With the economic limitations facing many school districts, if your school district has not been forced to furlough employees, you may be faced with furlough decisions in future fiscal years. In addressing furloughs, the Veteran’s Preference Act permits veterans to add to their years of school district service their years of military service “during” periods of “war.” The difficulty in calculating what military service counts towards this credit is in determining what are wars and what were the inclusive dates for them to count for added seniority credit. Lists of “war” or armed conflict are issued by the State Veteran’s Commission, the Veteran’s Educational Gratuity Program, the Paralyzed Veteran’s Program, the Secretary of Veteran’s Affairs and the United States Office of Personnel Management. However, caution must be used in borrowing from any of these lists that have different purposes and focus on different terminology.
In light of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s long standing caution about the constitutional limits on veteran’s preference, a more conservative and narrow view should be taken in the distinction between service during, and service in, a conflict. For example, a veteran’s preference is not available simply because someone served on active duty in Europe during the 1980s simply because the conflict inEl Salvadorwas ongoing, but rather the person must have served inEl Salvadorto qualify. Giving credit for service simply because the conflict was going on somewhere in the world, without actual service in it, would be on unstable constitutional ground. While this more conservative and narrow view may seem restrictive, the objective in calculating the seniority credit for veterans is not to create a policy which is more considerate to the veteran’s past service, but rather should be intended to create a defensible rationale firmly rooted in the statute that will withstand a challenge by those who do not receive the seniority calculation.