On the 239th anniversary of our country’s Declaration of Independence, I find South Dakota’s Bureau of Human Resources flying the flag and stating that our state government proudly employs 922 veterans.
State government employs about 8,040 full-time equivalents, so 922 veterans represent about 11.5% of state employees.
Take the Census count of 67,886 veterans in South Dakota and divide by our current workforce of 454,650, and you get 14.9%. However, that Census count likely includes a lot of old-timers whom we wouldn’t expect to find in the workforce. I’m thus willing to take a wild guess and say state government is doing at least as well at hiring veterans as South Dakota’s private sector.
But check out the source of the state’s veteran-employment data: “Information based on voluntary self-disclosure.” I learn from Thomas Leonhardt, a disabled Army veteran and former South Dakota Labor Market Information Center statistician, that this voluntary self-disclosure comes from a tab in the state’s Time Keeping System:
“Are you currently serving or have you served in the military?” Simple enough.
But Mr. Leonhardt tells me that for three years, this number may have been inflated. Leonhardt says that in January 2012, the state sent an e-mail to state employees calling for “veterans” to confirm the “veteran status” by checking the above box:
As we know, there is some contention over the definition of “veteran.” At the time of this e-mail, “veteran” was not equivalent to “serving in the military.” Theoretically, if every employee reading the e-mail followed the state’s definition of “veteran” at the time and thus did not check that box if they did not meet the statutory definition of having served at least 90 days of federalized military duty, the veteran-employee count would have been accurate. But if everyone who had been in the Guards or served a briefer period before discharge had checked that box, the state’s proud veteran-employment count would have been higher than what its own statutory definition would have accepted.
Of course, now that the new, more generous definition of “veteran” created by House Bill 1179 has become law, the question is moot. But let’s watch to see if the Bureau of Human Resources updates its veteran-employee count to include any collection of current and former Guards who now newly qualify as “veterans” in the eyes of the state of South Dakota.