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Advocacy group urges affirmative action for veterans

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One of the country’s foremost veterans groups is encouraging legislators to make veterans a protected class and candidates for affirmative action.

“All we are asking, basically, is for the [Federal Equal Employment] Law to be extended to say the two words ‘and veterans.’ It doesn’t have to be a big 3,000-page bill,” Stewart Hickey, executive director of AMVETS, told The Daily Caller. “All they have to do is add the words ‘and veterans’ to all those other protected classes.”

Under his plan, first reported by the Marine Corps Times, the laws prohibiting discrimination on the basis of race, gender, religion, disability and sexual orientation, would include veterans.

AMVETS have been meeting with legislators to propose legislation to that effect.

There are already laws to protect veterans, but, Hickey said, they are narrowly defined and compartmentalized. For example, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act currently protects veterans from losing or failing to get a job due to past, present or future deployments, and protects veterans with disabilities from discrimination.

AMVETS’ vision is for a more comprehensive protection.

Hickey explained that adding veterans to the list of those who qualify for affirmative action could help to alleviate unemployment problems for men and women returning from war.

“If there is any group in the United States of America that deserves to be at the head of the line, it is the veteran,” he said, noting that there are remnants of a stigma from media saturation of stories about PTSD and difficulties reacclimating to civilian life.

“We’re not trying to make quotas, or say somebody who is not qualified for a job should be hired on the basis that he is a veteran — what we are saying is all things being equal, the veteran should have preference,” Hickey said.

Just adding “veterans” to the list of those the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission protects, he said, would make employers more aware of the need to hire veterans.

“I think if the Congress passed this — like I said, simple law, adding the words ‘and veterans’ — it would be an inexpensive way to help veterans with employment,” he said, adding, “I think if this is passed, it would do for veterans employment with the GI Bill did for education for veterans. I think it would be that significant.”

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