The emphasis on hiring veterans into federal jobs has put the government’s hiring practices out of balance, at the cost of non-veterans and in particular of women, MSPB said in the latest edition of a newsletter it issues several times a year.

The comments in the “Issues of Merit” follow up on data MSPB has presented in recent times questioning the use of special hiring authorities, in particular those aimed at hiring veterans, as potentially in conflict with the basic principle that hiring must be merit-based, that there must be fair and open competition for jobs, and that the government should seek to have a workforce from all segments of society.

In particular, it said, the Obama administration’s move to category rating to replace the “rule of three” rating system in hiring put veterans at an advantage through policies restricting passing over a veteran, even one whose qualifications do not match those of a non-veteran candidate.

“In fact, when the HR office in one large agency determines that a significant number of disabled veteran applicants meet minimum qualifications for a position, it provides the selecting official with the veterans’ applications only. The applications of the non-veterans, no matter how impressive they may be, are never even seen by the selecting official . . . managers are not always allowed to hire—and sometimes not even allowed to know about—the best-qualified job applicants,” it said.

Since the veteran population is overwhelmingly male, one result is that the female percentage of new hires, and thus of the entire workforce, is declining.