The Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) provides federal anti-discrimination protections for qualifying veterans seeking jobs with government contractors.
This law, passed in 1974, was originally designed to protect vets returning from military duty in Vietnam during a time when military members were held to blame by certain segments of American society for the horrors of the Vietnam War.
That misdirected anger inspired fears in some lawmakers; what might wait for soldiers returning home from an unpopular war that America was forced to withdraw from after the fall of Saigon? In 1974, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act was passed to protect troops from discrimination in the hiring process.
A later federal law known as USERRA, the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, offers similar protections for veterans seeking work in civilian companies, but VEVRAA is for those looking for work with companies contracted with the federal government.
In decades past, this may have been described as an equal opportunity law or an affirmative action law for veterans, and the principle is identical–federal law designed specifically to prevent certain workplaces from discriminating against a certain class of job seeker. How does VEVRAA work?
VEVRAA requires all employers who have contracts (or subcontracts) with the federal government worth $150,000 or more to comply with its guidelines. The original law was passed in 1974, but in 2013 the law was revised via a Department of Labor Final Rule.
The modifications in part eliminated certain restrictions on the protections, opening them to any qualifying veteran as opposed to those who served during a specific wartime period.
Some of the modifications were simply a matter of changing the definition of who qualifies for protection under VEVRAA:
- A definition of the general term “protected veteran” to reference “any veteran” qualifying for protection under the VEVRAA regulations.
- A related term, “other protected veteran” was replaced with a more precise definition–“active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran” to describe that group of protected veterans.
- A definition of “pre-JVA veteran” has been added to denote the groups of veterans previously protected under a rescinded clause, “Part 60-250”.
Who Is Protected Under VEVRAA?
The VEVRAA protections we’re discussing here does not apply to all veterans. It specifically applies to a group of vets originally defined in 1974 as someone who:
- Served for more than 180 days between August 5, 1964 and May 7, 1975, OR
- Served for any length of time between those dates if the veteran was discharged with a service-connected disability OR
- “Served on active duty for more than 180 days AND served in Vietnam between February 28, 1961 and May 7, 1975”
When the VEVRAA law was modified in 2013, it was expanded to include:
- Any veteran who has served on active duty in a time of war
- Special disabled veterans VA rated with disabilities 30% or greater
- Some veterans with VA ratings between 10 and 20 percent are also protected if there is a “serious employment disability”
- Veterans who were released from active duty due to a service-connected disability
Protections Offered To Qualifying Veterans Under VEVRAA
Federal contractors must follow VEVRAA procedures when advertising jobs that protected veterans could apply for. These jobs must, under the act, be listed with local state employment agencies (with certain exceptions for top management slots, executive positions, and short-term hires lasting less than a week) presumably to enhance access to these job listings.
Those who are protected cannot be denied employment, paid less, or otherwise be discriminated against due to veteran status. Those who apply for jobs as disabled veterans have the right to request reasonable accommodation for their medical conditions that allows the applicant to perform their duties. Any contractor or subcontractor large enough to fall under VEVRAA guidelines must comply with them both in interview/hiring and in the actual time of employment.
But that protection doesn’t end there–it also includes a requirement for the employer to provide a reasonable accommodation for disabled veterans during the application process that facilitates that process for the applicant.
And protected veterans and others who qualify under the act have other help. In addition to requiring employers to list the jobs in a prescribed way, they are also directed under VEVRAA to “give such qualified covered veterans priority in referral to such employment openings” according to the text of the amended law. Hiring priority is an important benefit for many protected veterans.
Employers who fail to abide by these requirements are subject to investigation. The text of the act includes a provision for veterans to apply for redress of complaints under this law. The text of VEVRAA includes the following clause:
“If any veteran covered by the first sentence of subsection (a) believes any contractor of the United States has failed to comply or refuses to comply with the provisions of the contractor’s contract relating to the employment of veterans, the veteran may file a complaint with the Secretary of Labor” is is directed to “promptly investigate” such complaints and act in accordance with the federal guidelines in cases where noncompliance has been established.
Do You Have A Discrimination Complaint That Falls Under VEVRAA?
Should you file a VEVRAA complaint with the Department of Labor (DoL)? Here’s a checklist provided by that agency that will help you determine if you have an actionable case:
- Do you believe that an employer doing business with the Federal Government has discriminated against you in hiring or employment?
- Was the perceived reason for the discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, national origin, disability, or status as a protected veteran?
- Did you ask about or discuss your compensation (or that of a co–worker) and you were fired, demoted, or disciplined as a result?
The DoL advises that a “yes” to ANY of the above questions means you should consider filing a complaint with the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP).
However, there may be a limited window of time you can file–180 days from the date of the discrimination is a typical time limit, unless “the time for filing is extended for good cause shown according to DoL literature.
However, that deadline does NOT apply in cases where the discrimination is based on status as a protected veteran or based on disability; in such cases the deadline is 300 days from the alleged discrimination unless there is a good reason for requiring an extension.
In all cases, a description of the discrimination is required so it is best to write out the narrative of the incidents in detail before initiating the complaint procedure.
Joe Wallace is a 13-year veteran of the United States Air Force and a former reporter for Air Force Television News
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