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Bills Aim to Make Veterans a Protected Class in Housing, Employment Discrimination Laws

“Shamefully, veterans who served our country return from deployment and too often struggle to find a job or a place to call home."

by
Bridget Johnson

Bio

July 12, 2013 - 5:38 pm

Lawmakers have renewed a bipartisan, bicameral effort to get veterans added to the list of those protected by law against housing or employment discrimination.

Former Sen. Scott Brown (R-Mass.) introduced a bill last year to end housing discrimination against service members and veterans, but it had no co-sponsors and died in committee. In the House, Rep. Al Green (D-Texas) introduced the Veterans, Women, Families with Children, and Persons With Disabilities Housing Fairness Act of 2011, drawing progressive co-sponsors but not making it out of committee.

This time, the effort is focused squarely on vets and is coordinated between the upper and lower chambers as well as veterans organizations.

In the Senate, Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) introduced the Veterans and Service Members Employment Rights and Housing Act of 2013, which would allow veterans who feel they’ve been discriminated against because of their military service the right to appeal their grievances to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. It would amend the Fair Housing Act, which currently aims to protect people discriminated against “because of race, color, religion, sex, familial status, or national origin” to add ‘‘or because the person is a member of the uniformed services.”

“Shamefully, veterans who served our country return from deployment and too often struggle to find a job or a place to call home,” Blumenthal said. “By making military service a protected status, this bill will ensure that those who sacrificed to keep us safe are not discriminated against when they return home.”

In the House, Reps. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced a companion bill, the Servicemember and Veterans Employment Rights and Housing Act, with a Republican co-sponsor: Jim Renacci of Ohio.

“Our service members have fought hard to protect the freedoms we are so blessed to enjoy in America, often risking their lives in the process,” said Renacci. “Under no circumstances should the brave men and women of our Armed Forces face job or housing discrimination based on the service they provided our country, especially considering the sacrifices their families have already made in their absence.”

“I am proud to join with this bipartisan group of representatives and senators to ensure our veterans are not punished once they return home having safely completed their missions.”

Some states already have laws on the books offering veterans legal protection or making veterans a protected class, as in Washington state.

The bill’s proponents argue that a comprehensive federal law is needed to protect vets from discrimination, even though some cases may fall under current statutes including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. That law, they say, still isn’t covering reservists who miss out on job opportunities or promotions because employers are wary of future deployments, and doesn’t cover housing discrimination at all.

Last year, Iraq War vet Joel Morgan sued a landlord in Boston for refusing to rent to him because she was anti-war.

“Because of what you told me about the Iraq war … we are very adamant about our beliefs … it’s just not comfortable for us … and I’m sure now that you know this, it would not be comfortable for you,” the landlord allegedly said in a voicemail to Morgan. “I would suggest you do the right thing and look for a place less politically active or controversial.”

The House and Senate bills were crafted in consultation with AMVETS, Veterans of Foreign Wars and the National Guard Association of the United States.

AMVETS sees the bills as key in its Amer­i­can Vet­er­ans Anti-Discrimination Ini­tia­tive.

“The Amer­i­can Vet­eran Anti-Discrimination Ini­tia­tive is an impor­tant leg­isla­tive pri­or­ity for AMVETS and our com­mu­nity,” said AMVETS National Com­man­der Cleve Geer. “The added sup­port of VFW and NGAUS gives us the momen­tum we need for action on Capi­tol Hill and to pro­tect our transitioning veterans.”

The veterans organization said it has gathered numerous examples of veterans whose rental applications were denied or who were fired from their job because of military status.

VFW Exec­u­tive Direc­tor Bob Wal­lace said “the value of mil­i­tary ser­vice has eroded to the point that being a vet­eran is seen as a lia­bil­ity to many employ­ers.”

Proponents on the Hill cite a 2012 Center for a New American Security study that found more than 80 percent of the companies surveyed “described two or more challenges to hiring veterans.”

More than 50 percent of employers noted a negative stereotype associated with veterans, including concerns about post-traumatic stress disorder and a perceived lack of flexibility.

