Federal Hiring:

Does Veterans' Preference Need Updating?

GGD-92-52: Published: Mar 20, 1992. Publicly Released: Apr 23, 1992.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined federal agencies' hiring and selection of veterans, focusing on: (1) whether the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and other agencies provide veterans points that can place them higher on hiring lists; and (2) why federal agencies are not hiring veterans receiving such points.

GAO found that: (1) as of September 1990, veterans made up about 30 percent of the non-Postal Service federal workforce, double their percentage in the civilian labor force; (2) qualified veterans applying for federal jobs may claim 5 or 10 preference points over the points that all candidates receive for education, work experience, and test scores; (3) federal agencies are required by law to hire veterans who score higher than or equal to nonveterans on the same hiring lists; (4) agencies properly assigned veterans' preference points in 99.7 percent of 1,862 applications GAO reviewed, and also correctly placed veterans on certificates of eligible job candidates; (5) the preference points appear to only minimally affect nonveteran applicants, because of the low number of veterans entering the federal workforce; (6) high placement on the certificates does not ensure the selection of veterans, since hiring officials can use various methods to identify and recruit candidates, including the Outstanding Scholar Program, internal transfers and promotions, and direct hire authority; (7) OPM does not enforce the requirement that agencies explain why they did not use certificates; and (8) OPM does not adequately track, monitor, or analyze agencies' use or nonuse of certificates or their veteran hiring practices. GAO also found that, while state and local governments employ about 12 percent of all employed veterans in the civilian labor force, an examination of 10 state governments' hiring practices indicated that they offer veterans less hiring preference than the federal government does.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Several OPM corrective actions have been completed. To date, OPM has prepared reports to Congress on veteran hiring, but Congress has not given any kind of response.

    Matter: If veteran hiring results shown in the OPM report, "Veterans' Employment in the Federal Government," do not meet Congress' expectations, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs' Subcommittees on Compensation, Pension, and Insurance and Education, Training, and Employment may wish to discuss alternatives with OPM.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: To date, OPM has prepared reports to Congress on veteran hiring, but Congress has not given any kind of response.

    Matter: If veteran hiring results shown in the OPM report, "Veterans' Employment in the Federal Government," do not meet Congress' expectations, the House Committee on Veterans Affairs' Subcommittees on Compensation, Pension, and Insurance and Education, Training, and Employment may wish to discuss alternatives with OPM.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The first phase of an automated tracking system was scheduled to begin in late 1993. As part of the certification process, it will record information on why a certificate was returned without a selection. The second phase will record information on the type of veteran on a certificate (5-point, 10-point, etc.). Though scheduled to be implemented by late 1993, this date has slipped as OPM is unsure when this phase will be operational. OPM issued Operations Letter 337-1556 on December 26, 1991, instructing all OPM service centers and field offices to closely monitor and analyze unused certificates. Agencies with delegated examining authority were also advised of this need for analysis. FPM Bulletin 332-99 was issued January 9, 1992, and informed agencies of OPM's plans for evaluating returned certificates of eligibles without selections. OPM developed a tracking system for unused certificates and automated portions by February 1994.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should implement a tracking system to identify and correct problems related to veterans' preference and the nonuse of certificates. Through such a tracking system, OPM could identify those installations that are not hiring from certificates headed by veterans, are using certificates only if nonveterans are available, or are hiring fewer veterans than comparable installations.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In 1995, OPM reports that it changed the content of its "Veterans Employment in the Federal Government" report to include 2 years (FY 1993 and FY 1994), making it possible not only to compare agencies with each other, but also to compare experience over time in the hiring of disabled veterans, 30 percent or more disabled veterans, and those appointed under the Veterans Readjustment Appointment authority. Agencies now also submit narrative on their promising practices and special efforts to hire disabled veterans. OPM plans to include this information in each annual report. The latest report is available from OPM's Office of Diversity, 202-606-2226.

    Recommendation: OPM should report its monitoring efforts, findings, and actions it and agencies take in its annual report to Congress, "Veterans' Employment in the Federal Government."

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Each OPM region has developed its own procedures for reviewing direct hires during agency audits. OPM implemented minimum requirements for direct-hire management by the end of the first quarter in FY 1993, for use by service centers in reviewing agencies' use of direct hire.

    Recommendation: The Director, OPM, should oversee the development and implementation of monitoring plans for use by its examination offices to enforce the provisions spelled out in its August 1991 directive.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: OPM service centers currently review agency development of records during onsite audits of agency examining programs. The system being developed for tracking nonuse of certificates will provide additional information regarding agency examining programs and records. Agencies are encouraged to use OPM automated examining systems to ensure the adequacy of agency records. The implementation of the basic automated tracking system for nonuse of certificates gives OPM information regarding agency examining programs and their records.

    Recommendation: OPM should oversee agencies' development of records allowing it to audit the recruiting, examination, and ranking process. GAO believes that this monitoring plan should be a component of the monitoring system recommended in the third chapter of this report.

    Agency Affected: Office of Personnel Management

 

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