your first sergeant.
You are moving constantly, often to places you never consider moving to. You never really have a home. (You might buy a house, but you will only live in it for a few years. Later, when you get orders for somewhere else, you may be stuck with that house for years before you can sell it.) You may live in a town, but you don't get to vote in local elections. You don't really have a state legislator, a governor, or a congressman. You make friends for one or two, maybe three years and then you never see them again. Your kids will have probably gone to five or more schools, all in different places, before they graduate. If you have a spouse, he or she will probably be working in a minimum wage job (for years) even if they have an advanced degree. Before online learning became available, you might have attended five or more colleges and universities and gone to school for a decade or more before you received a degree; if you ever did. During all of this, your unit is in the “field”, living in a tent or vehicle or a hole in the ground, in the rain, cold, heat, mud, and dirt, sometimes for up to three weeks at a time. Or you are on temporary duty somewhere away from your family maybe for only a night or two, but sometimes longer. Every couple of years you will be sent to a training course anywhere from two to twelve weeks. All of these absences wreak havoc on your family. It also makes getting a civilian education difficult, because then you have to withdraw from a course you've already invested several weeks in.

Anonymous said...

continued...
If you do stay in for at least twenty years, you've probably been divorced at least once. (It's almost seems to be a requirement to be divorced at least twice in order to make E-8. Three times for sergeant-major.) Then you deploy or get an assignment to Korea. You are gone from your family for a year. It’s worse if you are a dual military couple because that means you have to find somebody, hopefully a relative, who is willing to look after your kids (and your pets) for a year while you are off in some place you definitely don’t want to be in. Your kids are traumatized and so are you. Most of your belongings, (including your car), are placed in storage. Wonder what they will be like when you get them back? If you are in a combat zone, you are working twelve-to-sixteen hour days, seven days a week without a day off for most of the time you are deployed. When you aren’t working, you can’t get a beer, because alcohol is not authorized in a combat zone. Going outside the perimeter to a nice restaurant isn’t going to happen either because there are people shooting on the other side of the wall where you live. There are not many opportunities to be by alone just to collect your thoughts and try to process everything going on around you. You live for the opportunity to call the people back home. But they know where you are and you are aware of how worried they are and how hard things are back home, so maybe a phone isn’t so great. I had a soldier who kept calling home and nobody ever picked up the phone. I knew another soldier who told me he had to kill a twelve year old kid. The kid was pointing an AK-47 at him. A soldier I worked with was mortally wounded by a mortar round while playing basketball. These are the great things you get to experience to earn your five point veteran preference.
If you are living in an actual building, the water and electricity maybe off for days and even weeks at a time. You miss flush toilets and hot water. You are eating sub-standard food and have sub-standard living conditions. And just because you are not in a combat arms occupation specialty, doesn’t mean you won’t get shot at. (It might lessen the chances, although a truck driver probably has a greater chance of being shot at than a field artilleryman, and maybe even an infantryman.) Even if you never get shot at, your life is changed forever and you can never, ever go back to the way it was.

Michael Aubrecht said...

I did want to add that qualified vets should have some consideration. It has just been my experience after working in the Govt. sector for years that qualified folks are not certing due to vet preference and far too many of these new-hires are not remotely qualified. I know of multiple examples when people who actually did jobs for years did not cert for them when they were re-posted as FTE positions.

Anonymous said...

continued...
Is it fair to the recent college graduate that there is such a thing as veterans’ preference? NO. Is it fair that the veteran got that five or ten point preference. YES, in fact they had to work very hard for just that little bit of consideration. Unfortunately for most of us, life isn’t fair. I see many talented young people working in the NPS. I wish them all the best. I wish they could get the jobs they wanted, but for the most part that is not going to happen. The best you can do is keep plugging away, doing your best, and be prepared for when opportunities, (even outside the NPS), that come your way. There will be some opportunities unfortunately you will miss for reasons that are often beyond your control and some you’ll never even get the chance to get your foot anywhere near the door. Let it go. Sometimes a missed opportunity is good because it leads you to things you wouldn’t have done or to something even better. I’m in my fifties and I’m working at an entry-level position at the park of my choice. I’ve moved eighteen times in twenty-six years. I can’t really move again and if I did, at my age, there is very little chance I would be able to come back here. I’ve accepted that. I’m here and I’m staying here. I’m trying to do the things I need to do to move forward. That opportunity is probably at least five years way. Then again it may never come. Even if it does come, maybe what I’m doing won’t be good enough. All I can do, (and all you can do), is prepare and hope for the best. I know that’s not encouraging, but that is the way it is. Good luck to you all.

