Overall Federal Hiring Increases, New Veterans Hired Decreases

by | Sep 19, 2017

Last Updated June 6, 2024


Even with agencies hiring fewer new veterans to fill government jobs, veterans still had a stronger presence in the federal workforce in FY2016.

Veterans made up 31.1 percent of the federal workforce in FY2016; the previous year they made up 30.9 percent of the workforce, according to the 2016 hiring report from the Office of Personnel Management. In 2021, veterans are representing over 500,000 federal employees.

“Federal agencies have used this initiative to meet many of their critical staffing needs while benefiting from the skills, training, and dedication to public service, our nations’ veterans, transitioning service members, and their families, bring to federal civil service,” OPM acting director Kathleen McGettigan wrote in the report.



**Images courtesy of Federal News Radio


Agencies hired 71,304 new veterans to positions in 2016, compared to 71,867 new hires in 2015. Veterans make up nearly 50 percent of the Defense Departments’ workforce, which is by far the largest of all agencies. Below is the veteran presence at some agencies:

  • The Department of Transportation and Veterans’ Affairs Department with 36.7 percent and 32.8 percent, respectively
  • OPM had the largest leap in veteran hiring between 2015-2016 going from 23.3 percent to 26.4 percent
  • Health and Human Sciences Department had the smallest presence of any major agency, only 7.5 percent of its workforce

Many agencies made noticeable improvements in retaining new veteran hires.

  • NSF improved its veteran retention by 10 percent between 2015-2016
  • NASA kept 85.1 percent of its new veteran hires in 2016 compared to 73.2 percent during the previous year
  • The Labor Department also improved its veteran retention rate from 69.9 percent in 2015 to close to 79 percent in 2016
  • 13 other agencies also improved their veteran retention rates

Most veterans, 45 percent, hold admin jobs in the federal workforce.

OPM’s director of veterans’ services, Hakeem Basheerud-Deen said that 2016 was encouraging. He said, “We remain committed to offering opportunities for federal agencies to learn about benefits of making skillful use of the veteran hiring authorities to meet hiring needs. We will also continue to provide federal agencies with suggestions for best practices, such as the benefits of continuous feedback from individuals actively engaged in the veteran hiring process and how such engagement will help the initiative to continually evolve to meet the needs of federal agencies and veterans.”

Veteran hiring has improved overall since 2009 when President Obama signed an executive order establishing a program to help agencies find ways to utilize veterans’ talents.

Veteran vs. Non-Veteran Pay

Even though the federal government employed close to 12,000 more veterans in FY2016 than it did 2015, vets still earned significantly less than non-vets, according to OPM. The Executive Branch employed more than 635,000 vets in FY2016, but they earned, on average, $11,000 less than non-vets employed by the government. Non-vets working full-time federal jobs took home an average of $86,746 in FY2016, while full-time veterans made an average of $75,707. This pay gap remained roughly the same from FY2015.

Differences in job type could account for the pay difference. Non-veterans are more likely to hold professional positions than vets. About 45 percent of vets held administrative positions compared to 37 percent of the overall federal workforce. Fourteen percent of vets also held blue collar jobs, contrary to only about 8 percent of federal employees in the overall federal workforce.

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