As of 2017, about a third of the roughly 2 million federal employees are veterans, who resign at 1.6 times the rate of similarly situated non-veterans.

Federal agencies have been increasing the percentage of veterans among those hired in recent years but veterans meanwhile leave at a higher rate than non-veterans, especially in the years just after being hired, GAO has said.

As of September 2017, almost 32 percent of the roughly 2 million federal employees are veterans, up from 26 percent in 2009. That was the date of a veterans hiring initiative ordered by the Obama administration, although prior administrations also had stressed hiring of veterans and civil service hiring policies have given veterans certain hiring preferences for decades.


However, veterans resign at 1.6 times the rate of similarly situated non-veterans, with 18.7 percent leaving within their first five years of federal employment compared with 11.1 percent, GAO found. That has raised concerns in Congress, OPM and elsewhere that having boosted the hiring of veterans, the government is falling short in retaining them.

GAO pointed out that in the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, veterans have lower levels of satisfaction in six areas that are “most strongly associated with an employee considering leaving federal service.” Those are pay, meaningfulness of work, confidence in leaders, opportunity for advancement, training and skills development, and their supervisors.

In most cases the difference was only on the order of about one percentage point, although only 72.1 percent of veterans overall were satisfied with the meaningfulness of their work compared with 74.5 percent of non-veterans.

By agency, among the 24 Cabinet departments and largest independent agencies, attrition of veterans—including transfers to other agencies—was the highest at SBA, NSF, Interior, AID, HHS and Agriculture, while lowest at DHS, Transportation, NASA, VA, NRC and SSA.

OPM said it only partially concurred with GAO’s recommendations regarding helping agencies interpret and apply findings of the FEVS survey to improve their retention of veterans but added that it “plans to provide other methods of implementation such as offering webinars or forms of guidance that would increase awareness among agencies of the drivers of veteran retention.”

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2020 Federal Employees Handbook