OFCCP, Contracts and Veteran Hiring – Doing the Minimum is Not Good Enough

A recent Washington Post article on federal contractors and veterans employment caught my eye.   The content centered on whether the requirement for a government contractor to file the VETS-100 form actually drives an increase of hiring veterans.

For those unfamiliar with the topic, organizations that do business with the federal government and that have contracts over a certain dollar amount are required to complete either a VETS-100 or a VETS-100A form annually and report the total number of covered veterans it employs and the number it has hired in the last year.

The definition of a “covered veteran” varies slightly between the two forms, but generally includes:

  • Disabled veterans
  • Veterans of the Vietnam era
  • Veterans who served on active duty in the U.S. military during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge is awarded
  • Armed Forces service medal veterans
  • Recently separated veterans (veterans within 36 months from discharge or release from active duty

The thought behind this requirement is that if businesses are going to take taxpayer dollars (in the form of government contracts), they have an obligation to follow affirmative action hiring practices and actively seek to employ, amongst other groups, military veterans.  A contractor found to be in violation could have its contracts canceled, terminated, or suspended in whole or in part, and the contractor may be debarred, i.e., declared ineligible for future government contracts.

The Office of Federal Contracts Compliance Programs (OFCCP), part of the Department of Labor, is responsible to audit government contractors and determine compliance for hiring veterans.  In an earlier blog I wrote how some HR and compliance professionals were being caught by surprise that the OFCCP was pressing for evidence that contractors were doing more than the bare minimum to find qualified veterans to hire.  The OFCCP has an incentive for businesses to do more – it’s called the Good Faith Initiative for Veterans Employment (G-FIVE), another topic which I’ve covered in this blog.  President Obama has requested a renewed focus on veteran employment and the employment of persons with disabilities, and this is driving the attention being paid to government contractors.

I attended an OFCCP event last year and sat in on several sessions that outlined compliance requirements for contractors.  Time and again, compliance professionals stated that they were doing what was required of them, but they just weren’t able to find qualified veterans to hire.

The bottom line is that it just isn’t a good excuse anymore for businesses to claim they’ve tried to find veterans to hire, when all they have done is the bare minimum the contracts law requires.   The minimum that any contract holder has to do is to file open job positions with the state employment agency.  The idea behind that requirement is that unemployed veterans will find the positions and apply for them and/or the Local Veteran Employment Representatives will see the positions and try to find qualified veterans to present to the employers.

But, as the G-FIVE program outlines, there are a lot of other types of outreach employers could be doing to find qualified veterans, and employers that take those additional actions are more likely to find veterans who are a good fit for the positions.

Military members are found in many places.  In my seminar “Military Applicant Sourcing Options” I cover more than a dozen methods to find military, including veteran-specific job boards, college campuses, professional associations, government agencies, non-profit groups and social media sites.

Many of the points made in The Washington Post article centered on whether contractors who met the criteria to file VET-100 forms were actually submitting the forms.  I believe that if you meet the criterion that requires your company to file the form – you need to file the form.  But more importantly, I believe that there is a risk of an increased scrutiny during OFCCP audits.  Companies who have been coasting by, doing the minimum, and giving excuses as to why they can’t find qualified veterans to hire could risk being flagged in the Central Contractor Repository and on the GSA schedules.

Over 165,000 service members will transition from the military this year.  More than a million men and women serve in the Guard and Reserve and too many will come back from a deployment to find their jobs have disappeared.  Almost 300,000 service members and veterans are enrolled in college and taking advantage of the Post 9-11 GI Bill benefit so they can find better jobs upon graduation.

I don’t buy the excuse that “qualified veterans are hard to find”.  You need to look harder in the right places.