VA Workforce: Special Emphasis Programs for Minority VeteransUpdated October 1, 2021 Veterans Benefits
The US government is proud to support the veterans who have helped defend the country by providing numerous benefits that provide opportunities and financial assistance. While these programs are designed for all veterans, there is still room for improvement in ensuring minority veterans have full access to these benefits.
To help make these improvements, the VA has several special emphasis programs to ensure members of these underrepresented groups have equal opportunity in all aspects of employment at the Department of Veterans Affairs.
9 Special Emphasis Programs for Minority Veterans
- Black/African American Special Emphasis Program
- Hispanic Employment Program (HEP)
- LGBT Departmental Special Emphasis Program
- American Indian and Alaska Native Special Emphasis Program
- Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Veterans
- Federal Women's Program (FWP)
- VA Individuals with Disabilities Employment Program
- VA for Vets
- Student Outreach and Recruitment (SOAR)
These programs demonstrate the VA’s commitment to diversity in its workforce, supporting minority veterans and employees. Each special emphasis program is overseen by the VA’s Diversity and Inclusion program. The programs are designed to help veterans from these underrepresented groups have the equal opportunities they deserve after serving the country.
Likewise, each of these programs engages in special outreach efforts to educate underrepresented groups on what programs are available for minority veterans.
What Is the Center for Minority Veterans?
The Center for Minority Veterans (CMV) is a division of the US Department of Veterans Affairs developed to ensure that all veterans receive equal service regardless of their race, origin, gender, or religion. While it does not directly provide services, the CMV aims to identify the barriers to service and health care minority veterans face and make recommendations for improvement.
The CMV engages in outreach efforts to increase local awareness of issues related to minority veterans and the services available to them. It also works to develop strategies to increase minority participation in VA veterans benefits programs. This includes promoting these services to minority veterans via community outreach programs and providing VA staff with diversity training to sensitize them to the unique needs of these veterans.
What Is the Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) Program?
The VA’s Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) program ensures the VA’s workforce is as diverse and inclusive as the veterans who have fought to defend the country. The objective is that by having a diverse workforce, the VA will deliver outstanding service to all veterans and their families. Additionally, the VA aims to develop innovative solutions to the challenges these minority veterans face by incorporating the broad range of perspectives that comes with maintaining a diverse workforce.
The Diversity and Inclusion program is also responsible for managing the VA’s special emphasis programs and observances. These programs help highlight the importance of diversity throughout the VA, both in terms of offering service and being an equal employment opportunity workplace. In addition to managing these programs, the D&I program provides diversity and inclusion training to all departments within the VA, analyzes current diversity trends in the VA workforce, and offers advice and recommendations to VA officials on areas related to diversity and inclusion.
9 VA Programs for Minority Veterans
Based on their military service, all veterans are entitled to veterans benefits that help them cover the cost of their healthcare (including mental health coverage), compensate for service-related disabilities, education, buying their homes with VA home loans, life insurance, VA pensions, and other forms of financial assistance. However, members of a minority group may find it challenging to access these benefits.
To ensure that these underrepresented groups have full access to the benefits they deserve, individual programs have been established based on race, origin, gender, sexual orientation, and disability.
Here are VA special emphasis programs for minority veterans:
1. Black/African American Special Emphasis Program
The Black/African American Special Emphasis Program is designed to identify and eliminate inequalities in the hiring, development, and advancement of Black VA employees and applicants. To address and eliminate these inequalities, this program identifies ways to ensure Black employees are equally considered for promotions, training, and awards.
Additionally, special initiatives and programs are developed to enhance the employment and advancement of Black service members and employees so that they can fully participate in the VA’s workforce at all levels. The objective of this special emphasis program is to remove discriminatory practices that prevent a Black or African American veteran from getting the opportunity to work with the VA or advancing once hired.
2. Hispanic Employment Program (HEP)
Finding and addressing issues relating to the discrimination and inequitable practices when hiring Hispanics as part of the VA workforce is the main objective of the VA Hispanic Employment Program (HEP). This is done by creating and implementing initiatives designed to address the barriers to employment and advancement that Hispanics face in the VA.
There are also pointed efforts to improve Hispanic participation and retention in the VA workforce. These efforts are intended to make employment at the VA more equal and fair for all Hispanic veterans and employees.
3. LGBT Departmental Special Emphasis Program
The VA recognizes the LGBTQ+ community as an integral part of its diverse workforce. To make sure the members of this community have access to benefits and employment opportunities, the VA has implemented numerous policies to address issues faced by VA employees and patients that are members of the LGBTQ+ community. This includes fostering an inclusive culture and making the VA a safe workplace. These policies aim to provide support to employees and patients regardless of their gender identity.
