The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Protecting Veterans: 5 Key Laws Against Military Discrimination

Veterans of the United States military are men and women who have served their country with dedication and bravery. They deserve respect and fair treatment in all aspects of civilian life but too often, a veteran’s civilian life is filled with discrimination. This article provides an overview of the types of discrimination that veterans often encounter and the laws in place to protect veterans from that discrimination. Understanding these legal protections available to veterans is the first step in seeking justice for veterans.

Military discrimination attorneys see the harmful effects of military discrimination every day. First, if you are a veteran, thank you for your service. Second, if you are a veteran or if someone you love is a veteran who has faced military discrimination, an attorney can offer their services. Contact us for legal advice and to take the first step towards justice for you or your loved one, holding the discriminating parties accountable and getting you the compensation you deserve.

When we talk about veterans, we are talking about anyone who has served in the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, Air Force, Space Force, or Coast Guard. Veteran laws also apply to the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard, the reserve components of the armed forces. Below, we outline five key laws designed to protect veterans of all types and ages and from all military branches from discrimination, provide an overview of each law, its real-world application, and hypothetical examples to illustrate how these laws work in practice.

1. Uniformed Services Employment and          Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA)

  • Background. Congress passed the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, commonly known as USERRA, in 1994. USERRA ensures that individuals who serve or have served in the Armed Forces, Reserves, National Guard, or other uniformed services are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers, are promptly reemployed after their military service, and are not discriminated against based on their service.
  • Summary. USERRA protects veterans by requiring employers to reinstate veterans to their civilian jobs with the same seniority, status, and pay as if they had never left for military service. The law also protects against discrimination in hiring, promotion, and other employment decisions based on military service.
  • Real-World Application. In practice, USERRA functions as a safety net for returning service members, ensuring they can return to their civilian employment without penalty. It applies to virtually all U.S. employers, regardless of size.
  • Example. Imagine a National Guard member who is deployed overseas for a year. Upon returning, they find that their position has been filled permanently. Under USERRA, the employer must reinstate the veteran to a similar position with the same pay and benefits they would have earned had they not been deployed.

2. Veterans’ Preference Act

  • Background. The Veterans’ Preference Act was established to recognize the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform, providing them with preferential treatment in employment with the federal government.
  • Summary. This law grants eligible veterans preference over others in hiring for most federal government jobs. It does not guarantee a job but provides a significant advantage during the hiring process.
  • Real-World Application. Veterans’ preference is particularly impactful in competitive hiring situations, helping former service members transition into civilian government roles more smoothly.
  • Example. A veteran applies for a federal job and is one of the top three candidates. Due to the Veterans’ Preference Act, the person hiring for the job must give the veteran priority. This will improve their chances of securing the position over similarly qualified non-veteran candidates.

3. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

  • Background. The Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 is a civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life, including jobs, schools, transportation, and all public and private places that are open to the general public. This includes veterans with service-connected disabilities.
  • Summary. Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified individuals with disabilities unless doing so would cause significant difficulty or expense for the employer.
  • Real-World Application. The ADA ensures that veterans with disabilities receive fair treatment in the workplace, including necessary accommodations to perform their jobs effectively.
  • Example. A veteran who uses a wheelchair due to injuries sustained in service applies for a job that requires desk work. The employer must provide a wheelchair-accessible workspace and possibly adaptive equipment under the ADA.

4. Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA)

  • Background. The Service Members Civil Relief Act (SCRA) provides protections for military members as they enter active duty. It covers a wide range of financial and civil obligations, including rental agreements, security deposits, eviction, credit card interest rates, and mortgage payments.
  • Summary. SCRA’s goal is to ease legal and financial burdens on military personnel and their families during periods of active military service.
  • Real-World Application. SCRA allows servicemembers to focus on their military responsibilities without worrying about certain financial and legal consequences back home.
  • Example. A service member is deployed suddenly and cannot fulfill a lease agreement. Under SCRA, the service member can break the lease without penalty, provided they give proper notice and documentation.

5. Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA)

  • Background. Enacted in 1974, VEVRAA provides assistance and protection to veterans who served during the Vietnam War era. It has since been amended to include veterans who served in any war, campaign, or expedition for which a campaign badge is authorized.
  • Summary. VEVRAA requires that businesses with federal contracts or subcontracts take affirmative action to employ and advance in employment-specified categories of veterans protected under the Act, including disabled veterans.
  • Real-World Application. VEVRAA ensures that veterans receive fair employment opportunities in federally funded projects, with contractors required to list job openings and give covered veterans priority in hiring.
  • Example. A federal contractor is hiring for a new project. They must actively recruit qualified veterans and consider them preferentially during the hiring process as mandated by VEVRAA.

Veterans have sacrificed much in the service of their country. The above laws help ensure they are treated with the respect and fairness they deserve upon returning to civilian life. If you are a veteran facing discrimination, are facing challenges related to your service, or just have questions about military discrimination, let us know. Contact a consumer law firm and their attorneys who devote their entire legal practice to helping individuals combat fraud and discrimination can help you too.

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