By recent count, America has nearly 23 million veterans.
Traditionally veterans comprised a small percentage of the population until the major surge in numbers caused by the Second World War, which put over 4 million Americans into uniform. Similar but smaller surges occured during the Korean Conflict and the Vietnam War.
Veterans comprise approximately 7 percent of the American population but approximately 25 percent of Federal employees are eligible veterans preference and the percentage is growing rapidly. The number of veterans continues to grow as veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan leave the military and reenter the workforce.
Those young veterans face a difficult period of readjustment as they reintegrate into the civilian population while dealing with the physical and mental wounds sustained in battle.
The unemployment rate for veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars in 2010 it stood at 11.5 percent. That is 3 percentage points higher than the national average.
That veteran employment problem has been targeted by the Federal government and an aggressive hiring program directed at veterans has been underway for some time. In the first half of fiscal year 2010, the percentage of veterans hired for jobs with the Federal government had risen to 30.2 percent of all new hires. An increase of 3.5 percent for the same time frame a year earlier.
Despite the increased hiring, “the jobless rate among veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan is unacceptably high,” said Deputy Veterans Affairs Secretary Scott Gould.
“Our mission is simple: Hire more veterans,” said Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry. “The strong sense of patriotism and public service held by members of our armed forces does not leave them when they exit from active duty. It benefits our government to utilize their skills and dedication to service.”
As an increasing number of veterans transition out of uniform an increasingly tight job market will doubtlessly encourage many to take advantage of their veterans preference benefits and seek out the security and benefits of a Federal job.
The percentage of veterans in the Federal workforce will surely rise as invididual hiring managers face increasing pressure to hire veterans over other equally qualified applicants.
The non-veteran workforce will soon begin to chafe as it finds competition for positions to be increasingly stiff.
Further, with the growing likelihood of fiscal belt tightening, the threat of across-the-board workforce reductions looms large indeed.
Once hired and past their probationary period, veterans enjoy significant retention rights in the event of a Reduction in Force (RIF). Generally speaking, the veteran would be retained over a non-veteran employee even if the veteran had less seniority.
If a major workforce reduction occurs, look for the percentage of veterans in the Federal workforce to rise appreciably as the non-veterans are shown the door.
Given the veterans well recognized devotion to duty and hard work, it will be interesting to note if productivity goes down, or up?