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House sets stage for showdown on veteran hiring preference

Congress holds the purse strings of government spending. Just because both chambers are in Republican control doesn't mean that the legislative ship of state is cruising along smoothly along solid party lines. All Texas readers have to do is examine the situation that exists over the government's policy on giving military veterans hiring preference for federal positions.

As we noted in our last post, lawmakers are considering language that would change current elements of federal employment policy. Depending on how things play out, veterans might find that the partiality they enjoy now will be cut back. But it's clear from the way things currently stand that there is some division in congressional ranks about how the matter should be resolved.

The split isn't simply along party lines. There is a distinct rift showing between the two chambers. The Senate has passed a provision that would restrict veterans to a single, one-time leg up in hiring consideration. After that first time, veterans would be on equal footing as all other qualified candidates for various positions.

The problem with this scenario, according to some federal personnel experts, is that the single-use standard fails to take into account the level of trial and error that may be required to find the right fit between individuals and jobs. It can take a couple of years of bouncing around to settle on the right track. Letting preference expire after one use, they say, could prove to be a disservice to service veterans.

In apparent recognition of this, the House recently approved a spending bill amendment that would bar the Department of Defense from spending any funds to change current policies. The expectation is that the issue will be addressed when House and Senate conferees meet. We'll have to wait to see.

There is already a good deal of confusion among federal workers and managers about whether current policy is being applied fairly. As our previous post observed, actions in hiring and later can trigger discrimination complaints. No one can say for certain how a given case will come out, but by working with experienced legal counsel, the chances of an optimal outcome improve.

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