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Mazzeo, Eustace, Pinkin, Lampitt, Quijano, Schaer, Downey & Danielsen Bill to Expand Veterans Preference Eligibility Gains Assembly Committee Approval

Measure Would Incorporate Federal Definition of ‘Veteran’ Into NJ Civil Service Criteria

Legislation sponsored by Assembly Democrats Vince Mazzeo, Tim Eustace, Nancy Pinkin, Pam Lampitt, Annette Quijano, Gary Schaer, Joann Downey and Joe Danielsen to extend eligibility for civil service preference to more military veterans in New Jersey was advanced by an Assembly committee on Thursday.

Because New Jersey does not use the federal definition of “veteran” in determining eligibility for preference in the state civil service system, some individuals who served in the military may be eligible for veterans preference in the federal civil service but ineligible at the state level.

Current New Jersey law requires veterans seeking preference in public employment to have served for at least 14 days in a combat theater during a time of war. The sponsors note that this requirement disadvantages veterans who did not serve in combat roles during their time in the military.

“Veterans who had the incredible courage it takes to enlist and serve should not be denied preference simply because they were not among those ordered to fight on the front lines,” said Mazzeo (D-Atlantic). “No service member would hesitate to go anywhere in the world for America’s sake if asked. Whether they served in combat or not, we ought to express gratitude to all veterans for their willingness to serve selflessly.”

The bill (A-460) would permit veterans who are federally qualified and who received a passing score on an open competitive examination to have preference over other applicants for state, county and municipal jobs, even if they do not meet the state definition of an eligible veteran.

“Both the service members who go overseas and fight and the service members who do not engage in combat obey orders. They do what they’re asked to do,” said Eustace (D-Bergen/Passaic). “A veteran who was never asked to take on a combat role should not be at a disadvantage during the hiring process. This legislation honors our nation’s veterans by giving them the civil service preference they deserve.”

“For many veterans, transitioning to civilian life can be a struggle, and not being able to find job doesn’t make it any easier,” said Pinkin (D-Middlesex). “This legislation is aimed at making sure that more veterans have a better shot at securing employment so that they can take care of themselves and their families.”

“Government can always benefit from having smart, hard-working individuals as public employees, and so many of the men and women who have served this country possess those qualities,” said Lampitt (D-Camden/Gloucester). “By expanding the criteria for veterans preference in New Jersey, we can ensure that veterans receive the level of consideration they’re due and that the public benefits from having individuals with a proven commitment to service fill these roles.”

“Veterans have a unique sense of discipline that stays with them even after they’ve taken off the uniform,” said Quijano (D-Union). “New Jersey certainly should put qualified veterans – regardless of where or when they served – at the top of the applicant pool.”

“The job skills and leadership qualities that veterans bring to the table are incomparable,” said Schaer (D-Bergen/Passaic). “Increasing the likelihood that more veterans will have the chance to serve in New Jersey can benefit the state as a whole.”

“Jobs for veterans is vital,” said Downey (D-Monmouth). “Veterans sacrificed much to protect our freedom, and we need to ensure they can easily transition into the workforce so they can make ends meet and raise their families.”

“This is the proper approach,” said Danielsen (D-Somerset/Middlesex), a former Army reservist. “Expanding the eligibility for veterans civil service preference is, very simply, the right thing to do.”

The legislation would make any veteran who meets requirements for preference at the federal level eligible for preference at the state level, regardless of whether he or she engaged in combat.

The measure, which would require voters to approve a constitutional amendment prior to its enactment, was advanced by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.