Pennsylvania Needs a Veteran on the State Civil Service Commission

by Rep. Stephen E. Barrar
Chairman of the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee 

One of the major concerns of veterans returning home from active duty is how they will find a job and support their family.  It is distressing to think about these men and women, who have dedicated themselves so selflessly to this nation and put themselves in harm’s way, coming home to the United States only to face one of the worst job markets in America’s history. 

Since 1975, Pennsylvania law has afforded preference to veterans seeking employment in state civil service.  Veterans are required to pass the civil service exam associated with the position they seek, but they are afforded additional benefits in recognition of their military service to this country. 

Unfortunately, a recent investigation by Auditor General Jack Wagner uncovered more than 500 cases of qualified veterans being overlooked for civil service positions across 25 state agencies.  In my opinion, this exhibits a systemic undermining of the veterans preference law, which established the benefit. 

In his report about the incidents, Wagner provided 19 recommendations to improve the commission and bring its practices in line with state law.  The commission adopted 13 of the suggestions, but failed to implement the rest, including the one I consider most necessary to ensuring the observance of veterans preference – requiring at least one member of the Civil Service Commission to be a veteran. 

Recently, the House Veterans Affairs and Emergency Preparedness Committee unanimously advanced legislation to address the situation.  House Bill 378, authored by Rep. Ron Marsico of Dauphin County, would codify the requirement that a veteran serve on the State Civil Service Commission, ensuring that veterans are aptly recognized for their sacrifices to this nation.  It also defines the term “veteran” as an individual who served in the U.S. Armed Forces, and who was honorably discharged or released from that service.  

House Bill 378 passed the House nearly unanimously, but still requires Senate approval and the governor’s signature.  I will continue to advocate for this legislation and other bills that are being introduced as part of a package to ensure the protection of veterans’ rights, which they have earned through their courageous service.  Other bills in the package would: 

  • Establish the Office of Veteran Advocate within the Attorney General’s Office to represent veterans and their interests before the courts and other state government agencies and when they have been denied veterans preference and employment under the law.
  • Address the practice of circumventing veterans preference requirements to make a specific hire.
  • Create a Civil Service Appeal Board to review the final determinations of the commission in employment complaints, improving the appeal process.
  • Require the commission to advertise veterans preference on its website and in all announcements, advertisements and exam materials. 

When called to serve on our behalf, Pennsylvania’s veterans did not let us down.  We must do all we can to ensure that the rights they have earned are respected and safeguarded.  I believe Marsico’s legislation, as well as the other proposals in this package, are the right thing to do for this Commonwealth and its esteemed veterans. 

State Representative Steve Barrar
160th District, Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Contact:  Nicole Wamsley

Share |