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Strategy for stepping up veterans hiring focuses on training, outreach

Spouses will be included in efforts to bring more former service members to government, OPM says.

The Office of Personnel Management on Monday issued a strategy for boosting the employment of veterans within the federal government that emphasizes training, coordination, marketing and the inclusion of military spouses in hiring initiatives.

The plan comes in response to a Nov. 9, 2009, executive order from President Obama, creating a governmentwide council to address veterans hiring and establishing veterans employment offices at individual federal agencies.

In the document's foreword, OPM Director John Berry said following veterans preference -- which gives service members an advantage over other candidates in the hiring process -- is critical in meeting the government's obligation to those who have been in the military.

"It's not enough simply to say, however, 'We'll add five or 10 points to your score, thank you for applying,' " Berry wrote. "We must aggressively dismantle barriers to entry and success for veterans and transitioning service members pursuing careers in the federal civil service."

The plan does not set targets for veterans hiring, but asks agency leadership to get involved in efforts to bring more former service members on board. It also calls for training programs to acclimate service members to civilian life in the government; publicity to make veterans aware of the initiative; and building a consistent network of information about veterans' employment, both for veterans and human resource managers. In addition, it recommends creating a database of resumes so hiring officials can search for veterans who match their requirements.

OPM will coordinate marketing efforts and serve as a clearinghouse for information about veterans employment for job candidates and hiring officials. As a first step, the agency set up a new Web site, FedsHireVets.gov, in January.

Spouses are to be included in the training and marketing initiatives, according to the document. "Military spouses and veterans' families also possess skills and the public service motivation needed in the federal workplace," the plan stated.

Joe Davis, a spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, said one reason veterans make good federal employees is they've already shown they're willing to relocate their families for work. "When you include the spouses in the plan, it just makes it so much better," he said. "In today's economy, it takes two incomes to live."

Davis said he also was pleased with the emphasis on communication and outreach, and hoped the effort would take advantage of existing Pentagon programs for service members returning from active duty, including the Operation Warfighter initiative to find federal internships for soldiers recovering from wounds.

He noted he would have liked to see the strategy address the exclusion of military officers above the rank of major from veterans preference laws. "You have some very experienced people who are separating and retiring from the military and who are being treated differently because of their rank," he said.