Many veterans encounter the confusing question, “Do you identify as a Protected Veteran?” on job applications. This can be especially puzzling for those with no service-connected disability. Applications might offer limited options or leave veterans to decipher their status on their own.

The hesitation to identify as a protected veteran often stems from its placement alongside disability and demographic questions. However, veteran status extends beyond disability. Recent veterans and those who served overseas may also qualify for protected status, even if they’re unaware.

Understanding the “Why” Behind the Question

While the label “protected veteran” might not resonate with younger veterans, it exists to ensure fair hiring practices. By identifying as protected, veterans gain access to resources and priority consideration from employers who are mandated to recruit and hire qualified veterans.

Vietnam and the Protected Veteran Meaning

Vietnam protesters
The Vietnam-era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act of 1974 was initially passed due to concerns that veterans could face employment discrimination due to hostility toward the US’s involvement in Vietnam. (Wikimedia Commons)

Today, being a veteran is generally a positive for employment. Some veterans struggle to apply their military skills to the civilian world. Yet, employers are unlikely to discriminate against veterans solely because they are veterans.

But that hasn’t always been the case. Anyone who has a passing familiarity with the Vietnam War era knows about the hostility some servicemembers encountered upon returning home.

Passed in 1974, the Vietnam Era Veterans’ Readjustment Assistance Act (VEVRAA) was intended to protect veterans and their spouses or widows against employer discrimination.

It also covered educational benefits and re-employment assistance.

Since then, amendments, executive orders, and rule changes have extended the definition of the protected veteran status.