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News Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, October 22, 2004
Contact: Michael Orenstein
Tel: 202-606-2402

OPM Deputy Director Blair Tells Veterans Service Organizations that the Re-employment Rights of Returning Servicemen and Servicewomen Are Secure

Blair offers Director Kay Coles James' commitment to veterans, which led to employer-covered health premiums for employees called to active duty

Washington, D.C. -- U.S. Office of Personnel Management Deputy Director Dan G. Blair met this week with Veterans Service Organization representatives and reaffirmed the Administration's commitment to providing employment opportunities and benefits to veterans seeking federal jobs and employees returning from active military duty.

"Director James has been extremely committed to the National Guard and Reservists who go abroad, in terms of honoring their rights to return to the job they vacated and for having agencies pay the cost of their health premiums," said Blair.

Blair credited OPM Director Kay Coles James with urging federal agencies to cover the full cost of health-care premiums for employees who are called to active duty status in the National Guard or Reserves. The federal government, Blair noted, is the single largest employer of National Guard and Reserve members.

James has asked Blair to meet regularly with Veterans Service Organizations (VSO) to listen to concerns and issues affecting the employment rights and benefits of current and former servicemen and servicewomen. Blair called the meetings "extremely valuable."

"The work that we're doing reflects the value of your organizations," said Blair, "and our outcomes will have the benefit of your input."

In recent years, OPM has rekindled outreach efforts to veterans. Recruitment fairs have been held in major U.S. cities, and workshops at VA hospitals have provided veterans with combat injuries information on Veterans' Preference employment rights and hands-on assistance in using OPM's USAJOBS website (www.usajobs.gov). Each day, USAJOBS contains approximately 17,000 federal job openings, as well as tools to help veterans and other federal job seekers prepare résumés and hone their interviewing skills. Employment workshops have been held at:

o Louis Stokes Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), Cleveland, Ohio

o Minneapolis VAMC, Minnesota

o Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Washington, DC

o Hampton Virginia VAMC

o Kansas City VAMC, Missouri

o Winn Army Community Hospital, Ft. Stewart, Georgia

o Albany VAMC, New York

During the meeting, Blair reassured the VSO representatives that the Direct-Hire Authority is not being used by agencies to dilute veteran hiring efforts. Blair said OPM will only give agencies the authority to use the Direct-Hire tool when there are not enough candidates to fill existing jobs, or agencies are faced with critical hiring needs. As such, veterans are not being overlooked, he said.

Blair also noted that OPM's annual report on veteran hiring will be published in mid December.

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Our mission is to Recruit, Retain and Honor a World-Class Workforce to Serve the American People. OPM supports U.S. agencies with personnel services and policy leadership including staffing tools, guidance on labor-management relations and programs to improve work force performance.


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