Why Veterans Are Quitting Federal Jobs at Higher Rates Than Non-Vets

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Job seekers meet with a Sacramento Police Department recruiter during the Hiring Our Heroes Job Fair at AT&T Park on August 25, 2015 in San Francisco, California. More than 115 employers were on hand to recruit veterans seeking jobs. (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Veterans leave their government jobs at higher rates than non-veterans due to a variety of issues, including dissatisfaction with the "meaningfulness" of the work, according to a new Government Accountability Office report.

The study examined employment data from 2014-2018, before the COVID-19 pandemic put retaining a job at a premium. It was conducted to gauge how well the government carried out then-President Barack Obama's 2009 executive order to increase veteran hiring for federal jobs.

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The 72-page report found that the executive order resulted in an increase of veterans in the federal workforce.

"As of September 2017, almost 32% of the roughly two million federal employees are veterans, up from 26% percent in 2009," the report said, but "some agencies have challenges retaining veterans at similar rates as non-veterans."

The GAO report looked at the retention rates of 24 government agencies -- including the Defense Department, Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, Justice, Housing and Urban Development, and Agriculture -- and found that non-veterans remained on the job longer than veterans.

Veterans left government jobs at a higher rate (6.7% vs. 5%) than non-veterans and resigned 1.6 times more often, the report found. Veterans also left jobs within the first five years at significantly higher rates, 18.7% compared with 11.1% for the non-veteran workforce.

To discern causes for the lower retention rates among veterans, GAO looked at six workplace factors: satisfaction with pay; meaningfulness of work; confidence in leaders; opportunities for advancement; training and development; and relationships with supervisors.

"Overall, we found that veterans were slightly less satisfied with these factors than non-veterans, which could in part explain the higher attrition rates for veterans," GAO said.

Veterans were 2.4% less likely than non-veterans to report being satisfied with the meaningfulness of their work, the report said.

The report concluded that OPM and the agencies could leverage data better to improve veteran retention rates, and also recommended that "OPM help agencies analyze employee feedback data to identify strategies to boost veteran retention."

OPM agreed with "the spirit of the recommendation," GAO said, but OPM also said it did not have the ability to provide record-level data to agencies, citing limitations under the Privacy Act.

-- Richard Sisk can be reached at Richard.Sisk@Military.com.

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