A reduction in force of nearly 700 Hill Air Force Base civilian workers could result in costly appeals, hearings and court battles because of possible errors in personnel records, a Veterans of Foreign Wars official says.

"It seems ludicrous to have to litigate this," said Tom Montez of the state VFW organization, a member of a task force trying to help military veterans among the 684 Hill employees who will lose their jobs April 19.But Nyla Williams, the base's reduction-in-force monitor, said any errors in the records that can be corrected are being fixed before the layoff deadline, as long as the workers can provide needed documents.

The Air Force Logistics Command is eliminating 4,950 jobs nationwide, including about 1,100 positions at Hill. But because of early retirements and unfilled vacancies in some of those jobs, the number of Utah workers receiving reduction notices was trimmed to fewer than 700.

One problem with the way the work-force reduction is being handled, said Montez, "is the workers who will be heading out the gate in three weeks can't (file a grievance for) an action that hasn't happened."

Where there is a dispute, Williams said, the employee first must be laid off before the decision can be appealed. But if the workers' employment records are in error, changes can be made.

Workers laid off under the reduction in force must wait 30 days to appeal to the Merit System Protection Board regional office in Denver. VFW officials believe that creates a delay that could hurt veterans and other displaced workers.

Montez and Ron Laterza, a retired federal worker and part of the eight-member VFW task force, said they believe about 160 veterans are involved in the reduction in force.

Thus far, Laterza said, the task force has picked five grievances it wants to pursue. All involve workers the panel believes were placed in the wrong classification, he said. The VFW also is hoping other veterans will come forward with grievances.

Under the cutback, career employees are the most likely to be exempt from losing their jobs. Other factors that help workers maintain their jobs include whether they are veterans with at least a 30 percent disability, whether they are veterans with fewer than 20 years of military service not receiving retirement benefits, and their job performance ratings during the past three years.