DEPUTY ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR HUMAN RESOURCES MANAGEMENT
U.S. DEPARTMENT OF VETERANS AFFAIRS
BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY
COMMITTEE ON VETERANS' AFFAIRS, U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
September 6, 2007
Madam Chairwoman and members of the Subcommittee, good afternoon. Thank you for your invitation to appear before you this afternoon to offer testimony on veterans' preference and the Department of Veterans Affairs' ( VA) success in recruiting, and hiring veterans.
At VA, we see veterans every day who have sacrificed to defend and support this country. The Department fully supports the laws that place veterans, and particularly disabled veterans, in a favorable competitive position for Government employment. We believe that affording veterans their statutory preference in employment is not merely the obligation of a grateful nation; it is good government and good business. It gives us an advantage in recruiting and retaining employees from a pool of the nation's most highly motivated, disciplined and experienced candidates. In addition to establishing internal policies that address veterans preference, VA's Human Resources Oversight and Effectiveness program reviews specifically evaluate compliance with veterans preference laws, regulations, and policies during on-site evaluations of Human Resources Offices throughout all parts of VA.
VA has focused on veteran hiring for many years. In the last 15 years, our efforts have included tracking the employment of veterans and veterans with disabilities by facility and working with lists of separating military members to contact and recruit veterans to employment in the Department. These programs have developed into much broader efforts and more focused programs and have resulted in VA placing in the top tier of agencies employing veterans. As of July 31, 2007, over 77,000, or 31%, of VA's 250,000 employees are veterans. Over 60,000 of the 31% are veterans preference eligibles, and 19,000 (7.6% of all VA employees) are disabled veterans. VA ranks first among non-Defense agencies in the hiring of veterans. This data, and all the data points that I will note today, are as of July 31, 2007. For cumulative data, the period is January 1, 2007 through July 31, 2007. We have used this period because in December 2006, VA implemented system changes that enable us to improve the accuracy and thoroughness of our veteran employment data. We are now able to identify and report on hiring of veterans who are not preference eligibles.
VA regularly uses the special hiring authorities that target veterans: Veterans Recruitment Appointment, Veterans Employment Opportunities Act appointment, and 30% compensably disabled veteran appointment. Veterans are hired using other hiring authorities as well. In the first 7 months of 2007, VA has hired 5,094 veterans' preference eligibles and another 729 non-preference veterans.
The Department has established a strategic target of 33% veterans in the employee population. One of the challenges that we face is the rate at which veterans are leaving the Department. The cohort of veterans who joined the Department after the Vietnam War is now eligible to retire. The number of Vietnam Era veterans, which was the largest veteran category in VA only 2 years ago, will continue to decline as our workforce ages. In addition, younger veterans, similar to other U.S. workers their age, are frequently more mobile and change jobs and employers more often than many older employees. On average, VA has lost about 810 veteran employees a month during the past 12 months. Countering these losses we have, on average, hired about 787 veterans a month during the past year. This has allowed the Department to maintain an overall employment rate of 31% for the last year. The success of our outreach and recruiting efforts has enabled us to maintain the high percentage of veterans in our workforce. Nonetheless, we are concerned that VA loses too many new veteran hires within their first year of employment. To identify the reasons why, we are developing a work group to research and develop solutions.
VA's success in attracting and hiring veterans is due to a variety of programs that have become more sophisticated over the past 6 years. In 2001, VA established the National Veterans Employment Program ( NVEP) within the Office of Human Resources & Administration with the mission of developing a VA-wide marketing and recruitment strategy to enhance the quality of employment information available to service members and veterans. A major goal of the program is to provide greater access to VA career information to veterans and separating active duty service members. NVEP is the Department's leading advocate for the employment of veterans and promotes efforts to assist veterans in understanding and using veterans' preference and other special hiring authorities to obtain employment in VA and the Federal sector. NVEP staff visit military transition centers, participate in military job fairs, and attend military association and veteran service organization conferences and meetings, as well as, other events that target veterans and transitioning military members, such as, the New York Times Salute Our Heroes Job Fair and Career Expo. NVEP staff also work with VA Human Resources staff throughout the Department to provide guidance and assistance in their local efforts to recruit, educate, and hire veterans.
To assist local VA facilities in attracting and recruiting veterans, NVEP helped establish the Veteran Employment Coordinator ( VEC) concept in HR offices VA-wide. NVEP is currently developing a recruitment and outreach tracking system, designed to provide VECs with some of the tools necessary for an effective outreach program. The tracking system provides a means to document and track outcomes of VA participation at career fairs or other events targeting veterans. This information can then be analyzed to determine the effectiveness of those outreach activities. Other NVEP initiatives/collaborations are:
Other VA Employment Outreach Efforts
Every day at VA, we see the sacrifice that our veterans have made for our nation. It is our responsibility and privilege to support their return to employment. We are committed to continue our successful focus on veteran hiring in VA.
Madam Chairwoman, thank you again for the opportunity to testify today. I am prepared to respond to any questions Members may have.