“Although an emphasis on discipline, structure and process is prized by some employers, other employers perceive veterans as more rigid, less imaginative and less communicative than civilians. These perceptions are the mirror image of many positive comments discussed in the prior section about veterans’ discipline and strict adherence to processes, and they were sometimes exacerbated by veterans who stood or sat with a ramrod posture and responded to questions in a military fashion, emphasizing brevity and directness,” the report stated.

“In these instances, the civilian employer would have preferred the candidate to be more open and communicative, whereas the veteran was likely interacting as the military had trained him or her.”

Half of companies surveyed named the perceived acclimation period to civilian life as a challenge in extending a job offer to veterans and as a key explanation for veteran unemployment rates.

“If you fight for our country, you shouldn’t have to fight for a job when you come home,” Kilmer said.

Bridget Johnson is a veteran journalist whose news articles and opinion columns have run in dozens of news outlets across the globe. Bridget first came to Washington to be online editor at The Hill, where she wrote The World from The Hill column on foreign policy. Previously she was an opinion writer and editorial board member at the Rocky Mountain News and nation/world news columnist at the Los Angeles Daily News. She is an NPR contributor and has contributed to USA Today, The Wall Street Journal, National Review Online, Politico and more, and has myriad television and radio credits as a commentator. Bridget is Washington Editor for PJ Media.

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Top Rated Comments   
As a disabled vet I think this is a terrible idea that Progressives will use to push the "half-deranged loser killer among us meme", I served in the 82nd ABN in combat many years ago, true combat vets just want a chance, but already we are seeing a massive influx of support personnel claiming bogus PTSD symptons and clogging the VA pipeline when the most cursory examination of the individuals DD214 would seperate the wheat from the chaff. Notice the example given was a rabid anti-war vet. The vast majority of us just want to get on with our lives, not taking advantage of, but only exercising our rights to the benefits our service provides us,and living our lives in the only "protected status" that counts....American citizen.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
In pushing this law they are violating property rights and further violating the fourteenth amendment. FHA is a crock, and tacking in service members doesn't make it better, but it will make it harder to disassemble down the road.

It is not within the authority of Government to Force people to enter into contracts with members of 'protected classes' under the threat of legal hardship.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Another crypto-socialist scheme to create a new victim category, make them dependent on government largess and then exploit them.

Wash-Rinse-Repeat...it's what socialists do.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
All Comments   (17)
All Comments   (17)
Sort: Newest Oldest Top Rated
Soon everyone will be in a protected class.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
It should not take a law to assure that they are treated fairly. There are veterans and veterans. Someone who slogs through Afghanistan is not the same as someone who slogs through the PX in at some post in the US for several years. Veterans organizations should clarify this to "our great leaders"
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a new veteran myself, I can't agree with this bill. At all. There's already a vast favoritism complex in place for government jobs whe it comes to veterans, and specifically, disabled veterans. A job is almost automatic with a rating over 50%, regardless of comparative qualifications. For many people, I'm sure that's a life saving offer. It guarantees that fewer younger and able-bodied veterans can get jobs in the federal government under the same scheme, but I feel that the guidelines are in place for good reasons.

Not so for private industry. A company should be allowed to hire the best person for the position they need to fill, and many times, new military veterans are not going to fit the bill. Motivators are different, leadership is different, work ethic and expectations are different. People grow to fit their environment, and the military environment creates a very different kind of technician or leader than does the private sector. The fact of the matter is that the military does not set somebody up for automatic success, or even basic functionability, in the private sector. Companies should not have to bear the cost of that.

A better use of Congress' time would be to implement better transition programs and applicable skill development courses for military who are separating or retiring. Many military members already coast through their service time, requiring companies to hire them would only delay the growth of those skill sets which are going to help them in the outside world. Some companies already have programs to help new veteran hires adjust to their new work world, and grow accordingly. Supporting and expanding programs like this would also be a good idea. Forcing companies to hire bad employees helps nobody.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
For every vet that faces actual discrimination, there'll be 10,000 scammers trying to hide behind the anti-discrimination piece to get around bad credit, criminal records, etc. as a bar to rental or sales of housing or as a bar to employment.

