If your organization is a federal contractor or subcontractor, you’re probably breathing a calming, collective exhale thanks to a Final Rule issued by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) which revised the VEVRAA (Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act) reporting regulations, and that goes into effect later this year. Finally…less paperwork rather than more thanks to this compliance reporting update! The new Federal Contractor Veterans’ Employment Report VETS-4212 replaces the VETS-100A Report and brings relief to affected employers as it requires less rigorous data collection than its predecessor.
I recently had the opportunity to speak about the Final Rule and the resulting new VETS-4212 form with Tony Pickell, Founder of Precision Planning — an Affirmative Action, EEO and Diversity consulting firm.
When does the new reporting go into effect?
Tony: “The updated regulations were published in 2014, but they are effective for the 2015 filing period which opens on August 1, 2015. All covered federal contractors and subcontractors must file VETS-4212 by September 30, 2015.”
Jessica: “So, who is a covered federal contractor or subcontractor when it comes to filing a VETS-4212?”
Tony: “A covered contractor will hold a contractor or subcontract in the amount of $100,000 or more.”
Jessica: “Okay, so the deadline is coming up and it’s confined to a specific time of year for all employers that are affected.”
Tony: “Yes, it is similar to filing the EEO-1 Report in that it is an annual report and must be filed by September 30th of each year.”
Why is the VETS-4212 Report replacing VETS-100 and VETS-100A?
Tony: “The old VETS-100 Report is gone. It only applied to employers that had contracts entered into and not modified since December 1, 2003. It became obsolete as contract prices changed and new contracts were issued. VETS-100A was the report that replaced VETS-100 for contracts entered into after December 1, 2003, and the VETS-100A report has now been renamed the VETS-4212. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service agency (VETS), which administers the reporting requirement, modified the report requirements for several reasons. First, VETS could not get an accurate count of total veterans because a veteran employee in a Company’s workforce could fall into more than one protected veteran category (i.e. disabled veteran and recently separated veteran) and the VETS-100A report didn’t require a total veteran number. Second, the new VETS-4212 format increases confidentiality for disabled veterans. Third, because the OFCCP changed the name of the former Other Protected Veteran category to Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran in 2014, VETS mirrored this change to make the veteran categories consistent with OFCCP regulations. As a result, the VETS-4212 was created.”
Jessica: “I’m glad they gave it a different name rather than another variation on “100”…less confusing for all. Why is it called the “4212”?
Tony: “It is named after the U.S. Code section for the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) 38 U.S. Code 4212.”
At what point in the hiring process is data collected for the VETS-4212 Report?
Tony: “At the post-offer stage via a voluntary self-disclosure form.”
How is the VETS-4212 Report different than VETS-100A?
Tony: “As I mentioned, the ‘Other Protected Veteran’ category has been updated to Active Duty Wartime or Campaign Badge Veteran to be consistent with terminology the OFCCP now uses for veteran categories. In the past, federal contractors and subcontractors have had to report employee and new hire veteran numbers by the four individual protected veteran categories. However, the recent changes made will require employers to only report veteran employees and new hires simply as ‘protected veterans’ in aggregate numbers.”
Jessica: “That’s great news…that means less of a data collection burden for employers.”
Tony: “Yes, but it’s optional for them to continue to collect veteran data at the individual category level, if they prefer. In response to this form change by the Veterans’ Employment and Training Service, the OFCCP issued an FAQ on post-offer veteran self-identification. This FAQ clarifies that contractors may either continue to collect the individual protected veteran group information at the post-offer stage from hired employees (as has been required for years), or contractors may instead choose to modify post-offer forms to simply define the four protected veteran groups and then ask hired employees to respond with (a) I am a protected veteran; (b) I am not a protected veteran; or (c) I choose not to provide this information. So, contractors now have a choice on how they would like to proceed in the future on post-offer veteran self-identification.”
Jessica: “That’s interesting, and makes me wonder about any reasons an employer may choose to stick with the traditional individual category detail for collection.”
What are some pros/cons of choosing to collect at either the aggregate or individual veteran category level?
Tony: “There are different considerations. The simplified data collection process can reduce record keeping burdens for employers and make VETS-4212 filing easier.
At the same time, now that the process will be more simplified, I think it is possible employers may get a higher veteran response rate because the veterans may be less likely to read the actual definitions (not being forced to pick a specific category in the future). There are some veterans who do not meet the definition of a ‘protected’ veteran. As a result, veterans who were confused about whether they fell into the protected categories before, may now just check the protected veteran box (even if they aren’t really a protected veteran). Employers could realize a higher ‘veteran’ hiring rate, consequently.”
Jessica: “I can see how that might be a pro for employers. What about any cons of moving to the new collection approach?”
Tony: “If an employer does choose to simplify the post-offer self-disclosure form, it will obviously require the existing form to be replaced. That could mean just a paper form; or, it may mean changes to an HRIS or standard operating procedures and require additional training. Some organizations may not have the energy or staff bandwidth to go back to IT and other groups within the organization to make this change after adapting all the VEVRAA-related changes from last year.”
Jessica: “Yes, I can see the form change being a temporary stumbling block for some contractors and subcontractors. Do you think VETS will offer any leniency on the deadline this year?”
Tony: “The VETS Administration has frequently granted extensions on filings in the past. Given that this is the first year, I anticipate that it is possible an extension could be granted beyond the September 30th deadline, but of course there is no guarantee and contractors should be prepared to file a VETS-4212 on or before September 30, 2015.
What other changes do you foresee coming down the pipeline related to veterans?
Tony: “I think there will be additional FAQs to clarify the Vietnam Era Veterans Readjustment Assistance Act regulation changes that took effect on March 23, 2014, but I wouldn’t expect any regulatory process changes anytime soon given all the change that happened last year. FAQs can tweak the interpretation of the regulations; however, they don’t have the binding force of law. Federal Contractors and the OFCCP alike will continue to digest these changes in the coming years. During this time, we will learn more about how the agencies are going to audit contractors, and then see what kind of audit pattern emerges…as we only have about six months of audit data so far under the new regulations. A year from now we will see some trends and be able to make more interesting predictions on how the future may go.
Thank you to Tony Pickell of Precision Planning for sharing his expertise in this area for our blog. If your organization is looking for a trusted resource to navigate the complex reporting requirements attributable to federal contractors and subcontractors, then please reach out to Tony for assistance.
ExactHire’s HireCentric applicant tracking system is outfitted with the data collection tools your organization needs to collect and report on pre-offer Affirmative Action Plan compliance-related items such as the applicant flow log report.