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By Leo Shane III
Military Times Staff writer
Oct. 10, 2014 - 10:59AM

The American Legion has a message for federal workers upset over veterans preference rules: Get over it.

“Those who have served in uniform have earned such preference,” American Legion National Commander Michael Helm said in a statement late Thursday. “Helping those who have served in uniform, especially disabled veterans, get jobs is a policy that must remain in place.”

Helm’s message comes about two months after the release of a report by the Merit Systems Protection Board on veterans hiring practices by the government, which found growing concern among civilian government workers about the advantages given to applicants with prior military service. The findings have gained new media and congressional attention in recent weeks.

About 6.5 percent of workers surveyed for the report felt the system unfairly benefits veterans, with even higher rates of complaints among Defense Department workers.

Board officials recommended stronger oversight of the veterans preference rules and usage, and added: “If Congress determines that the law is no longer needed, the law should be repealed.”

Current federal rules give military experience and service-connected injuries extra weight when considering candidates for government posts. Helm said that advantage is needed to help veterans compete with their civilian counterparts by giving extra consideration to the career development time lost while serving their country.

The Legion commander also dismissed news reports linking veterans preference to a decline in federal hiring of female applicants, saying he believes that has more to do with reductions in the number of new employees than with veterans looking for work.

“To any civilian workers who have problems with veterans preference, The American Legion’s message is simple: Become a veteran,” Helm said.

Veterans make up about one-third of the federal workforce, but boast even higher hiring rates in the Defense and Veterans Affairs departments.