Ammo - Veterans Rights Advocates Stories

These stories are from veterans who have tried and are trying to regain their workplace rights as veterans under VEVRAA and  USERRA laws and the OFCCP  and VETS agencies.  They have and are providing the Ammo for a possible Veterans Class Action Lawsuit (VCAL) lawsuit.  Names will be changed if asked and/or the storylines will be altered to protect the authors right to privacy.  Veterans are encouraged to vote by clicking here.


TWO GREAT SHORT STORIES
 

STORY NUMBER ONE
 
Many years ago, Al Capone virtually owned Chicago. Capone wasn't famous for anything heroic. He was notorious for enmeshing the windy city in everything from bootlegged booze and prostitution to murder.
 
Capone had a lawyer nicknamed "Easy Eddie." He was his lawyer for a good reason. Eddie was very good! In fact, Eddie's skill at legal maneuvering kept Big Al out of jail for a long time. To show his appreciation, Capone paid him very well. Not only was the money big, but also Eddie got special dividends. For instance, he and his family occupied a fenced-in mansion with live-in help and all of the conveniences of the day. The estate was so large that it filled an entire Chicago City block. Eddie lived the high life of the Chicago mob and gave little consideration to the atrocity that went on around him.
 
Eddie did have one soft spot, however. He had a son that he loved dearly. Eddie saw to it that his young son had the best of everything: clothes, cars and a good education. Nothing was withheld. Price was no object. And, despite his involvement with organized crime, Eddie even tried to teach him right from wrong. Eddie wanted his son to be a better man than he was. Yet, with all his wealth and influence, there were two things he couldn't give his son; he couldn't pass on a good name and a good example.
 
One day, Easy Eddie reached a difficult decision. Easy Eddie wanted to rectify wrongs he had done. He decided he would go to the authorities and tell the truth about Al "Scarface" Capone, clean up his tarnished name and offer his son some semblance of integrity. To do this, he would have to testify against The Mob, and he knew that the cost would be great. So, he testified.
 
Within the year, Easy Eddie's life ended in a blaze of gunfire on a lonely Chicago Street. But in his eyes, he had given his son the greatest gift he had to offer, at the greatest price he would ever pay.
 

STORY NUMBER TWO
 
World War II produced many heroes. One such man was Lieutenant Commander Butch O'Hare. He was a fighter pilot assigned to the aircraft carrier Lexington in the South Pacific.
 
One day his entire squadron was sent on a mission. After he was airborne, he looked at his fuel gauge and realized that someone had forgotten to top off his fuel tank. He would not have enough fuel to complete his mission and get back to his ship. His flight leader told him to return to the carrier.
 
Reluctantly, he dropped out of formation and headed back to the fleet. As he was returning to the mother ship he saw something that turned his blood cold. A squadron of Japanese aircraft were speeding their way toward the American fleet.
 
The American fighters were gone on a sortie, and the fleet was all but defenseless. He couldn't reach his squadron and bring them back in time to save the fleet. Nor could he warn the fleet of the approaching danger. There was only one thing to do. He must somehow divert them from the fleet.
 
Laying aside all thoughts of personal safety, he dove into the formation of Japanese planes. Wing-mounted 50 caliber's blazed as he charged in, attacking one surprised enemy plane and then another. Butch wove in and out of the now broken formation and fired at as many planes as possible until all his ammunition was finally spent. Undaunted, he continued the assault. He dove at the planes, trying to clip a wing or tail in hopes of damaging as many enemy planes as possible and rendering them unfit to fly.
 
Finally, the exasperated Japanese squadron took off in another direction. Deeply relieved, Butch O'Hare and his tattered fighter limped back to the carrier. Upon arrival he reported in and related the event surrounding his return. The film from the gun-camera mounted on his plane told the tale. It showed the extent of Butch's daring attempt to protect his fleet. He had in fact destroyed five enemy aircraft.
 
This took place on February 20, 1942, and for that action Butch became the Navy's first Ace of W.W.II, and the first Naval Aviator to win the Congressional Medal of Honor. A year later Butch was killed in aerial combat at the age of 29. His home town would not allow the memory of this WW II hero to fade, and today, O'Hare Airport in Chicago is named in tribute to the courage of this great man. So the next time you find yourself at O'Hare International, give some thought to visiting Butch's memorial displaying his statue and his Medal of Honor. It's located between Terminals 1 and 2.
 
SO WHAT DO THESE TWO STORIES HAVE TO DO WITH EACH OTHER?
 
Butch O'Hare was Easy Eddie's son.
 


