Berry lauds agencies for vet hiring

Friday - 9/17/2010, 5:24pm EDT

John Berry, director, OPM

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Federal hiring of veterans is on the rise, but the head of the Office of Personnel Management says the increase is just the beginning of a longer process to hire vets into the federal government.

"This is just the first lap of the much longer triathlon," John Berry, OPM director, said in an interview with the DorobekINSIDER.

Thanks in part to a Presidential executive order, more than 32,800 vets were hired by federal agencies in the first six months of FY2010, up 3.5 percent from the same period in the previous year, according to a release from OPM.

Veterans accounted for more than 30 percent of new hires in the first half of FY2010, compared to 26.8 percent during that period last year. That means 2,600 more veterans were hired in the first half of FY2010, according to the release.

Another "bright spot," Berry said, was the hiring of 1,800 more disabled vets in the first half of FY2010.

"Just because (veterans) take off the uniform doesn't mean they don't want to continue serving their country," Berry said.

The Veterans Hiring Initiative Executive Order was signed in November 2009, stemming from high unemployment among men and women returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. The initiative helps federal agencies identify qualified vets, clarifies the hiring process for veterans looking for federal jobs and helps vets adjust to civilian life once hired. This year, the government set up a website to provide more information for job-seeking vets.

The hiring initiative also set up a full-time veterans program officer in every federal agency. Currently, all 24 of the major executive agencies have a full-time officer, creating a network of potential employers for vets.

"This is the LinkedIn for vets," Berry said, referring to the social networking site for employers and job seekers.

As expected, the agencies leading in veteran hiring were the Defense Department and Veterans Affairs.

Benchmarks established Thursday will "hold everyone's feet to the fire," Berry said.

According to the new accountability standards, agencies where veterans accounted for less than 10 percent of new hires must increase their vet hiring by five to six percentage points. Agencies with 10 to 25 percent of vet new hires must increase by one to four percentage points. And the agencies where vets account for 25 percent or more of new hires will be expected to "keep up the good work," Berry said.

The agencies with the most increases in vet hiring were the Department of Treasury, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice and the Department of Interior.

Berry on Sammies: "Passion is emblematic"

Berry also weighed in on Wednesday night's Service to America Medal presentations (Sammies).

"Your jaw falls open when you hear the amazing things that were accomplished," Berry said.

This year's Federal Employee of the Year was Pius Bannis, director for the Haiti field office of the Citizen and Immigration Service Field Office of the Department of Homeland Security.

Pius worked round-the-clock after the earthquake to help Haitian orphans find safety in the United States.

"That level of passion is emblematic that the passion our civil servants carry forward in their jobs everyday," Berry said.

In case you missed it: Federal News Radio interviewed all 32 2010 Service to America Medal finalists. Listen to the interviews here.

RELATED STORY: OPM marks progress to hiring reform


Jolie Lee is the author of this post. Email her at jlee@federalnewsradio.com.