This country has always felt a great debt to the men who fight its wars. Massachusetts helps to pay its obligation by granting veterans civil service preference. Since military service so often breaks into career plans, veterans deserve special consideration when they seek employment with the Commonwealth. But when politicians use this deserved favoritism to bid for veteran votes, they endanger the soundness of the state's civil service system.
On the Massachusetts civil service lists any veteran who can pass the qualifying examination is placed ahead of qualified applicants, no matter how high their scores, who do not have wartime military records. Disabled veterans automatically rate the top of the list. Although many state jobs require little skill, certain others, such as highway engineer, demand considerable aptitude and training. In these instances, Massachusetts may be forced to bypass more qualified men in hiring the highest ranking veterans. Today, when nearly all applicants are veterans, the law makes little difference; in ten years, such a preference system may mean a real loss in administrative efficiency.
The federal government also gives veterans preference in their civil service ratings. But by limiting favoritism to a five point bonus on the test scores for able veterans, and a ten point bonus for those handicapped by military service, the government still keeps its emphasis on competence. As it is, veterans can use their benefits from the G.I. Bill of Rights to go to school and acquire the training they need to win either state or federal civil service positions.
Massachusetts would do well to follow the government's lead. Veterans deserve some preference, but the discrepancies possible under the existing law are far too great.