Federal Contractors'Veterans Hiring Benchmark Down to 6.9 Percent

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By Lydell C. Bridgeford

June 21 — The new 6.9 percent hiring benchmark for protected veterans announced by the Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs is the lowest yet under the revised regulations for the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act, an attorney said June 20.

“It continues to inch down,” said Lynn Clements, director of regulatory affairs at Berkshire Associates Inc., a Maryland-based human resources consulting firm.

Each year, the OFCCP updates its VEVRAA Benchmark Database, the hiring benchmark for protected veterans that is based on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce, she said at the Society for Human Resource Management Annual Conference and Exposition.

Who Is ‘Protected'?

A veteran is a “protected veteran” under VEVRAA if he or she falls into one or more of the following categories: disabled veteran; recently separated veteran; active duty wartime or campaign badge veteran; or Armed Forces service medal veteran.

Under the VEVRAA regulations, federal contractors must establish annual hiring benchmarks for protected veterans by selecting a benchmark based on either the current national percentage of veterans in the workforce, or their own benchmark based on the best available data.

Database Adjusted June 15

On June 15, the OFCCP adjusted its VEVRAA Benchmark Database to reflect a new 6.9 percent annual national benchmark for federal contractor hiring of protected veterans.

The agency created the database to help federal contractors and subcontractors establish hiring benchmarks for protected veterans.

Generally speaking, most contractors use the current national percentage of veterans in the civilian labor force as their hiring benchmark for protected veterans, said Clements, who served as acting director and deputy director of the OFCCP's Division of Policy, Planning and Program Development during the George W. Bush administration.

Clements said the VEVRAA hiring benchmark rate will either continue to go down or hover around 6.9 percent. “We don’t see it skyrocketing up to 10 percent or 13 percent, anytime soon,” she added.

Benchmark Pegged to Labor Data

The OFCCP bases its benchmark on the national percentage of veterans in the workforce as calculated by the DOL’s Bureau of Labor Statistics. BLS releases an annual report at the end of March discussing the availability of veterans in the U.S. labor market. The report includes all veterans, not only those protected under VEVRAA.

Clements said she wasn’t surprised that the VEVRAA hiring benchmark set by the OFCCP continues to fall. “We have brought back troops from the Middle East and reduced troops from overseas, so the employment rates for veterans have changed,” she said.

When the OFCCP published the final regulations in September 2013, the preamble to the regulations stated that the current national percentage of veterans in the workforce was 8 percent. The regulations went into effect in March 2014.

Shortly afterward, the agency announced that the hiring benchmark was 7.2. percent. In 2015, the OFCCP changed the benchmark for protected veterans to 7 percent.

Contractors with written affirmative action plans in place when a new VEVRAA hiring benchmark is announced aren't required to immediately update their plans to reflect the new benchmark, according to the OFCCP. A contractor will adopt the new benchmark the next time it updates its AAP.

By Lydell C. Bridgeford

To contact the reporter on this story: Lydell C. Bridgeford in Washington at lbridgeford@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Heather Bodell at hbodell@bna.com

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