Some of the initiatives to create this inclusive culture include adding voluntary, confidential LGBTQ+ self-identification on VA All Employee Surveys. The purpose of this is to identify potential barriers the LGBTQ+ community faces as a member of the VA workforce. In addition to this voluntary self-identification, the VA also provides additional training for employee transition guidance and programs to ensure equal opportunity for hiring, development, and advancement in the VA.
4. American Indian and Alaska Native Special Emphasis Program
Like other VA special emphasis programs, the American Indian and Alaskan Native Special Emphasis Program is designed to address issues surrounding VA employment practices that are discriminatory or inequitable for members of these underrepresented groups.
The program looks to identify and eliminate barriers when it comes to the hiring, development, and advancement of Native American veterans and Alaskan Natives at the VA. Additionally, the program looks to find ways to enhance the employment opportunities within the VA for members of this group.
The VA works closely with the federally recognized Native American Indian and Alaskan Native tribes to achieve these goals. Typically, there is a low participation rate for veterans from these populations. Therefore, the VA also engages in targeted outreach efforts to improve their participation in VA benefits and as members of the VA workforce.
5. Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander Veterans
Asian American, Native Hawaiian, and Pacific Islander veterans are members of one of the fastest-growing racial groups in the United States. This includes veterans from over 30 countries in the Far East, Southeast Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Hawaii, Guam, Samoa, or other Pacific Islands.
To help make sure that veterans in this group have equal employment opportunities within the VA, special efforts are made to eliminate recruiting, hiring, promotion, advancement, development, and retention barriers. It also works to remove challenges that prevent members of this group from fully participating at all levels of the agency.
6. Federal Women's Program (FWP)
The Federal Women’s Program (FWP) is another federally mandated program designed to ensure equal employment opportunity for female veterans. It is run alongside the Center of Women Veterans which focuses on the health of the veteran and her family.
In addition to working towards equal pay and removing disparities in employment practices, the Federal Women’s Program also observes Women’s Equality Day and Women’s History Month to recognize women’s contributions to society. However, there is still work to be done regarding equality for the employees and veterans that make up the VA’s workforce. Part of the evidence of the FWP is to find ways to create equal opportunities for women in the VA by recommending employment policies and practices to help women veterans and employees succeed.
7. VA Individuals with Disabilities Employment Program
The VA Individuals with Disabilities Employment Program is another special emphasis program designed to ensure equal opportunities for individuals with disabilities. It aims to identify ways for the VA to improve recruitment, hiring, promotions, and retention of VA employees and veterans with disabilities. This includes posting disability-friendly employment opportunities, having accessible technology and needed facilities, as well as providing adequate training to staff.
Note that the VA Individuals with Disabilities Employment Program does specify hiring goals to ensure a specific percentage of the VA workforce are employees and veterans with disabilities. This includes individuals with developmental disabilities, blindness, deafness, missing extremities, significant mobility impairment, epilepsy, severe intellectual disability, and numerous other disabilities.
8. Veterans (VA for Vets)
VA for Vets is an initiative from the Veteran Employment Services Office. This initiative aims to help Veterans find meaningful careers as they transition from military life to civilian life. Employment opportunities at the VA are marketed through the VA for Vets program along with a variety of other resources to help navigate the federal hiring process.
While you can find a list of available positions at the VA and other federal jobs through USAJOBS, which is linked to VA for Vets. Additionally, you can find information regarding in-person hiring events, relevant information about your local VA facility, and several other resources that help veterans and their families work with the VA.
9. Student Outreach and Recruitment (SOAR)
Each of the various Special Emphasis Programs run by the VA focus on maintaining positive relationships with professional and national organizations as well as colleges and universities.
The focus of the student outreach and recruitment program is to provide information on the federal hiring process to students and recent graduates so they can take advantage of employment opportunities such as internships, shadowing experiences, and professional positions at the VA. The goal in doing this is to help minorities understand the opportunities available at the VA and to increase the pool of qualified applicants for the VA workforce.
VA Benefits for Minority Veterans
The VA recognizes the importance of diversity in the workforce and the need to provide equal opportunity to minorities that have served in the US Armed forces. While benefits are available to both nonminority veterans and minority veterans, there is often low participation from underrepresented service members.
These Special Emphasis Programs are designed to identify and remove the barriers and challenges minorities in these groups face when it comes to employment practices at the VA. This includes ensuring equal opportunities for recruitment, hiring, development, and advancement at all levels of the VA workforce. Emphasizing these minority group members helps the VA improve existing data and trends regarding diversity in the VA workforce, giving more minority vets the chance to build a career at the VA.