Report: Veterans face hostility, discrimination in federal workplace

by WorldTribune Staff, October 3, 2016

American military veterans who are now working for the federal government are facing resentment and hostility from co-workers, a report said.

Some, including many who were wounded in action, have also been denied promotions and pay raises, security correspondent Rowan Scarborough wrote for The Washington Times on Oct. 2.

Patrick Hanley
Patrick Hanley

Patrick Hanley, who lost his left arm and suffered a traumatic brain injury in Iraq in 2008, said he “was ostracized” by co-workers at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

“People made up stories about me being unstable,” he said.

Hanley, now 40 and honorably discharged on 100 percent disability, said the office’s millennials “resented his war resume and the special access to federal jobs the U.S. provides returning war veterans,” Scarborough’s report said.

He learned their nickname for him was “Lefty,” for his missing arm. Another office clique called him “Mr. PTSD,” for post-traumatic stress disorder.

An office worker also complained to his supervisor that when Hanley, a safety officer at the EPA, responded to a malfunctioning elevator and possible injury, he did not address a wheelchair-bound employee in the proper way.

“When I learned of this,” Hanley said, “I protested to my supervisor, saying I was unaware of a special protocol for speaking with people in wheelchairs and pointed out that I had some experience with people in wheelchairs since I had been wheelchair-bound for months myself and had spent the previous four-plus years surrounded by wounded soldiers in wheelchairs.”

Joe Davis, spokesman for the Veterans of Foreign Wars, said he has heard anecdotes like Hanley’s.

“Ignorance and disrespect have no place in any workplace anywhere,” Davis said. “It’s just unfortunate that the military’s attitude adjustment procedures aren’t followed in the public and private sectors.”

Hanley also said he had been unfairly denied a promotion and pay raise, something that veterans advocates say is a frequent occurrence for veterans working for the government.

Scarborough’s report notes that “at one point” Hanley “turned to family friends and fellow Democrats and Virginians: (Tim) Kaine, now running as the party’s vice presidential nominee, and Rep. Gerald E. Connolly.

Both offices wrote letters to the EPA” over the withheld promotion.

In an Aug. 4 email, a Connolly aide expressed frustration that the agency was not forthcoming.

“As I’ve conveyed to you in the past, we continue to believe this case could have been handled more delicately given Mr. Hanley’s status as a service disabled veteran with limited experience with the complex human resources policies of the federal government,” the aide wrote in one of numerous communications. “Further, as you know well, the EPA and the federal government are actively recruiting wounded warriors into civilian service, and those efforts are undermined when veterans experience situations like Mr. Hanley‘s.”

The aide said the EPA should have converted Hanley to permanent employment status in the summer of 2014, but the switch never came “due to what appears to be inaction by management.”

Hanley filed a grievance to win back pay and it is going to arbitration. The American Federation of Government Employees has provided him a lawyer.

“While it is good that my attorney and the union agree that I have a winning legal case, it seems terribly unfair that I must spend my money and suffer delays lasting months, or even years if EPA chooses to contest my claim, to obtain the promotions and pay that EPA policy says I have earned through my performance,” Hanley told The Times.

According to the Office of Personnel Management, the total number of veterans working for the government is 612,000, about one-third of the 1.99 million federal work force.

The OPM said a vet’s application can be passed over if managers determine he or she cannot do the job, but they must document such a decision or face disciplinary action.

“The intentional failure by a government official to comply with veterans’ preference requirements is treated as a prohibited personnel practice, which can be reported to the Office of Special Counsel for investigation and is grounds for disciplinary action,” OPM official Mark D. Reinhold told Congress.