From: "Mark McCann" <MAXDNAME@YAHOO.COM>
To: "USvets" <USvets@v-r-a.org>
Subject: Hello, can you help me get this to vets?
Date: Thursday, July 03, 2003 11:49 AM

I am a 40% disabled veteran who has had a great deal of experience with federal employment and the REALITY of federal agencies' unwillingness to hire Vets. 1.8% of all fed employees are VRA appointees - over 50% of all fed vets are Vietnam Era (meaning retirement in 5 to 15 years) and greater than 30% disabled make only 1.7% of the total federal workforce (there is the 10 point preference at work) I am sick to death of the lies from the OPM and the rest - can you help me get this out as many vets as possible - The idea is to et vets know what they are up against before they get caught in the system, like me 40% and an inch away from homeless AND nobody will or can help! Numbers from: FEDERAL CIVILIAN EMPLOYMENT DISTRIBUTION BY VETERAN STATUS, RACE/NATIONAL ORIGIN AND SEX EXECUTIVE BRANCH AGENCIES, WORLDWIDE, SEPTEMBER 30, 2000 from OPM

Welcome home soldier,

They will forget. You have been tested by fire in a war that you may or may not believe in. But, we soldiers, arenít privy to the political processes, ours is to "...do and die," and we do it, not for God and country, but for the squad or our "battle buddies" and fellow soldiers. If you come home healthy and hale, able to return to your life and vocation, God has blessed you. If not, prepare for a fight unlike any you have seen. 

I am 40% disabled veteran, who spent 4 years 8 months 29 days on active duty. At release I was told to sign a paper stating that I would not hold the military liable for any injury sustained while on active duty. This action turned out to be unlawful. This started what has become a legacy of information I wish to pass on to fellow disabled vets. I will preface this by stating no two individual cases or agencies are identical but similarities will show through given enough time and I will give some examples which have happened to me during my time in the federal labyrinth.

If you believe you have a claim for a disability or might in the future, due to an injury or exposure during active duty, any number of service organizations can assist, such as DAV, VFW et cetera.  These organizations are recognized by the Veterans Affairs (VA) as entities that can represent you in a disability hearing. Ask to read the Disability Rating book about your particular injury or symptoms. There may be hesitation on the part of the representative,due to the possibility of service members using the information to falsify symptoms in order to increase disability ratings, but you need to know exactly what the VA will be looking for to determine your rating.  If you have a back injury but can touch your toes the day of your exam that would be grounds for non-award of disability regardless of your usual flexibility. 

If you go before a VA rep for a disability physical get a copy of the examination before you leave. I was given an exam by an individual who was not a physician and when I told her I could not touch my toes she wrote on the claim form that I "refused." Subtle expressions can make a difference in an exam and should be questioned. If you are unhappy with the exam you have the right to see a VA physician because you are a veteran.

Do not give up your claim. Some VA claims have been known to drag out. Sometimes this is done to discourage less serious vets from pursuing claims and sometimes itís because the VA is understaffed. Stick it out and remember to make all scheduled exam dates and appointments. If you miss an appointment the VA scheduling office can make you wait a long time for the next opening.

Make sure you have all information ready and a copy of medical records available. It is wise to have a copy of your medical records from the appropriate branch records base/post before you begin your process. Any US Federal Building can provide you with the addresses and forms needed. Also, place a copy of your DD 214 (discharge papers) on record with your county clerk. This will allow you to get an additional certified copy of this document whenever needed.

If you are awarded a disability several things can happen. If your award is 0% you have, on record, a VA acknowledged disability that can be increased at a later date if your symptoms get worse. Any award above 0% comes with a monthly payment. The dollar amounts change from year to year and can be found online at www.opm.gov or at any US Federal Building. As of 2003 the amount of an award can increase or decrease depending on the individual case. BE AWARE of this fact. 

With a 0% to 19% disability rating a veteran qualifies for a 5 point preference on federal
employment certification lists (Certs). This means a veteran will receive an additional 5 points towards his or her score in a federal job opportunity. If the position is filled on a weighted score (i.e. testing and experience) you would have an additional 5 points added to your raw score before consideration is started. Federal certifications are governed by the "rule of threes." Meaning the top 3 candidates will be presented to the selecting officials. But be aware, that there numerous different Certs that can be used. A selecting official can chose any of those types of certification options.

A 20% or greater can make you eligible for Vocational Rehabilitation (Voc Rehab). Voc Rehab is a program that will allow a vet to attend school so that the vet can be gainfully employed after a period of training. Voc Rehab training is aimed at schooling that has a degree, certification or some end point that can be a gauge of completion. If you ask for a truck drivers school that gives a certificate after a two week training that may be the extent of your Voc Rehab, so be sure your request is what you need for the rest of your life because your chances of getting a second Voc Rehab award are close to nil. Under Voc Rehab you are also eligible for some free dental care at some VA Hospitals, but be forewarned: these may be student dentists who will have both hands in your mouth. If an untreated dental condition will effect your scholastic performance have it treated by the VA.