P.S. Sorry for the really long post.

Anonymous Non-vet said...

To Anonymous (assumed) soldier...

The problem with the sob-story of moving and moving and being stuck for the length of enlistment is the simple fact that today's army is not compulsory. If you walk into a recruiting office at 18 and sign those papers, you volunteered for that life, with full knowledge of the implications. If someone walks in not understanding it, that's their bad mistake.

It's a job. It's a job with admittedly very bad circumstances and poor pay for the work, but it's a job you apply for, are trained for and get paid for.

It is telling that many of the responses here are Anonymous. This topic is a third rail. With so many old-timers in the NPS who got their positions because of veteran's pref, anyone speaking against it is blacklisted or denigrated.

Marianne brought up the right word: qualified. You match experience level as written on another applicant's resume, you get the job. Anything below that, the Gov't is hiring the wrong people for civilian employment. Toting a gun is not qualification for talking to people at parks. Show that skill on a resume then we'll talk.

Jerry Desko said...

Veteran preference in federal civil service is good. What's the problem?

Gloria said...

If veterans preference means we get rangers like Mannie Gentile, I am all for it! In all seriousness, I fully support veterans preference because regardless whether a someone signed voluntarily for the military or not, putting your life on the line for your country surely deserves more rewards than what the veterans receive today. Above all, I have yet to come across a veteran park ranger at any park who has disappointed me. My husband is trying to join the NPS and I am sure he will face the same issue being a non-veteran. But we are still wholeheartedly for veterans' preference!
Aradhna Pillai
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

I was never in the service,but think vets should get 1st dibs on everything.Disabled vets should should be taken better care of too.These men gave their bodies and many times their lives, so we can enjoy the freedoms we have.I could never get mad at a vet getting a job before me.Nice naval pic Mannie. Mike

Anonymous said...

Mannie,
Back to the regularly scheduled programing.

Anonymous said...

I, however, disagree with veterans preference. I've spent 10 years in school now to make myself the best candidate for the career I am seeking. I've also spent 4 years now in low wage positions that are giving me experience in the field. The sad part is I'm being denied employment because of veterans preference. I don't feel that it is right to hire someone who may or may not have the same qualifications as I do just because they spent a few years in the military. I do appreciate their service, but how many years am I going to be denied a job because of it. This is one of many responses I've gotten.

"We have reviewed your application and found you qualified for the position listed above. However, your name was not referred to the
agency because there were enough veteran's preference candidates that must be referred ahead of non-preference candidates."

I get these letters all the time.
Frustrated

Anonymous said...

I am a non-eligible veteran and I have been unable to land a federal job because I was beaten by an eligible veteran. I have a M.A. and two and a half years of experience and I have been beaten by veterans with a B.A. and no experience. Explain how I can get a fair shot if EO13518 doesn't allow for fair competition based on the govt. points based system?

Anonymous said...

Having applied to many usajobs in the past two months, and having talked at length with their hiring managers, I have to agree with the general consensus of people finding this 5-point preference unfair. While I might understand a system in which, all things being equal, the veteran is hired, that is NOT the case here. Instead, a federal HR person first looks at the standard usajobs questionnaire applicants fill outm and if there are so many veteran apps, the hiring manager doesn't even look at the non-vet applicants (let alone review CVs/resumes). So, this means that a non-vet with 0 skills or educational achievements could move into the "highly qualified" category, while a non-vet with 5 years of relevant job experience and award-winning grades in graduate level studies gets a notice that he/she is not among too scoring applicants. Many fed HR staff have actually complained about this: before reviewing CV skills and superior qualities, he/she must exclude the more qualified applicants solely because of their non-veteran status. This is not only a poor plan when it comes to hiring the most fit candidates, but it is also detrimental to vets, who will be put in a situation where they are unqualified and where their colleagues see them as a forced hire.

Anonymous said...

