oversight

Veterans' Preference in the Federal Civil Service

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1977-10-04.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                         DCCUMENT   ESUME
03783 -   A2794036]

[Veterans' Preference in the Federal Civil Service]. October 4,
1977. 8 pp.
Testimony before the Senate Committee on Post Cffice aid Civil
Service: Civil Service Policies and Practices Subcommittee; by
Clifford I. Gould, Deputy Director, Federal Personnel and
Compensation Div.

Issue Area: Personnel Management and Compensation (300).
Contact: Federal Personnel and Compensation Div.
Budget Function: Veterans enefits and Services: Other Veterans
    Benefits and Services (705); General GoverEment: Central
    Personnel Management (e05).
Organization Concerned: Civil Service Commission.
Congressional Relevance: Senate Committee on Post Office and
    Civil Service: Civil Service Policies and Practices
    Subcommittee.
Authority: Veterans Preference Act.

          A review was conducted to determine the impact of
veterans' preference on the register placement of applicants and
their opportunities for certification and selection to Federal
entry-level positions. The preference accorded veterans in
competing for Federal civil servicz jobs adversely affects all
nonveterans. Specifically, he problems qualified women
applicants may have in competing for Federal employment was
assessed by examining whether women were being ranked lower or
displaced from their positions on civil service registers
because, as a group, they lacked veteran status. The adverse
effects of veterans' preference were demonstrated by the: (1)
displacement of women on civil service registers; (2) loss in
ranking position of women on registers; (3) additional
qualifications needed by nconvreteran women tc compete with
veterans; and (4) lack of women on some civil service
certificates. It was not possible tc ascertain whether women
were represented on civil service registers in proportion to
their availability. Veterans' preference conflicts with the
policy of providing equal employment opportunity to all job
applicants, particularly women. t interferes with the principle
of merit as the basis for selection to the Federal service.
(Author/SW)
                                           FOR RELEASE ON DELIVERY
                                           Expected at 9:30 a.m. EST
                                           October 4, 1977


                 STATEMENT OF CLIFFORD I. GOULD
        DEPUTY DIRECTOR, U.S. GENERAL ACCOUNTING OFFICE
            BEFORE THE SUBCOMMITTEE ON CIVIL SERVICE
             DORING OVERSTGHT HEARINGS ON VETERANS'

            PREFERENCE IN THE FEDERAL CIVIL SERVICE


Mr.   Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
       I appreciate your invitation to discuss our recent report
to the Congress on the conflict between to major congressional
policies: veterans' preference and equal empiynuent opportunity.
Today, I will briefly outline for you the scope of our review
work, our findings and respond to any questions you may have
concerning the report.
     While the report deals with both veterans' preference and
apportionment I will limit my comments to veterans' preference
since this committee and the House of Representatives have
already recommended that the apportionment requirement be repealed.
      The Civil Service Commission was established nearly 100
years ago to bring a merit system of employment to Government
service.   Broadly speaking, merit means    ecruiting, selecting,
and advancing persons on the basis of factors relevant to job
performance: knowledge, skills, and abilities.     The principle
of merit in selection require; that CSC operate a competitive
examining system that provides equal opportunity for employment

to all job applicants.     Thus, we see that one of the basic
tenets underlying the concept of merit is equal employment

opportunity.

     Veterans' preference in Federal civilian employment

originated as a debt of gratitude or remuneration for services

to the Nation.     It has been successful in rewarding veterans,
as evidenced by the fact that veterans comprise 50 percent

of the Federal civil service.       However, veterans' preference
must also be viewed from the perspective of other mardated

policies and national needs.

     Our report indicates that the current policy of awarding
veterans continuing, life-time preference in competing for

entry into the Federal civil service conflicts with the

principle of     EO in merit selection.   Because few women have
veteran status, their opportunities for Federal employment are

diminished by the current operation of veterans' preference.

veterans' preference limits the ability of Federal agencies

to achieve equal employment opportunity for women.

SCOPE OF REVIEW

     During September 1976, we began a detailed review of the

impact of veterans' preference in determining register place-

ment and certification of applicants.      We believed such
information would provide the Conress and the public with a

meaningful basis for evaluating the efects of veterans'


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preference o   the    peration of the Federal merit examining
and equal employment opportunity programs.      Our review was
conducted at the Civil Service Commission in Washington and
at CSC regional and area offices in Atlanta, Dallas,
Philadelphia, and San Francisco.      We examined CSC's policies
and procedures for implementing the Veterans'      reference Act.
We interviewed CSC personnel, as well as personnel manage-
ment and EEO officials of 22 other departments and agencies.
Our review did not cover the preference in retention which is
afforded to veterans in a reduction-in-force situation, nor
did it encompass the degree or source of disability of
veterans receiving 10-point preference.     What we set out to
do was determine the impact of      eterans' preference on the
register placement of applicants and their opportunities
for certification and selection tc Federal entry-level
positions.
     The preference accorded veterans in competing for Federal
civil service jobs--additional rating points, preferred reg-
ister placement and certification--adversely affects all
nonveterans.   Our report, however, specifically deals with
problems qualified women applicants have in competing for
Federal employment.    Because neither the Selective Service
System nor military authorities have encouraged women to
serve in the Armed Forces until recently, only a small nmber
of women have entered military service and obtained preference