All school needs are covered by Voc Rehab. This includes book, school supplies, tuition, class fees, lab fees, tutors, computers and peripherals. In todayís academic world it is tough to get by without your own personal computer and applicable software.  Voc Rehab counselors might not tell you that you qualify for these items without your specific request for them. If you want it - ask for it , including professional conventions, meetings or any event where possible employers might come together. While in school you will receive a stipend along with your monthly disability payments. Additionally, Voc Rehab offers job placement assistance. This usually covers help with resumes and administrative assistance, beyond that assistance is spotty and depends on the individual Voc Rehab office and personnel.

While in school you can earn at least minimum wage, tax exempt, by working as a Work Study student with a government entity, such as the VA Hospital or any government funded veteransí agency. You are limited to 300 hours per term regardless if it is semester or quarter. Lastly, Work Study is just that...work study, with the emphasis on study! Do not let your work schedule interfere with your grades.

As a disabled veteran in Voc Rehab you are eligible for federal hiring preferences, under Student Temporary Employment Program (STEP) and Student Cooperative Employment Program (SCEP). The advantages of these programs are; experience in a field related to your education, usually pay above minimum wage, no restrictions on hours worked, possible college credit for the position and the SCEP offers the veteran a non competitive appointment to a federal agency within the same Department (i.e. Dept of Agriculture or Interior). Qualifications for a SCEP will be specific for the agency offering these positions (usually 30% or greater disability). The monies for STEP and SCEP come from coffers at Department levels not from the budget of that office. This can make a Voc Rehab veteran an appealing prospect. This funding at Department level lasts only as long as the veteran is in a Voc Rehab or finishing the degree program.

All veterans who have served 180 days or more of continuous active duty service qualify for  federal hiring preference under VEVRAA and Veterans Readjustment Act (VRA). This act has been changed and "readjusted" many times since its inception. As of 2003 this act allows a veteran to apply for positions that would normally only be open to "internal" employees and allows for non-competitive appointments. Veterans can only use this authority within 10 years of their  discharge unless the veteran is a VEV or >30% which has no time limit. If the veterans has less than 15 years of education they can hired for a period of two years in a probationary status (converted to career conditional after that time), while greater than 15 years of education is a direct appointment. This does not apply to all positions, as some can be limited to a specific region or other factors, but according to OPM 2000 figures only 1.7% of all federal employees were >30% vets while unemployment for that group was 10%.

At 30% or greater disability rating (+30%) a veteran qualifies for a 10 point federal hiring preference.  In theory, if a +30% qualifies for a position at GS-8 or below they are placed ahead of all non preference applicants 1*, and at GS-9 and above they would gain an additional 10 points towards a score if one the selection were based on score. This usually means a qualified +30% will make the list but once again, multiple Certs can be used so that any number of individuals can be picked above a +30%. If there are multiple hiring Certs being used send in an application for each. Always include the SF-50, DD-214 and Letter of Disability Rating (dated within the last 12 months) when claiming any preference for a federal position.

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) dictates the requirements used by all federal agencies for hiring.  You may find this is where the federal hiring process breaks down. Kay Coles James, a Bush appointee who heads the OPM, has stated "[A]t the Office of Personnel Management, veterans' preference is, and always will be, one of our top priorities. We are serious about protecting our veterans' preferences in the Federal hiring process, 3* but the reality is somehow different.

An example follows:

(I was appointed under a Schedule B) FROM OPM 2 5 Code of Federal Regulations 335.103(b)(4) clearly provides for management's right to select from any appropriate source, even if the position has been announced under merit promotion. 2* And yet VEOA states: Schedule B appointments made under the VEOA must be converted to career conditional or career without further competition provided the veteran actually competed under a Merit Promotion announcement

The VEOA states "In enacting the Veterans Millennium and Health Care and Benefits Act (Pub. L. 106-117 or 5 U.S.C. 3330a) ), Congress amended the VEOA to clarify that if an eligible veteran competes under the agency's merit promotion procedures and is selected, he or she will be given a career or career conditional appointment in the competitive service." 

But a follow up letter, not directly from Ms. James but from an aid, stated "...an agency does not have to use (select from) a merit promotion referral list. It can choose not to fill the vacancy or it can fill the vacancy using other sources of applicants and other hiring authorities." According to the OPMís numbers: 70% of the positions that were not filled occurred when a preference eligible vet was on the Cert. 

