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Veteran preference laws create complexity

Military service veterans are entitled to special preferences for employment in light of their service. Military service, even in time of peace, is often a risky job and as a nation, one of the rewards we provide those who have served is with preferences in federal employment.

Two laws, the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 (VEOA), and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA), are designed to protect the employment preferences and rights of veterans.

The VEOA works specifically to protect the rights of veterans who apply for federal employment. The USERRA, is broader, in that it protects the rights of veterans who leave their existing jobs in the civilian sector or federal government, and then return after a period of active duty military service.

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has issued a report that details some of the complexities of the two acts and how they interact with other federal employment laws. The report only deals with the USERRA as it pertains to federal employment and points out some of the problems with the VEOA.

Because of the many other laws that the VEOA interacts and because Congress used "vague and undefined terms" in that law, many employment disputes and cases have arisen to fill out the gaps and ambiguities in the law.

The importance of choosing an attorney who understands the complexities is highlighted by the warning that the MSPB provides, noting that veterans who use the VEOA to redress wrongs need to understand the complex requirements, such as the strict filing and appeal deadlines and the need to exhaust administrative remedies.

They also recommend that agencies, too, need to understand their responsibilities with regard to veteran's preferences, and avoid errors. In some cases, they will be required to "reconstruct" what they should have done, had the law been properly complied with in the first instance. These errors are expensive and can lead to other losing their position, which in turn, could trigger additional litigation for the agency.

Msbp.gov, "MSPB Report on Veterans' Rights Serves as Warning," November 2014

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