The Truth About Veteran Self Identification – Should You Do It?

Ever wonder why you’re asked to self-ID by an employer? Learn the importance of veteran self-identification and what is done with the info.

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Ever wonder what it means when you come across that box asking about veteran self-identification? 

If you are a veteran and have applied for a job in the civilian sector then you’ve probably seen the section at the end of the application asking about your veteran status. You know the one… It’s a wall of text about federal regulations followed by a short questionnaire that asks the ominous question: Are you a protected veteran?  

Why are they asking? What does this even mean?

How should you answer even if you know what a protected veteran is? Do you disclose everything to a potential employer and “self-ID” or skip the question altogether?

Let’s take a look at how this became an option so you know exactly why employees ask and what they do with the information once they have it. 

What Is Veteran Self-Identification?

Veteran self-identification – or “Self-ID” – means that you have the option to volunteer your status as a veteran (or military spouse) to a potential employer. Employers use this information to see how many veterans they have on their payroll and what percentage veterans make up in total employee count. 

This may seem like a strange thing to pay attention to, but it’s really important data for people who work in compliance. Diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, and since veterans are a protected class of employee, companies are paying attention to the numbers. We’ll dive into this reasoning in more detail later in this article.

Most employers only ask applicants to self-ID during the hiring process, while some companies will also ask for updates on an employee’s status throughout their time with the company. These routine updates provide employees with multiple opportunities to self-ID if they choose not to during the hiring process. 

Is Veteran Self-Identification the Same as Self Disclosure?

Not at all!

These two terms are quite different and it’s important to understand the distinction. Self-disclosure is the act of sharing your veterans status with a co-worker or manager directly. This can happen in casual conversation or because of a shared connection. It doesn’t often occur to me to let someone know that I served unless we happen to talk about a directly related subject. 

Self ID, on the other hand, means that your company tallies you as a veteran employee, but no one will actually know that about you unless you choose to share it one on one.

Why Are Veterans Asked To Self ID?

There are many reasons why an employer would take an interest in the demographics of its workforce. It might surprise you to know that the federal government requires it! Over the last several decades, tracking the statistics of the workforce in the U.S. has become more and more of a federal priority. 

In 1974, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) was signed in response to the unfair treatment of Vietnam Veterans who were trying to return to the workforce. Since the Vietnam War was so controversial, many who had served were being discriminated against by potential employers, often being skipped over in favor of other candidates. 

VEVRAA sought to end this discrimination by creating four classes of protected veterans. Contrary to what the name may imply, those classes don’t just apply to Vietnam-era veterans. Since the act of 1974, anyone who falls into one of the following categories is a protected veteran:

  • Disabled veterans
  • Recently separated veterans
  • Veterans who earned an Armed Forces service medal
  • Veterans who served during wartime or earned a campaign badge. 

Under VEVRAA, protected veterans cannot be fired, laid off, passed over for promotion, or discriminated against in any other way for their previous military service. 

It also requires that companies take affirmative action to ensure that veterans make up a portion of their workforce. 

What Kind of Affirmative Action Does VEVRAA Require?

Federal contractors and subcontractors (companies that do business with the government) must set hiring benchmarks and take proactive steps to recruit, hire, retain and promote protected veterans. These benchmarks are usually based on a national average of veterans in the workforce, which has hovered around 5.5% for the last three years. 

Under VEVRAA, federal contractors are required to meet this national percentage in their own workforce. If they don’t hit these benchmarks, they must show that they are taking steps to get there.  

In addition to these requirements, companies are asked to create a written Affirmative Action Program and incorporate it into their business model. These programs usually involve, at a minimum, the following requirements:

  • The appointment of an Equal Employment Opportunity Manager
  • The creation of internal audit and problem identification systems.
  • A plan of action if the number of protected veteran employees isn’t meeting the company benchmark. 

Can My Veteran Status Be Used Against Me in Hiring?

Definitely not!

As covered, VEVRAA protects veterans from discrimination in the hiring process. Even if you self-ID on an application, your personal record isn’t attached to that. What employers are tracking is numbers, not people.

In most cases, hiring managers don’t even see that information–it jumps right into the company’s database as an aggregated number. As numbers fluctuate, companies may invest more or less in their efforts to reach veteran populations and self-ID can help them narrow their focus in order to meet those metrics. 

When you self-ID, you help inform the company on whether it is meeting its target audience!

Should I Self-ID as a Veteran?

Yes, we recommend it. You have nothing to lose, and everything to gain by letting your employer know they are bringing more veterans on their team!

This knowledge can fuel your company’s veteran program and helps ensure that when barriers arise for veterans in the workplace, your company can identify and work to resolve them. 

It also communicates successes back to the company, which reinforces behavior that attracts and retains veterans. 

Even if these things aren’t a priority for you during your application process, there’s no reason not to self-ID. As we’ve covered, there are numerous protections in place for veteran self-identification, and thanks to federal mandates, employers want veterans in their workforce. 

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, when it comes down to it, choosing to self-ID is a personal decision. Employers can’t force you to self-ID in an application or during your employment. There will always be “opt-out” options for questions like these, usually in the form of “I prefer not to say”, and it is up to each individual to decide how they wish to respond. 

But don’t stress about this! Remember, you can always choose to self-ID at a later date, even if you chose not to do so during the hiring process.

Here at BufferSprings, we support both veterans who are seeking employment and military effective-employers. If there is any way that our dedicated team can help, we are here for you! 

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