To further illustrate how the OPM and VEOA will not assist you; "[if the candidate is] VEOA eligible [and] is among best qualified candidates [he/she] can be selected for the position without having to go through regular competitive examining processes." This process is "guaranteed" under VRA! On the subject of VRA -- 1.8% of the total federal workforce was hired under VRA.

As explained by OPM; VEOA isnít a requirement, isnít a priority process and has no meaning that hasnít been already legislated by VRA! OPM can not assist you in veteransí preference matters because there are so many ways for an agency to hire an individual from another source.

Within the federal agency hiring ranks individuals are employed to test qualifications of each and every applicant. If any item within the list of Qualifications on a federal job announcement is not expressly noted and accompanied by required verification that applicant can, and usually will, be disqualified with no notice. Some hiring personnel will contact the veteran requesting the additional paperwork but do not count on that. Some Qualifications will seem very specific. These can include; college courses (by course title), certifications and experience that may seem narrow in its scope. Positions can be written to make one applicant the "perfect" match. While this "pre-selection" of a applicant is illegal tailoring a list of qualifications is not and be used as an effective means of stacking the deck. You may find your application can be disqualified for anything ranging from the "wrong sequence of courses" to "lacks experience at next lower federal grade." One position, I saw recently from the US Forest Service, stated "individual must have served in the next lower grade on this unit (unit being the location)." 

The OPM states clearly that a 5 or 10 point preference does not guarantee a position with any agency and you may find it is difficult to compete at all. I have submitted more 100 federal applications and received no less than 35 "[Q]ualified but not selected" while I have only had two interviews. The bulk of the remained applications have been disqualified for reason such as "unreadable college transcripts" to "lack of time in grade at next lower federal level." On the non-federal side of my employment hunt I have applied to nearly 40 jobs and have had 9 interviews. This disparity does not go unnoticed by Voc Rehab counselors, employment department workers and other veteran federal employees. You may hear these people refer to the "wink and nod" aspect of vetsí preference. This means that some agencies allow personnel practices that are in direct violation of federal laws, but without enforcement, laws mean nothing. In my case, the violatorís supervisor was his college roommate, and to add a touch of irony the agency was created by a disabled veteran!

The federal employment qualifications can be a formidable filter to any veteran and more so to a disabled veteran. By OPMís rule: "If an agency proposes to pass over a disabled veteran on a certificate to select a person who is not a preference eligible, or to disqualify a disabled veteran based on the physical requirements of the position, it must at the same time notify both the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and the disabled veteran of the reasons for the determination and of the veteran's right to respond to OPM within 15 days of the date of the notification."

I have never received a notice of this type even  though I have been passed over for non-preference candidates. DEMAND one if you are "qualified but not selected." Another eligible 5 or 10 point preference can be chosen over you but the agency must, by law, notify you if you are passed over for the above reasons. You may ask for a copy of the Cert that the agency used for hiring. But an agency can use multiple Certs to hire from and the "Rule of Threes" is not a requirement.

It has been my experience that these violations occur because Congress is unable or unwilling to enforce these requirements. I have dealt personally with Oregonís Senators Gordon Smith and Ron Wydenís office. Sen. Smithís office is responsive. His staff will forward the veteranís complaint in less than two weeks but will not pin an agency spokesperson down to a definitive answer even when the response is obviously a smoke screen, such as the contradictions as OPM and VEOA regulations as noted above. Oregon Rep. Darlene Hooley actively campaigning for veteranís votes and is now on the House Veteransí Committee but even she can only ask agencies to explain a ruling.  Senator Ron Wydenís office responded after two full months and I found his staff was argumentative and confrontational. One staffer relied to my request for assistance by asking "[W]hat do you want us to do about it?" A staffer from a separate office stated "[W]e enact legislation, not enforce it." Lastly, I will mention George W. Bush. I was on the verge of becoming homeless and was desperate. I sent multiple detailed email messages to WhiteHouse.com begging for his assistance but received only automatic responses assuring me that my opinion was important to the administration. Apparently my opinion wasnít important enough to warrant even an expression of sympathy from a White House intern. Do not be surprised if you find George W. Bush is not responsive to vetsí issues. Only those who have served can understand what the military is like and even then some may not champion our cause. 

If a veteran wishes to claim his or her vets preference rights were violated the first action would be to contact the Department of Laborís Veterans Employment Training Service (VETS). Usually found at your state employment bureau, they can assist you if you feel that your vetsí hiring rights have been violated. Be forewarned, these individuals are usually overworked and understaffed and some agencies will go to great lengths to put off VETS complaints.  Note: USERRA complaints will only go to the Department of Justice after the VETS are able to assemble the data needed from these agencies.

