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Guest Editorial: Veteran’s Preference Law not effective enough

Iowa Code Chapter 35C is the Veteran’s Preference Code, supposedly providing honorably discharged military veterans preference to job openings in Iowa State Government and its political subdivisions. In theory, this is the way for the State of Iowa and local governments to thank those who have served our country honorably, a way to show our sincere appreciation to those who were willing to serve and place themselves in harm’s way.

In actuality, the Veteran’s Preference Law exists in the Iowa Code in name only. Reality has proven time and time again the law lacks the ability to be enforced, thus some political subdivisions ignore parts or all of 35C.

Iowa Code 35C.1(2) states a. In all jobs of the state and its political subdivisions, an application form shall be completed. The application form shall contain an inquiry into the applicant’s military service during the wars or armed conflicts as specified in subsection 1.

b. The department of administrative services shall inform the agency to which the person is seeking employment of the person’s military service as specified in subsection 1.

Instead of contacting the department of administrative services as required in the Iowa Code, some local governments require a vet’s application to have a certified copy of his military discharge paper (DD 214). Failure to attach the DD 214 disqualifies the veteran for consideration of the local government.

Imagine a football, basketball or baseball game with rules while there are no officials to enforce the rules of the game. This is the case with the Veteran’s Preference law.

If a veteran is deemed to be the most qualified, some local governments require the veteran to sign an employment contract. In the employment contract, the veteran is forced to sign and agree he/she is an “at will” employee. This employment contract is non-negotiable and is contrary to 35C.7 Burden of proof. The burden of proving incompetency or misconduct shall rest upon the party alleging the same.

State law requires a veteran can only be fired for incompetency or misconduct. These non-negotiable one sided contracts a veteran is required to sign trumps state law, thus allowing the political subdivision to fire a veteran for any or no reason, thus nullifying 35C.7.

How can the courts rule a non-negotiable one sided contract trumps state law? When will other state laws be trumped by a non-negotiable, one sided forced contract? The possibilities are many.

35C.1(3) says: In all jobs of political subdivisions of the state which are to be filled by competitive examination or by appointment, public notice of the application deadline to fill a job shall be posted at least ten days before the deadline in the same manner as notices of meetings are posted under section 21.4.

Some local political subdivisions ignore the 10 day posting notice. A veteran can spend the money to hire an attorney, take the offending agency to court, only to learn the only recourse will be the judge ruling the job will be reposted for 10 days. There are no criminal or civil penalties stated for violations of 35C.

When the law fails to specify criminal and/or civil penalties for violations, there are no deterrents to ignoring the law. The Veteran’s Preference Law, initiated to honor our honorably discharged military veteran’s, in reality provides no preference at all if governments ignore the law. Our honorably discharged military veteran’s deserve better than the unenforceable present code, 35C. This Veteran’s Day, lets encourage the Iowa Legislature and the Governor to update 35C, placing enforceable teeth into this Veteran’s Protection law.

Stan Walk
Mitchell County Supervisor
St. Ansgar, Iowa

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