Paul N. Lalley, Esq., Campbell Durrant, P.C. | December 2022
Effective this fall, the Pennsylvania Legislature amended Pennsylvania’s Veterans Preference Act (VPA) to clarify a lingering question as to what type of separation from military service qualifies a person for the VPA’s hiring preference. Act 44 of 2022 builds on the significant revisions to the VPA that went into effect with Act 102 of 2020 and clarifies what types of separation from service qualify for the VPA hiring preference.
Prior to Act 102 of 2020, a person qualified for the VPA’s hiring preference only if they had an “honorable discharge” or were “released from active duty under honorable conditions.” This left some doubt as to whether ex-service members who separated from service under circumstances other than a standard “honorable discharge” qualified. Act 102 of 2020 significantly revised the VPA. Among other changes, it provided specific examples of the separation from service documents (DD214, DD215 and NGB-22) that established a person’s VPA preference eligibility, and it eliminated the “honorable discharge” language, replacing it with a requirement that the person has separated from military service “under conditions other than dishonorable” for a person to qualify for the VPA hiring preference.
Although the Act 102 of 2020 revisions clarified much of the VPA, the Legislature felt it necessary to further define what “under conditions other than dishonorable” means. Act 44 of 2022 does this. It specifically defines “under conditions other than dishonorable” as a discharge from service that is: (1) an honorable discharge; (2) a general discharge under honorable conditions; or (3) “a discharge under other than dishonorable conditions for which the recipient has been determined to be eligible for benefits afforded by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.” This last category includes former service members who separated from service due to a disability and qualify for VA disability benefits.
Municipal employers should be mindful of these significant recent revisions to the VPA with Act 102 of 2020 and now Act 44 of 2022, as old assumptions that a person needs an honorable discharge to qualify are clearly incorrect and could result in VPA preference application errors. Policy language that has not been updated in the last two years to reflect these changes could put your municipality in jeopardy of misapplication of the VPA hiring preference. The lawyers at Campbell Durrant are available to help you navigate through these Veterans Preference Act issues.