I wrote my State's policy on application of USERRA early in the Afghanistan conflict and it still stands. The primary challenge we faced was returning veterans/reservists trying to assert that their deployment had deprived them of promotion and wanting some recompense for that. They were backed this by Veterans' advocates and to some extent Veterans' groups, but USERRA doesn't protect a deployed soldier from loss of opportunity it only protects from loss of benefits that would accrue solely based on time. If a reservist is a Widgetmaker I and the class spec says that after one year you automatically become a Widgetmaker II, USERRA causes an employer to confer the Widgetmaker II title and pay to the soldier on return to work. If however, the spec says that to progress from a I to a II, you have to do certain things, then regardless of his deployment, he must actually do those things before he can become a Widgetmaker II.

In dealing with a workforce of over 20K for over twenty years, I can count on my fingers the number of legitimate discrimination complaints on ANY grounds including the most recent favorites of the plaintiffs' bar, disability and sexual harassment. The number of complaints asserted however was in the thousands. When I left in '06 we'd never had a USERRA complaint against us sustained though we did have a few instances in which the filing of a complaint caused us to look at what had been done and conclude it had been done wrong and remedied.

I know it is close to heresy on a conservative site, but I don't think that working as a clerk typist or mechanic with limited wardrobe choices on a stateside military base, most of which are quite nice, entitles you to much in the way of special consideration for anything. Only a miniscule percentage of members of the armed services are in any kind of combat role or even ever go near a combat zone. The only difference between their job and the dangers they might be exposed to any a similar civilian job is that there are more restrictions on their personal liberty. OK, accepting those restrictions is worth something but it doesn't have the same worth as the actual exposure involved in being in a combat zone or in a combat role.

If the system weren't so clogged by supply clerks who "served" in a stateside base my stepson who carried a SAW for a year in southern Afghanistan and spent most of another year in an infantry role in Kosovo wouldn't have his VA appointments constantly cancelled or rescheduled and have even the simplest process take weeks or month to accomplish, and usually find that it was done wrong and has to be done over, all the while being treated like a scammer because so many are.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
If this gets passed Hoyle will have to come out with new rules for "Protected Class Poker". Right now I think the best hand is a black,disabled,lesbian.muslim,refugee,illegal alien.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
As a disabled vet I think this is a terrible idea that Progressives will use to push the "half-deranged loser killer among us meme", I served in the 82nd ABN in combat many years ago, true combat vets just want a chance, but already we are seeing a massive influx of support personnel claiming bogus PTSD symptons and clogging the VA pipeline when the most cursory examination of the individuals DD214 would seperate the wheat from the chaff. Notice the example given was a rabid anti-war vet. The vast majority of us just want to get on with our lives, not taking advantage of, but only exercising our rights to the benefits our service provides us,and living our lives in the only "protected status" that counts....American citizen.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
We must treat veterans like yet another oppressed class of the helpless and witless downtrodden to be taken care of and protected by Mommy Gov in order to save them. How undignified and no thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Yeah, see, that's it right there. Of all groups who should be able to look after their selves, stubborn their way through their problems, it's Veterans. Didn't we learn *anything* from our service?

Agreed, no thanks.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I will simply say, it is a shame that so many Veterans get the stick upon separation.

Necessary disclaimer here: I am a disabled Veteran, and also once was an Operation's Supervisor running the front desk of a Veteran's homeless shelter. So I am horribly biased.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
While I am against this sort of thing due to its overreach, the fact of the matter is that vets, due to their tangible sacrifices to the country, surely deserve special dispensation. Not only that, but they are actual targets of the same Fed system, and it is almost other worldly reading about this new bill. Hopefully it passes, and next they should work to eviscerate DHS's targeting - http://adinakutnicki.com/2012/12/10/another-bullseye-painted-on-the-backs-of-u-s-military-vets-addendum-to-the-hunt-against-vets-commentary-by-adina-kutnicki/

Adina Kutnicki, Israel http://adinakutnicki.com/about/
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
How about we bring back the Freedom of Association, instead.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
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