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SGT. SHAFT: Veteran abroad says he faces bias for federal jobs

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Dear Sgt. Shaft, I retired from the Air Force five years ago after serving 24 years. I decided to retire overseas due to personal reasons. Yes, that was my choice, but that should not negate the fact that I served honorably, defending my country all over the world. I've submitted more than 100 job applications for government positions that I have accomplished numerous times while in the military. I think the only thing that has stopped me from receiving a job was that I was a veteran overseas and I did not have a high enough preference (i.e., spouse preference).

Even though I served during Operation Desert Storm and have a disability rating of 40 percent service connected- and 10 percent combat-related special compensation, I still do not have the preference required to even get an interview, let alone a job, with the federal government. At overseas locations Department of Defense mandates that spouses who are using their spouse preference must be hired first.

Since the military is never short on spouses requiring jobs, there are never positions left over for a veteran. I don't see how the "Veterans Employment Initiative" or any other initiative is going to help us veterans who are living overseas. The only jobs that are opened to veterans overseas are those in Non-Appropriated Fund positions at either Moral Welfare and Recreation facilities or the Army & Air Force Exchange Services. These jobs are normally the lower-paying jobs with not much chance of any advancement.

I can't see how any initiative released by the Department of Labor or even the President is going to help veterans overseas when the Department of Defense just overrules these initiatives by hiring whom they wish. — Lloyd, United Kingdom

Dear Lloyd,

According to my sources at OPM, the federal government is committed to ensuring that veterans' preference is applied in accordance with the law, and takes acts of discrimination very seriously. If you believe you are being unfairly denied equal opportunity for Federal employment based on your veteran status, you may file a complaint with the Department of Labor, Veterans Employment and Training Service (DOL-VETS). VETS is responsible for investigating violations of veterans' rights under any statute or regulation relating to veterans preference. Information can be found at http://www.dol.gov/vets/.

Additionally, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel (OSC) is responsible for investigating allegations of activities prohibited by civil service laws, rules or regulations. Veterans may report suspected prohibited personnel practices, defined in 5 U.S.C. sec. 2302 (b), to the OSC. Additional information can be found at http://www.osc.gov/.

Shaft Notes

The Military Officers Association of America (MOAA) presented its highest annual awards to four U.S. legislators, three organizations that support military people and their families, and two Congressional staff members in a recent ceremony on Capitol Hill.

MOAA's Board of Directors gave the awards to Sens. Blanche Lincoln, Arkansas Democrat, Ben Nelson, Nebraska Democrat, and Richard Burr, North Carolina Republican; Rep. John Carter, Texas Republican; TriWest Healthcare Alliance, the Pease Greeters, and Our Military Kids, Inc.; and two professional Congressional staffers, Tony McClain and Chris Alsup.

The Sarge joins Sen. Daniel K. Akaka, Hawaii Democrat and chairman of the Veterans' Affairs Committee, in cheering Congressional passage by unanimous voice vote of S. 1963, the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act. This landmark bill, authored by Mr. Akaka, would establish an unprecedented permanent program to support the caregivers of wounded warriors, improve health care for veterans in rural areas, help VA adapt to the needs of women veterans and expand supportive services for homeless veterans.

Mr. Akaka held a series of hearings as chairman, bringing in the families of seriously injured servicemembers to discuss how VA might better help those caring for severely disabled veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Mr. Akaka then developed legislation to establish a program to certify, train and financially support veterans' caregivers.

The bill's caregiver support provisions would:

• fulfill VA's obligation to care for the nation's wounded veterans by providing their caregivers with training, counseling, supportive services, and a living stipend

• provide health care to the family caregivers of injured veterans under CHAMPVA

• require independent oversight of the caregiver program

The bill would also provide numerous other improvements for veterans by:

• expanding health care services for women veterans.

• reaching out to veterans living in rural areas.

• improving mental health care.

• removing barriers to care for catastrophically disabled veterans.

• enhancing VA medical services.

• strengthening VA's workforce.

• improving and increasing services to homeless veterans.

S. 1963 was signed by President Obama on May 5.

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