The justifiable hypocrisy of veterans' preferences in federal hiring

This is the sort of story which no doubt requires some disclosure up front, so let’s get that out of the way right now.

I’m a hypocrite.

Yes, it’s true. When it comes to the government putting its thumb on the scale and favoring one group of people over another, I want nothing to do with it. I don’t believe in “hate crime laws” which set the value of one human life as being worth more that of another. When students are applying to get into college, I believe it’s the content of their character (as well as their brains) which should determine their placement, not the color of their skin. I believe that the government owes its citizens a level playing field in a nation which provides equality of opportunity, if not outcome, and that should apply to everyone.

And then we get to the question of whether one group of people applying for government jobs should have a built-in advantage over everyone else. That group is our veterans, and I say… yes. Yes they should. So there you have it. I’m a hypocrite.

But there’s a plan moving through the Senate right now which would limit such hiring preferences for veterans to a single job application, and it’s causing a stir. (Washington Post)

With an effort in Congress to scale back veteran preference in federal hiring awaiting action by a House-Senate conference committee, a former top personnel official says there’s a better plan.

Jeffrey Neal, who was in charge of hiring for the Department of Homeland Security until he retired in 2011, says a Senate proposal to limit veteran preference to a single use is flawed because it does take into account former service members’ high job turnover.

The Senate version of this year’s Defense bill includes language that would give veterans one shot at going to the head of the hiring line: When they apply for a permanent federal job. Once they are working in government, they would not get the extra points they get now for any other federal jobs.

We don’t need either of these changes. It’s fine to leave things precisely as they are, with vets getting bonus points in consideration of their applications even if they wind up looking for multiple positions over the course of their career. Is it unfair to everyone else? Yes. Yes it is. There are plenty of other folks who have made contributions to their nation, their state, their community or humanity in general, and I’m sure they justifiably feel that they should have a leg up as well. So many people give of their time to charity, to the church, to help the needy or otherwise make the world a better place. It’s extremely admirable.

But these are the men and women who volunteered to go face our enemies and, if need be, die for you.

I think that deserves a special place in the hierarchy of service. And if that means everyone else has to work a bit harder or wait a bit longer for such an opportunity, then so be it. Personally, I’ve never gotten a job where I was given this benefit because I didn’t take any government employment after leaving the service. Though if we’re being honest, I’m fairly sure my status as a veteran has helped me land each and every job I’ve ever held in a less official way. But still, were I applying for a job in government service and the application allowed me to check a box, show them my DD 214 separation documents and get a spot at the head of the line, I’d take it. And I wouldn’t apologize for it.

We have room for a smidgen of hypocrisy in our great nation, and this is just the place for it. Leave the veterans’ benefits alone if you’re not going to increase them.