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Mar 17, 2009

Union Attacks Career Intern Program At Social Security

I have posted about the fact that many, perhaps most, job openings at Social Security are not being posted on USA Jobs. Here is some background from Alyssa Rosenberg at Government Executive on a major reason why that is:

The National Treasury Employees Union is continuing its long-standing battle against the Federal Career Intern Program by supporting a veteran who claims the program cost him a job with the Social Security Administration.

The union has filed an amicus brief in the Merit Systems Protection Board case Alvern C. Weed v. Social Security Administration, arguing once again that FCIP illegally undermined veterans preference laws. The union claimed SSA improperly denied Weed, a disabled veteran, a chance to apply for claims and service representative positions by turning to FCIP during a second round of hiring.

"The FCIP was designed as a special-focus hiring authority to provide structured, two-year developmental internships," NTEU President Colleen Kelley stated. "Instead, we now find agencies using it as the principal, and in some cases only, means of hiring." ...

At issue in Alvern C. Weed v. Social Security Administration was SSA's failure to post a vacancy announcement during its second round of hiring. Weed had applied for the job during the first round by responding to an advertisement on the federal recruiting site, and was added to a list of candidates who had preference because of their veteran status. But the supervisor in charge of filling the position ignored that list and instead selected two candidates who responded to a newspaper advertisement.

Can someone explain to me why Social Security wants to avoid making job openings as widely known as possible? I may be naive but spreading the net as wide as possible sounds like a good idea to me. It also seems like the right thing to do even if there might be some inconveniences to it.

At least the federal Office of Personnel Management has decided to protect vets with service connected disabilities.

Update: The Senior Deputy General Counsel of the National Treasury Employees Union has just been hired as the General Counsel of the Office of Personnel Management. That might lead to a change in OPM's position on the litigation.


Anonymous said...

I have spoken to a few SSA offices in my region about future job opportunities. It seems that they have vacancies... however, they have yet to announce these positions. Is there any reason for this? Is their a chance that these positions could be eliminated due to lingering budget concerns?

Anonymous said...

There is no point in recruiting nationwide for a vacancy in a high cost area that people can't afford to move to. Too many people take the job but eventually quit. Recruiting from your local area makes sense to me for long term retention. In addition, FCIP is a 2 year intern position leading to permanent status if the training is completed successfully, which is often more desirable than hiring someone in a permanent position immediately. Finally, the time and work involved in hiring FCIP is much less so it can be done quicker.

Nancy Ortiz said...

Some comments following.
1.) Anonymous #2 explains the general situation well. If one fills a position with a traditional hire, veteran or not, it is difficult to detect serious performance/conduct problems during the probationary period. Why? It can take months for training class slots to open up and the classes themselves last 2 or 3 months. By the time the person acually shows signs of job performance or other problems the probationary period is over and other already overworked employees have to take up the slack for the poor performer. The resulting long-term negative effects on employee morale and productivity can be devastating even in large urban offices.

2.)Even if the employee fails to pass all required training course and in-office training, it can be next to impossible to terminate the employee or demote/reassign hm/her to a job s/he can perform well. Various contract provisions require time- and labor-intensive performance improvement plans. In additition, employees can claim discrimination of some type as the true basis for any proposed adverse personnel action. The resulting disputes can drag on for years.

Federal employment is the most secure for non-professional college educated people presently available in the US today. Unfortunately, just about every manager in the system has had some very bad hiring experiences, to put it mildly. The result is that otherwise excellent candidates find it hard or impossible to get hired. Yes, the money can dry up overnight, the person can call in I quit, and months of recruitment effort can go to waste because good candidates have to take other job offers.

These and other related problems have not attracted the sustained attention of Congression people in the past. And, probably never will. Any attempt to alter this system could produce a worse situation, believe it or not. A sad situation, but one that is unlikely to go away.

Anonymous said...

SSA managers have long hated the idea of hiring veterans. As someone who has been involved in the hiring process, but was never a selecting official, I have seen management go to all sorts of extremes to avoid veterans. I have never been able to figure out why this is.

Anonymous said...

Be careful when you speak for all SSA managers, my last 3 hires (over the last 6 years!) were all vets. Many managers are finding that our vets possess a number of transferable and desirable skills to our workplace. From what I understand, unfortunately this was not always the case but seems to be much better now. All three are doing well (1 woman and 2 men). You do a disservice to say that "SSA managers have long hated". Some maybe, all - that is a big leap. Also just because you don't use the USAJOBS website, veterans can still be considered and given preference.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the prior posting. My last 2 hires have been veterans. I offered a job to a disabled veteran today. In my immediate area there are 7 offers being made this week of which 5 are veterans, 1 is a disabled individual and the last will be from a FCIP register.

Anonymous said...

Vets should get the first crack at any and all Federal jobs if they are qualified. One respondant indicated that it can take months before training starts and poor employee may have peformance problems? Well, it's no wonder!!! Sounds like SSA's Training policies are wacko and need to be seriously revamped.

Anonymous said...

I never said all SSA managers. All was your word. I only speak from my own experience which covers about 15 years. If you have hired vets, I applaud you. But don't delude yourself into thinking that all managers share your enthusiasm for hiring former military.

Anonymous said...

Need to bring back Civil Service test.