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What Is the Difference Between a Protected Veteran and Veteran?

Published on
August 11, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT August 11, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDTth, August 11, 2022 at 8:00:00 AM PDT

As you shall learn right here, not every vet is a protected veteran. What is a protected veteran, and how do they differ from a non-protected one? In a nutshell, the first group has earned their right to certain benefits once they finish the service.

As usual, there is a lot more here than meets the eye, so let’s take a look at how you become a protected veteran and who or what protects you in the first place.

A Bit of History

It all began with the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 (VEVRAA).

This act was created in order to nullify any prejudice or discrimination against Vietnam or Vietnam Era veterans in the job application process.  Back in the day, Vietnam veterans (those who fought in Vietnam) and Vietnam Era veterans (those who did the service at the time but weren’t sent to fight abroad) did not enjoy admiration or gratitude from the general public. Hence, finding job prospects was challenging and the employment process was often discriminatory.

The purpose of the Vietnam Era Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act was to provide ex-soldiers with equal career opportunities.

Four Types of Protected Veterans

There are several classes of veterans that may fall under the definition of a protected veteran. They are the following:

- Disabled veterans — veterans with some forms of disability are considered protected veterans. Therefore, those are vets who were discharged from active duty due to a disability connected to the service. In addition, these are soldiers that were on active duty and are now receiving or are entitled to disability compensation.

- Recently separated veterans — that is any vet during a period of three years, which begins on the date of the vet’s discharge or release from active US military duty.

- Active-duty wartime or campaign badge veterans — a vet who was on active duty in the time of war, or who participated in a campaign or expedition and got recognized for the service by receiving a campaign badge issued by the Department of Defense.

- Armed forces services medal veterans — this is a veteran who took part in a US military operation and was awarded an Armed Forces service medal.

Protected Veteran Benefits

Thanks to the VEVRAA, someone with protected veteran status can’t be subject to harassment, paid less, or treated with disrespect just because they used to be in the military services. Denying employment is also against the act. Also, if one is disabled, the employer has to provide the right accommodation and conditions for doing the job properly. The exception of the latter would be that the action would create significant costs to the employer or would otherwise cause big challenges.

What is meant by accommodation? Adjusting the equipment or providing written materials in braille, for instance, or hiring a sign language interpreter, and so on. This is a major stride taken to set affirmative action into place and try to prevent employment discrimination for those with a protected veteran status.

Are Protected Veterans Fully Protected?

Admittedly, no, they are not. As it happens, not all employers are obliged to abide by VEVRAA. Sadly, protected veterans are not protected by the USERRA (Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act) either. While all employers have to abide by the USERRA, it refers only to active reservists that can eventually be activated for service.

Therefore, it is wise to enquire if the potential employer abides by VEVRAA. The good news is that those employers who are working with the federal government (or have signed federal contracts for some funds) have to respect the legislation. In addition, this applies to their subcontractors too.

Bear in mind that despite the fact the prospective employer abides by VEVRAA, they do not have the right to ask anyone to identify as a veteran or protected veteran.

What to Do in Case of Discrimination?

If discrimination against a protected veteran occurs nevertheless, they have the right to complain to the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). More importantly, the employer has no right to retaliate and file a counter-complaint against the veteran with the OFCCP — that action would be illegal.

Should the OFCCP rule in the veteran’s favor, the company/employer would receive a ban against any future federal contracts, or they would have the current contracts terminated. As for the veteran, they would be entitled to some kind of satisfaction, such as a promotion, a new job position, back pay, and so on.

What is a Protected Veteran?

A protected veteran is a veteran that has certain benefits when it comes to employment over regular veterans due to the VEVRAA. Nevertheless, since not all potential employers or companies abide by the VEVRAA, we could say that even a protected veteran can undergo the same treatment as a regular, non-protected veteran.

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