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Washington, D.C. - Acting in response to concerns raised by veterans' groups indicating that some federal agencies are in violation of Veterans' Preference laws, U.S. Office of Personnel Management Director Kay Coles James initiated an audit of federal agencies governmentwide.
The audit was designed to capture a broad and comprehensive review of veterans' employment in the federal government by determining whether agencies have been taking affirmative measures to employ veterans and providing them with employment preferences under the Veterans' Preference Act.
The audit revealed four specific cases in three agencies -- the Departments of Defense, Agriculture, and Health and Human Services -- where Veterans' Preference had not been properly applied.
"I want to thank the veterans' groups for their efforts in helping identify deficiencies in the hiring of veterans within some federal agencies, and whose concerns prompted me to take this action," stated James. "Veterans' Preference laws are to be honored at all times, and corrective action will be taken against those agencies that continue to violate them."
OPM and each of the agencies in violation worked together to ensure that the actions were corrected, and OPM continues working with the agencies to guarantee appropriate safeguards are in place to prevent future Veterans' Preference violations.
"The President and his team are firmly committed to serving America's veterans and
defending Veterans' Preference," said James. "The agencies at which violations were found have treated this report with seriousness and resolve, and I appreciate their commitment to take decisive action and their teamwork in not only identifying, but in correcting, the deficiencies.
After all, Veterans' Preference is not just the right thing to do, it is the law of the land. OPM will continue to root out problems where they exist by responding to potential violations raised by veterans and ensuring that veterans are afforded the priority in federal hiring they deserve."
Prior to the release of the audit, Veteran Service Organizations (VSO) were briefed on the results, thanked for their role as full partners in the process and encouraged to remain vigilant and engaged in open dialogue with federal agencies. Additionally, James asked that the VSOs be briefed yet again at OPM's quarterly VSO meeting in order to review the full results of the report and address any remaining questions. The VSO briefing was led by OPM Deputy Director Dan Blair, Senior Policy Advisor Doris Hausser, and Associate Director Marta Perez.
VSOs provided comments on the OPM audit and OPM's ongoing role in maintaining watch on behalf of the nation's veterans.
"The Non Commissioned Officers Association was delighted to receive the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Veterans' Employment Audit Report dated June 2004," said Richard C. Schneider, Executive Director for Government Affairs with the Non Commissioned Officers Association (NCOA). "The audit is a strong indicator that OPM has been proactive in communicating the rights and entitlement of veterans to Veterans' Preference under current law. OPM has ensured a clear message over the past two years delivered through speeches, publications, interviews, a precise training conference focused on Veterans' Preference, and now most directly for the entire federal bureaucracy through its audit report. The Veterans' Preference Audit Report clearly communicates for federal government workers involved in the hiring process the legal right of Veterans' Preference, and defines very pointedly violations of law that denied some individual veterans their right to employment. There is no doubt that the audit report will send the right signal to those charged with the responsibility of hiring employees, from management to human capital officers. NCOA applauds this OPM audit initiative and strongly recommends it be the first of many such audit documents to communicate the law associated with Veterans' Preference, continue to educate all leadership levels, and hold individuals and agencies accountable for inappropriate administrative process of any veteran entitled to Veterans' Preference."
"If done on an annual basis and released in a timely manner, audits such as this will be a significant step toward uniform enforcement of Veterans' Preference law, and for that, we (Vietnam Veterans of America) commend this administration," said Rick Weidman, Director of Government Relations with Vietnam Veterans of America.
In addition to identifying and correcting individual violations, the audit clearly indicates agencies can do more to support the employment of our nation's veterans.
Director James is having OPM, consistent with President George W. Bush's Management Agenda initiative on the strategic management of human capital, work with agencies to ensure their plans include a strategic approach to hiring veterans and outreach efforts.
"The audit review demonstrates OPM is proceeding in the right direction to assure federal agencies enforce rules, regulations and guidance that govern Veterans'
Preference," said Norbert Reiner of the Korean War Veterans Foundation. "The VSO Veteran Preference Task Force is a primary indicator that OPM is giving a sincere focus toward veterans and military retirees, and the quarterly meetings held by OPM for the Veteran Service Organizations provide a forum to address veteran employment matters openly and freely. We wish that accountability will be required for those agencies that attempt to circumvent Veterans' Preference, and we thank the Office of Personnel Management for taking direct and sincere action."
The following VSOs participated in the briefing:
Veterans of Foreign WarsDisabled American VeteransMilitary Order of the Purple HeartBlinded Veterans AssociationAMVETSVietnam Veterans of America Catholic War VeteransFleet Reserve AssociationReserve Officer Association
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.