Veteran hires at highest level in 20 years

Tuesday - 12/13/2011, 5:52pm EST

Nearly three in every 10 new hires in the government is a veteran.

The President's Council on Veterans Employment, made up of 24 cabinet-level and other independent agencies, released Tuesday preliminary fiscal 2011 employment data showing the highest percentage of veterans as new hires in more than 20 years.

At a time when the government is hiring fewer people overall, veterans make up 28.5 percent of all new employees. It marks a steady increase since President Barack Obama launched the Veterans Employment Initiative in 2009 to encourage agencies to recruit veterans by simplifying the hiring process and helping them transition to civilian work.

Many agencies have set up program offices focused on veterans' employment. The government has launched a marketing campaign and the Feds Hire Vets website.

The data show that the initiative is working, said Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry in a written statement.

"The President's Council on Veterans Employment established and pursued aggressive goals, and for our veterans, meeting those goals means jobs that serve the American people and help sustain the growth that supports the propriety and leadership in the world," he said. "I'm proud of the Council's success in keeping these highly trained and experienced individuals working for our nation, particularly the over one million who served in Iraq."

Nearly 12 percent of veterans who have left active duty since 2001 are unemployed, compared with 9 percent of the adult population overall, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The preliminary data showed all but two of the agencies — the Treasury and Homeland Security Departments — surpassed their 2009 baseline percentages. Just one agency, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, failed to meet its baseline for hiring disabled vets.

OPM tracks federal hiring of veterans and disabled veterans separately. Agencies are expected to improve their percentages until veterans make up at least a quarter of new hires. In addition, they are expected to take action to retain veterans.

Despite the improvements, some agencies remain cautious about hiring veterans with disabilities.

"There's a great fear — an unfounded fear &mdash that every veteran will have [post-traumatic stress disorder] or a traumatic brain injury," Lisa Stern, a workforce and diversity consultant, told Federal News Radio.

She said most veterans with those types of injuries do not have problems integrating into civilian life. Those that do may benefit from common workplace flexibilities, like telework.

During the President's Council on Veterans Employment meeting, the group also approved a pilot program to start in the spring, in which each agency would hire one or two formerly homeless veterans.

This story is part of Federal News Radio's daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.

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