Veterans' Preference in Federal Hiring

Making direct contact with managers looking to hire, rather than going through the usual human resources contacts, pays off for job-hunting veterans.
Making direct contact with managers looking to hire, rather than going through the usual human resources contacts, pays off for job-hunting veterans. (U.S. Congress photo)

If you're a veteran, you have a couple of different tools that can give you an edge in getting a federal civil service job: veterans' preference points and Veterans' Recruitment Appointment rule. 

Veterans' Preference Points Overview

By law, veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over non-veterans both in hiring from competitive lists and in retention during reductions in force.

The goal of the veterans' preference points is not to place a veteran in every vacant federal job. However, preference does provide a uniform method by which qualified veterans receive special consideration for federal employment.

Preference applies in hiring from civil service examinations, for most excepted service jobs, and when agencies make temporary appointments or use direct hire and delegated examining authorities from the U. S. Office of Personnel Management.

General Requirements for Employment Preference

To be entitled to preference, a veteran must meet the eligibility requirements in Section 2108 of Title 5, United States Code. This means:

  • The veteran must have an honorable or general discharge.
  • Retirees at the rank of O-4 or higher are not eligible for preference unless they are disabled veterans.
  • Guard and Reserve active duty for training purposes does not qualify for preference.
  • When applying for federal jobs, eligible veterans should claim preference on their application or resume. Applicants claiming 10-point preference must complete form SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference.

Types of Preference

5-Point Preference

Five points are added to the passing examination score or rating of a veteran who served:

  • During a war
  • For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any time on or after Sep. 11, 2001
  • In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or campaign badge, including Afghanistan (Operations Enduring Freedom (OEF), Iraqi Freedom (OIF)), Bosnia (Operations Joint Endeavor, Joint Guard and Joint Forge), Global War on Terrorism, Persian Gulf War, and others may qualify for preference. 

10-Point Preference

Ten points are added to the passing examination score of:

  • A veteran who served any time and who (1) has a present service-connected disability or (2) is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension from the military or the VA. Individuals who received a Purple Heart qualify as disabled veterans.
  • An unmarried spouse of certain deceased veterans.
  • A spouse of a veteran unable to work because of a service-connected disability, and
  • A parent of a veteran who died in service or who is permanently and totally disabled.

How It Works

If you meet the criteria for preference and achieve a score of 70 or higher, either by a written examination or an evaluation of your experience and education, you will have whichever point preference you qualify for added to your rating.

Entitlement to veterans' preference does not guarantee a job. There are many ways an agency can fill a vacancy other than by appointment from a list of eligible candidates.

Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA)

Under VRA, a you can be appointed to a white-collar position through GS-11 without having to compete with other applicants.

The VRA is open to you if you are a disabled veteran who served on active duty during a war or major campaign and you have left the service under honorable conditions within three years.

Find the Right Veteran Job

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