Veterans in Government Made $11,000 Less Than Non-Vets in 2016

A service hat representing the U.S. Marine Corps on display at an Agriculture Department Veterans Day ceremony in 2013. A service hat representing the U.S. Marine Corps on display at an Agriculture Department Veterans Day ceremony in 2013. Lance Cheung / USDA file photo

The federal government employed almost 12,000 more veterans in fiscal 2016 than it did in 2015, but vets still earned significantly less than government employees who hadn’t served in the military, according to new data from the Office of Personnel Management.

As of Sept. 30, 2016, veterans represented roughly 31.1 percent of federal employees, up slightly from 30.9 percent at the same point in 2015 and 30.8 percent at the end of fiscal 2014. The executive branch employed more than 635,000 veterans in fiscal 2016, but vets earned on average $11,000 less than non-veterans.

Non-vets working full-time jobs in the government took home an average of $86,746 in fiscal 2016, while full-time employees who were veterans made $75,707 on average. This gap in average pay remained roughly the same from fiscal 2015.

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Differences in job type may account for much of the income disparity. Non-veterans are more than twice as likely to hold professional positions than veterans. About 45 percent of vets hold administrative positions compared to roughly 37 percent of the overall federal workforce, and though only about 8 percent of federal employees hold blue collar positions, 14 percent of vets find themselves in blue collar jobs.

Still, officials have made great strides in increasing representation of veterans in the federal workforce since President Obama issued a 2009 executive order charging agencies to increase employment opportunities for those who have served. The percentage of vets working in government agencies has grown 5.3 points since 2009, when they made up about a quarter of the federal workforce.

The percentage of veteran new hires took a small but noteworthy dip in recent years. Vets made up 33.2 percent of new hires in fiscal 2014 and dropped slightly to 32.5 percent in 2015. In the most recent fiscal year, about 31 percent of new hires were veterans.

Looking specifically at people recruited for full-time government positions, the overall percentage of veterans hired increased to 42 percent in 2016. However, this percentage has trended downward also, decreasing from 43.7 percent in fiscal 2015 and 47.4 percent in fiscal 2014.

Additionally, the retention rate of veteran new hires stood at 74.2 percent in 2016, compared to 78.4 percent for non-vets. This means veterans are 4.2 percentage points less likely than non-vets to still hold their jobs two years after getting hired.

Veterans have a much larger presence at some agencies than others. Not surprisingly the Pentagon employs the most, with vets making up 48.7 percent of the civilian workforce. More than half the civilian employees of the Air Force and the Army have served in the military.

On the other side of the spectrum, veterans make up less than 10 percent of the workforce at three executive branch agencies: the Health and Human Services Department, Environmental Protection Agency and National Science Foundation.

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