I've been a National Park Service ranger for the past 9 years. My thoughts on Veterans preference is that it's good... and it can be very very bad. I've read alot of comments and blogs about the subject matter because it does pertain to me and my daily work environment. You can take my thoughts or disregard them, makes no difference in the matter... But the truth is that the only thing I'm certain of is that there is far too much certainty in the world. I'm very certain of that.

Any biased opinion about vets being a positive for government agency has just as many negatives. My personal experience of working for Vets in the park service has been mostly negative. I've worked with a vet that while giving "Ranger Talks" to the general public thought it was humorous to reference necrophylia in front of families. I've worked with a vet woman who hated being outside... Didn't like being in a natural setting (bugs, weather, dirt, the environment, etc.) and hated talking to the general public (both are requirements for the job). I've worked with a Vet that didn't do any of the tasks that was assigned to him and literally went to sleep while at work, he knew he wouldn't get fired and therefore slept his cares away. I've also worked with a vet... Well, the list goes on and you get the idea. The point is this. People are people, and while vets did decide not to pursue college but instead to get a job with the military... Sometimes that doesn't mean they are the "perfect" candidates for a job with the NPS. Sometimes the military attracts people that shouldn't be in a business where they deal with the general public on a daily basis. I've had to handle numerous complaint forms by the general public conerning these vets.

Does this make me against vet preference? No. While this does make me not fully support or sing the praises of every vet labeling them as hard workers, qualified, or experienced in the work place; it doesn't make me biased against them. I've work with two vets that we quickly became the closest of friends. Both loved the environment of the National Parks and did their duties and responsibilities to an exceptional level - I put both of their names in the "pot" for receiving accomodating awards and one of them received the award with a grateful and compassionate smile. They DESERVED the opportunities they received.

So, reading these comments about whats fair/unfair, whether vets are better suited for the job versus non-military personal and vice versa... Something that I think most people fail to see is the grey area. People are people. Some are lazy. Some are hardworking. Vet Pref. isn't a "proven" way of lowering hiring risk. Some Vets just want a paycheck and are cashing it in. The military doesn't make every person an exceptional individual but there are exceptional individuals in the military. There are also exceptional individuals outside of the military. Just keep the grey area in mind and try not to comment with sole certainty when discussing issues like Vet. Pref. It's a good program and opportunity for some individuals - but there are always going to be people taking advantage of the system no matter what uniform they wear.

Anonymous said...

I love our vets, but our country has forgotten and could care less about the rest of us who worked are butts off our whole lives to make this country what it is today. You don't have to be a vet to love your country, but if you want to work in a national parks you have to be a vet now. Why don't they just come out and say it. I have been applying for a national park jobs for 3 years now. I'm a 30 year journeyman electrician with a degree as well and cant even get an interview for a freaking maintenance job. They either cancel the posting or send me some garbage about not being qualified, or vet preference. Actually 1.5 years ago I called the number on the posting and got a hold of the hiring supervisor. He told me that i was the highest qualified by far, and apologized to me for 20 minutes, telling me that a new rule came down giving vets preference over all jobs, and if he hired anyone other than a vet, he would be looking for another job. That's about as pleasant as i can make this comment.

Kevin O'Connell Fine Art said...

I wrote anonymously a while back about applying for the past 3 years with no interviews. Well I finally got my first interview to work in a beautiful Alaska National Park. The interview was almost two hours long and the hiring supervisor was professional, intelligent, and a well rounded business man. We hit it off very well because of my background and experience. He told me not to take this as your hired, but to be expecting a call back in a week with the next step. He also told me the start date, and asked if that was okay. Three days later he called me to say he hired me and went into human resources to give them his decision. Human resources checked his paper work and said no, you can't hire this person because their resume is to short. He argued with the person to no avail. He was so angry when he called me and told me the guy they wanted him to hire had an 18 page resume. He said anyone that has to put that much information in a resume, doesn't have a clue, and I agreed. Maybe this person applied for the job there before and knew what to expect.
This had nothing to do with loosing a job to a less qualified person or a vet, but has to do with the incompetence of our government.
I did not mention above that while off work two years ago, I went to a resume class at a local college to make myself more marketable, and my brother in law who does hiring at a huge corporation asked if he could tweek my resume 6 months ago.