Veterans Benefits Administration diversity and equal employment
Following recent protests in the United States, organizations across the country have focused on building diversity, equity and inclusion in the workplace. A commitment to DEI is not new at the Veterans Benefits Administration, which has long sought to foster a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion because it enables us to meet the needs of the diverse population of veterans and beneficiaries we serve.
The VBA thrives when its employees are engaged and comfortable with diverse thoughts, opinions and ideas. We demonstrate our commitment to this mission in four main ways.
First, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs does not tolerate unlawful discrimination in any form. VA’s secretary publishes this message annually in the Equal Employment Opportunity, Diversity and Inclusion, No FEAR and Whistleblower Rights and Protection Policy statements, which every employee at the agency must adhere to.
VBA seeks to build a diverse and highly skilled workforce. Currently, veterans compose 57% of the administration’s staff. Our workforce is 25,000 members strong, and we are proud to have an inclusive staff comprised of 45% minorities. Women make up 49% of VBA’s workforce of which 25.2% are minority women. VBA’s senior leadership is just as diverse with 39.6% of GS-15 positions and 34.9% of Senior Executive Service roles filled by minorities. Additionally, minority women make up 18% and 17.5% of the GS-15 and SES positions respectively.
As an extra measure of employee empowerment, VBA encourages participation in agency-sponsored mentoring programs and sends agency-wide communications on DEI principles to raise awareness.
Finally, VBA hosts Special Emphasis Programs designed to promote workplace inclusion, ensure equal employment opportunities and prohibit employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, national origin, age or disability. SEP raise employee awareness and provide a platform for open-minded conversations about the importance of diversity at the Veterans Benefits Administration.
SEP groups include African Americans and Black people, American Indians and Alaska Natives, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, Hispanics, the Federal Women’s Program, individuals with disabilities and those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender. These programs build awareness of diversity, equity and inclusion within VBA and foster intercultural exchange and cultural tolerance, exposing employees to diverse perspectives. They also help create a more collaborative, innovative and productive workforce.
The talented and diverse workforce that the Veterans Benefits Administration is building drives our success in providing veterans with the benefits they have earned in a manner that honors their service. VBA is on track to make fiscal year 2020 our best year ever in terms of benefits provided, fiscal stewardship and a more collaborative culture.
Through collaboration with internal and external stakeholders, we at VBA will continue our commitment to equal employment opportunity and building and maintaining a diverse and inclusive workforce. We will continue to empower employees at all levels to deliver outstanding and responsive public service to veterans and their families.
Read The importance of diversity, equity and inclusion in the federal government to learn more.
Margarita Devlin is the principal deputy under secretary for benefits at the Veterans Benefits Administration.