- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dear Sgt. Shaft:

I am an honorably discharged U.S. Army veteran. Enlisted in the reserves in 1992, I was commissioned through ROTC and served on active duty from 1994 to 1998. I was in the 3rd Infantry Division at Fort Stewart, Ga., and completed multiple rotations to the Army’s National Training Center, Operation Bright Star and other deployments. However, I don’t seem to qualify for any points under the veterans preference for federal government hiring through USAJobs, as I did not technically serve during a time of war.

I have the utmost respect for my fellow soldiers who did serve bravely during a time of war, and certainly support them 100 percent for all the benefits they justly receive. However, while I was never actually serving during a time of war, I definitely prepared for and trained myself and my soldiers for this through rigorous training and exercises. I was in a rapid-deployment unit attached to the 1st Infantry Brigade and certainly could have been deployed to any hostile theater during my four years at Fort Stewart. I am just wondering why the veterans preference for the federal hiring process does not benefit all honorably discharged veterans with at least some points toward hiring, on a progressive sliding scale.

— Mark F., Washington D.C.

Dear Mark:

Here is the scoop from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). The determination on “preference eligible” status depends solely on whether job applicants qualify in their own right under the requirements of 5 U.S.C. 2108(3) (A) though (H).

For the purpose of employment in the federal government, the term “preference eligible” is defined in 5 U.S.C. 2108 (3). The term includes veterans who have been separated from the armed forces under honorable conditions and who served on active duty in the armed forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized or during particular defined periods.

The Office of Personnel Management’s VetGuide provides a comprehensive list of campaigns and expeditions that qualify for a veterans preference. The list is available at the following Internet address: www.opm.gov/staffingportal/vgmedal2.asp.

The term “preference eligible” also includes disabled veterans. In addition, the mother, spouse, or unmarried widow or widower of certain veterans may qualify as a “preference eligible” applicant under particular circumstances. A retired member of the armed forces is generally excluded from the definition unless the individual qualifies as a disabled veteran or retired below the rank of major or its equivalent (5 U.S.C. 2108).

Please visit the OPM Web site www.fedshirevets.gov for additional information.

For a historical perspective of the veterans preference, I suggest a review of the following site: www.answers.com/topic/veterans-preference-act. It explains why only combat veterans were given preference when Congress enacted the law.

Shaft notes

The Fleet Reserve Association (FRA) is seriously concerned about proposals to reduce funding and manpower for the U.S. Coast Guard in fiscal 2011. The administration is calling for a 3 percent cut to the service’s budget and a 1,100-billet reduction in manpower for the country’s smallest military service.

“The expanding role of the Coast Guard requires resources and personnel to replace aging infrastructure and execute the service’s multiple missions,” said Joe Barnes, FRA’s national executive director. “FRA believes the proposed budget is inadequate to sustain mission readiness and morale within the service’s active-duty and reserve communities.”

In the past decade, the Coast Guard’s responsibilities have grown tremendously as part of the Department of Homeland Security. In addition to its traditional roles of monitoring marine safety, supporting significant drug and migrant interdiction missions, aiding commercial navigation and enforcing environmental regulations, the service is participating in security missions in Iraq, offering aid in Haiti and providing air defense for the National Capitol Region.

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