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 eligible status.    To determine the effects of veterans'
 preference on the employment opportunities of women,
                                                      we
 reviewed CSC registers, rating schedules, and certifications
 to ageicies.
FINDINGS
     To demonstrate the effects of veterans' preference we
assessed whether women were being displaced from their
                                                       po-
sitions on CSC registers because, as a group, they lacked
veteran status.     To do this, we determined the ratings
applicants needed to be certified from particular registers.
The percentages of men and women who would be certified
based on this rating was determined, fi:st, with veterans'
preference; then with veterans' preference not considered.
Our review showed that for 36 of 44 registers examined,
                                                        the
potential for women to be certified increased when preference
was not considered.
     We founid that large numbers of highly qualified women
cannot be certified to Federal agencies for employment
consideration because they are being displaced on registers
by the preference afforded to veterans.
     For example, on the Correctional Officer register
                                                       (GS-6)
225 eligibles had certifiable ratings. Wth preference
included 40 (18 percent) of the 225 eligibles were
                                                   women.
Without veterans' preference, there were 74 women eligibles
available for certification.    By excluding the extra points

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and preferred register placement awarded veterans, the
representation of women within certification range. :ose 85
percent.
     A second way we determined the impact of prefescnce

was to calculate the number of register positions women
applicants would advance if veterans' prefecice was excluded
in ranking applicants on registers.      We found individual
women who achieved perfect or nearly perfect scores in CSC
examinations ranked behind other applicants with lower scores.
Without preference, women applicants would have a better
chance of being selected.
     For example, in San Francisco, 4 women scoring 99 on the
accountant/auditor examination moved up almost 100 positions
on the register if preference was not considered.
     Modifying veterans' preference would significantly
improve the opportunities of women applicants       o be certified
from some CSC registers.
     Our report also illustrates the substantial additional
qualifications nonvetcran women need to compensate for the five-
point preference awarded to veterans.      Even with additional quali-
ficat;ons, the r:dferences awarded to veterans are often insur-
mountable barriers for female applicarts, since veterans dre
placed ahead of nonveterans with the same ratings, and
selecting officials genet.         cannot pass over a veteran to
hire a nonveteran.   Agencit   -     rided numerous examples of
CSC certificates with large numbers of veterans tnat lacked
female candidates for employment consideration.

     We were unable to ascertain whether women were represented
on CSC registers in proportion to their availability.     However,
in our opinion, the adverse effects of veterans' preference
are demonstrated by the (1) displacement of women on CSC
registers, (2) loss in ranking position of women on CSC
registers, (3) additional qualifications needed by non-
veteran women to compete with veterans, and (4) lack of
women on some CSC certificates.   This strongly indicates that
veterans' preference is a formidable barrier to employment of
qualified women who do appear on mniny registers.
     Finally, we analyzed selected registers in Dallas and
San Francisco because several agencies expressed concern
that retired military personnel were at the top of registers.
In the San Francisco region, 7 of the 10 registers we
analyzed had retired military personnel among the top 10
register positions.
     Some agencies believe that the concentration of military
retirees at the top of many CSC registers has prevented non-
veterans, particularly women, and even other veterans from
gaining Federal employment.   Veterans' preference for retired
military personniel is, in our opinion, contrary to the idea
of compensating veterans for time lost in their careers.
     The Federal agencies we contacted had probler.s obtaining
women from many CSC registers because of veterans.' preference.


                              6
Since registers are the prirary source of applicants for
Federal jobs, the blockage of women on these registers has
hampered agencies in meeting the hiring goals set forth in
their     affirmative action plans.    While intensive recruiting
lay increase the number of women on registers, their oppor-
tunities to be certified and the agencies' ability to accom-
plish affirmative action plan goals will not improve if
veterans     re at the top of the registers.
        CSC ecourages agencies to make use of a variety of
hiring practices (e.g., cooperative education, Upward Mobility,
etc.) when problems are encountered in obtaining women
eligibles from CSC registers.       However, these programs usually
offer only limited hiring opportunities.       These practices
can be costly and time-consuming, and smaller agencies may
find such programs to be an inefficient use of resources.
        Agencies suggested various modifications to alleviate
the impact of veterans' preference.       Most frequently suggested
were (1) imposition of a time limit for possible use of
veterans' preference and (2) limitation on the application
of preference to a one-time use, such as first civilian
employment.
CONCLUSIONS
        The goal of compensating and rewarding veterans by
awarding them preference for entry into the Federal civil
service conflicts with the policy of providing equal

                                7
employment opportunity to all job applicants, particularly
women.   Veterans' preference interferes with the principle
of merit as the basis for selection to the Federal service.
Agencies have and will continue to have problems in hiring
women because of current veterans' preference requiremcats.
In commenting on our draft report, agencies expresser
general agreement that something needs to be done to balance
the Nation's obligation to its veterans and its obligation
to provide equal employment opportunity for women.
     The question of whether and to what extent one
congressional policy objective    hould take precedence over
another is a matter for the Congress to decide.    However,
we urge the Congress to reconsider whether granting pre-
ference in its present form is appropriate in light of its
contradiction to EEO.   If the Congress wishes to lessen
the existing conflict between veterans' preference and
EEO, modifications could be implemented that would diminish
th- adverse impact of veterans' preference.




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