The next step would be through the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). If you chose this option -  HIRE A LAWYER! The MSPB has a reputation amongst vets and those assist vets as being a "tool of management" even though MSPB was created "to ensure that Federal employees are protected against abuses by agency management, that Executive Branch agencies make employment decisions in accordance with the merit systems principles, and that Federal merit systems are kept free of prohibited personnel practices.4) I found the MSPB denied an agency was required to follow VEOA mandates and convinced me that multiple violations of Americanís with Disabilities Act (ADA) and prohibited practices were not grounds for legal action. At this point I had the option of filing an appeal with the US District Court of Appeals within 60 days but had been instructed by the MSPB judge that the agency would seek monetary redress against me for the cost of my move , even though this was a violation of the Whistleblower Act. By not acting within the 60 day window I was left out in the cold. Get legal assistance BEFORE you take your case to the MSPB.

On the non-federal side of hiring laws are in place that mandate any employer with federal contracts or more than 10 employees follow some federal guidelines concerning vetsí hiring and reemployment under Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). You may find, as I have, that some non-federal employers feel vets are unable to function outside of a ridge set of guidelines. This prejudice can be offset if you can be ready to present your supervisory achievements (i.e. schools, academies, squad leader, NCO or Officer assignments).

One of the best steps a vet can take is to contact a work force recruiter from a diversity or equal opportunity division within a federal agency. These individuals actively recruit individuals such as disabled vets and vetsí preference employees. Within a stateís employment division you can find a Department of Veterans Opportunity Program (DVOP).   These offer a modicum of services to a vet through a stateís employment program.

Looking for work after you are released from active duty can be a daunting and frustrating experience. Try to find other vets to network with and compare notes on how they did with a particular employer and see if that might fit you better. Most important, donít let yourself get depressed or become locked in an abusive behavior pattern. If you need help with psychological or physical assistance, stop smoking programs, substance abuse or any number of other well-being programs contact your nearest VA hospital. The care and focus of the VA has changed dramatically in the last 30 years. Of all the federal programs and departments created to aid vets the VA has come the farthest.

In all honesty, the federal government has made some positions preference eligible veterans only. These are: custodian, guard, elevator operator and messenger. The only trouble with these position is they are all contracted out to private entities or arenít needed. It is the thought that counts.

When you get back to the "land of the big px" try to keep a record of all your dealings with elected officials and agencies. If you can pass that information along to where ever you receive this then we can take care of each other. We are the only ones that we can depend on.

1* GS 8 and below - the names of 10-point preference eligibles who have a compensable, service-connected disability of 10 percent or more are placed ahead of the names of all other eligibles on a given register per OPM

2* Email letter from Carol Green from the OPM Oversight Committee.

3* Veteransí Day address to American Legion, flag and general officers

4* Taken from www.mspb.com

The following is a list of all Congressmen/women who have been contacted to for inout on this article and their response.

Senators on Veterans Committee --Arlen Specter, PA, automatic response -- Bob Graham, FL , no response -- James M. Jeffords, VT, no response -- Ben Nighthorse Campbell, CO, automatic response,  John D. Rockefeller IV, WV, no response -- Larry E. Craig, ID, no response -- Daniel K. Akaka, HI, passed it on OR senator -- Kay Bailey Hutchison, TX, no response -- Patty Murray, WA, no response -- Jim Bunning , KY, automatic response -- Zell Miller, GA, no response -- John Ensign, NV, no response, E. Benjamin Nelson, NE, no response -- Lindsey Graham, SC, no response -- Lisa Murkowski, AK, no respose -- Senators on Arms Committee -- John Warner, VA, no response -- John McCain, AZ, asked for signed letter of inquiry -- James M. Inhofe, OK, automatic response -- Pat Roberts, KS, not contacted -- Wayne Allard, CO, no response -- Jeff Sessions, AL, automatic response -- Susan M. Collins, ME, automatic response -- James M. Talent, MO, automatic response -- Saxby Chambliss (Georgia), no response -- Elizabeth Dole, NC, automatic response -- John Cornyn, TX, no response -- Carl Levin, MI, no response -- Robert C. Byrd, WV, no response, -- Joseph I. Lieberman, CT, no response -- Jack Reed, RI, no response -- Bill Nelson, FL, no response --Mark Dayton, MN, no response -- Evan Bayh, IN, automatic response -- Hillary Rodham Clinton, NY, automatic response -- Mark Pryor, Arkansas, no response

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