Virtually the only jobs explicitly reserved for veterans at the Department of Veterans Affairs are toilet-cleaning “housekeeping aides,” a Daily Caller News Foundation analysis of data from USAjobs.gov found.
Filling the janitorial jobs with veterans helps the VA meet its hiring goals without intruding on a lucrative union giveaway that favors current government employees over everyone else for the majority of open positions.
The VA is currently advertising for 3,000 positions, some seeking multiple people each. Only about 50 job ads, seeking an estimated few hundred workers, are accepting applications exclusively from veterans. And of those, all but a handful would have a returning hero trade a rifle for a mop and $13 an hour. At the same time, more than a thousand vacancies, many with no highly specialized skills required, were being advertised as open only to current civil servants.
Housekeeper is also the most frequent job being advertised for, so it goes a long way to helping the department pump up its numbers with vets. Meanwhile, job postings that are often better paid and less dirty but have similarly low educational requirements, like “motor vehicle operator,” $67,000 secretary, and $40,000 supply clerk, are for current union members.
Motor vehicle operators can make twice as much as housekeeping aides, whose job description includes (for $11 an hour) “Collecting trash and waste materials,” “Cleaning bathroom areas,” and “Changing cubicle curtains on a scheduled basis.”
TheDCNF compiled a database of all the Veterans Affairs job ads currently open on USAjobs.gov and closely analyzed them, especially looking at to whom the pool of applicants was limited.
Twenty-one percent of the ads explicitly said they were limited only to current federal or agency employees. Of course, it would only be reasonable to fill a supervisor job in a specialized, complex unit by promoting one of the rank and file from that unit. However, that was almost never the scenario in those ads.
The jobs were restricted not to people working in highly specific units, but variously to anyone currently on the VA payroll, at a particular VA hospital, or the entire federal bureaucracy. And only 1 in 10 bureaucrat-limited openings was even for a supervisory role.
Seventeen percent of job ads said they were open to current employees and to veterans under the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA), which allows vets to apply for positions that otherwise are available only to current employees.
But, as TheDCNF reported Thursday, what job-seeking veterans don’t know is that a clause in VA’s collective bargaining agreement with the American Federation of Government Employees requires the agency to give “first and full consideration” to current federal employees before hiring veterans.
Fifty-eight percent of job ads accepted applications from the general public.
And two percent were restricted to veterans only.
The “housekeeping aide” jobs, making up the vast majority of those two percent, actually must be reserved for veterans under a 1960s law that says that “[i]n examinations for positions of guards, elevator operators, messengers, and custodians in the competitive service, competition is restricted to preference eligibles as long as preference eligibles are available,” using the terminology for qualified vets.
The VA can choose to restrict other jobs to veteran applicants only by announcing its intention to fill the job using a Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment, but it rarely does so. And even some jobs that could fall under the 1960s law’s language, such as a $51,000 security assistant, are not reserved for veterans and are advertised specifically to current government employees.
As a rare example of reserving other jobs for veterans, a Michigan hospital decided to wall off medical assistant jobs for them.
Veterans said the limiting of so many jobs to current federal civil servants shows that the VA has become a self-perpetuating, union-backed jobs program for career bureaucrats. They contend managers support the status quo because they fear employees who are vets are less likely to quietly go along with sloppy practices and more likely to turn whistleblower when they witness conduct detrimental to their brothers in arms.
Richard Hill, a VA doctor for 20 years who is also a veteran, told TheDCNF that “the leadership believes the VA exists for them and their staff. The veterans are just a nuisance. Employees, especially doctors and nurses who are themselves veterans, identify with the veterans and cause trouble. It is that simple.”
One-third of the VA workforce is made up of veterans, but the department told theDCNF it doesn’t know how many are in positions of authority where they’d be able to improve the agency from within, versus working menial jobs.
Vets can advance in a system that relies heavily based on tenure, but they can’t immediately rise up after being hired in low level jobs because of “time in grade” requirements. And it can be difficult for vets with years of training and experience to start at the bottom.
The agency can also invoke the VRA appointment authority to hire vets in jobs that weren’t initially earmarked exclusively for them, but only if they have been able to apply, meaning the job was advertised and not marked as for employees only. Invoking VRA after casting a broad net is less preferable to vets and implies that the agency may be using it in cases where the only other applicants were members of the public–or current employees whom managers did not want to promote, and were seeking a way around the union rule on competitive hiring.
A decade-old document obtained by TheDCNF said 58 percent of VA’s blue collar workers are veterans, indicating that the percentage of white-collar workers is significantly lower than one-third. Only 13 percent of top hospital administrator jobs are filled by vets.
Though the federal government obsessively breaks down every job category by race every quarter, its efforts at analyzing veteran hiring appear to be such a low priority that, in 2016, the latest data listed on FedsHireVets.gov is from 2013, and even then, it does not break it down into useful categories.
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