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Recruitment Policy Studio

Federal Section
Hiring Toolkit

Fundamentals of Federal Hiring


Veterans’ Preference


Introduction

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) administers entitlement to veterans' preference in employment under title 5, United States Code.

Veterans’ Preference in Appointments


Why Preference is Given

Since the time of the Civil War, veterans of the Armed Forces have been given some degree of preference in appointments to Federal jobs. Recognizing their sacrifice, Congress enacted laws to prevent veterans seeking Federal employment from being penalized for their time in military service. Veterans' preference recognizes the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform, restores veterans to a favorable competitive position for Government employment, and acknowledges the larger obligation owed to disabled veterans.

Veterans' preference in its present form comes from the Veterans' Preference Act of 1944, as amended, and is now codified in various provisions of title 5, United States Code. By law, veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over others in hiring from competitive lists of eligibles and also in retention during reductions in force.

In addition to receiving preference in competitive appointments, veterans may be considered for special noncompetitive appointments, e.g. appointment of veterans with a service connected disability rating of at least 30 percent.

Veteran; disabled veteran; preference eligible defined by 5 U.S.C. 2108 (READ MORE)

For the purpose of this title—

(1) “veteran” means an individual who—

(A) served on active duty in the armed forces during a war, in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, or during the period beginning April 28, 1952, and ending July 1, 1955;

(B) served on active duty as defined by section 101(21) of title 38 at any time in the armed forces for a period of more than 180 consecutive days any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976, not including service under section 12103(d) of title 10 pursuant to an enlistment in the Army National Guard or the Air National Guard or as a Reserve for service in the Army Reserve, Navy Reserve, Air Force Reserve, Marine Corps Reserve, or Coast Guard Reserve;

(C) served on active duty as defined by section 101(21) of title 38 in the armed forces during the period beginning on August 2, 1990, and ending on January 2, 1992; or

(D) served on active duty as defined by section 101(21) of title 38 at any time in the armed forces for a period of more than 180 consecutive days any part of which occurred during the period beginning on September 11, 2001, and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last date of Operation Iraqi Freedom;

and, except as provided under section 2108a, who has been discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions;


(2) “disabled veteran” means an individual who has served on active duty in the armed forces, (except as provided under section 2108a) has been separated therefrom under honorable conditions, and has established the present existence of a service-connected disability or is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension because of a public statute administered by the Department of Veterans Affairs or a military department;


(3) “preference eligible” means, except as provided in paragraph (4) of this section or section 2108a(c)—

(A) a veteran as defined by paragraph (1)(A) of this section;

(B) a veteran as defined by paragraph (1)(B), (C), or (D) of this section;

(C) a disabled veteran;

(D) the unmarried widow or widower of a veteran as defined by paragraph (1)(A) of this section;

(E) the wife or husband of a service-connected disabled veteran if the veteran has been unable to qualify for any appointment in the civil service or in the government of the District of Columbia;

(F) the mother of an individual who lost his life under honorable conditions while serving in the armed forces during a period named by paragraph (1)(A) of this section, if—

(i) her husband is totally and permanently disabled;

(ii) she is widowed, divorced, or separated from the father and has not remarried; or

(iii) she has remarried but is widowed, divorced, or legally separated from her husband when preference is claimed;

(G) the mother of a service-connected permanently and totally disabled veteran, if—

(i) her husband is totally and permanently disabled;

(ii) she is widowed, divorced, or separated from the father and has not remarried; or

(iii) she has remarried but is widowed, divorced, or legally separated from her husband when preference is claimed; and

(H) a veteran who was discharged or released from a period of active duty by reason of a sole survivorship discharge (as that term is defined in section 1174(i) of title 10);

but does not include applicants for, or members of, the Senior Executive Service, the Defense Intelligence Senior Executive Service, the Senior Cryptologic Executive Service, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Drug Enforcement Administration Senior Executive Service;


(4) except for the purposes of chapters 43 and 75 of this title, “preference eligible” does not include a retired member of the armed forces unless—

(A) the individual is a disabled veteran; or

(B) the individual retired below the rank of major or its equivalent; and


(5) “retired member of the armed forces” means a member or former member of the armed forces who is entitled, under statute, to retired, retirement, or retainer pay on account of service as a member.



When Preference Applies

Preference in hiring applies to permanent and time-limited positions in the competitive and excepted services of the executive branch. Preference does not apply to positions in the Senior Executive Service. The legislative and judicial branches of the Federal Government also are exempt from the Veterans' Preference Act unless the positions are in the competitive service (Government Printing Office, for example) or have been made subject to the Act by another law.

Preference applies when filling competitive and excepted service jobs, and when agencies make permanent, temporary, term, and other time-limited appointments. Veterans' preference does not apply to promotion, reassignment, change to lower grade, transfer or reinstatement.

Veterans' preference does not require an agency to use a particular appointment process. Agencies have broad authority under law to hire from any appropriate source of eligibles including special appointing authorities. An agency may consider candidates already in the civil service from an agency-developed merit promotion list or it may reassign a current employee, transfer an employee from another agency, or reinstate a former Federal employee. In addition, agencies are required to give priority to displaced employees before using civil service examinations and similar hiring methods.

Types of Preference

To receive preference, a veteran must have been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces under honorable conditions (i.e., with an honorable or general discharge). As defined in 5 U.S.C. 2101(2), "Armed Forces" means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. However, the VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) To Hire Heroes Act of 2011 amended Title 5 and requires Federal agencies to treat active duty service members as veterans, disabled veterans, or preference eligibles for purposes of appointment in the competitive service. (Click here to read more on the VOW Act for currently serving military members)
VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011

This new section requires Federal agencies to treat active duty service members as veterans and preference eligibles under section 2108 when they submit a “certification” when applying for a Federal job. The “certification” is any written document from the armed forces that certifies the service member is expected to be discharged or released from active duty service in the armed forces under honorable conditions not later than 120 days after the date the certification is signed. Therefore, agencies must accept applications and consider for appointment and veterans’ preference any service member who submits a certification in lieu of a DD form 214. Prior to appointment, agencies must verify the service member is eligible for veterans’ preference in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 2108, unless the service member is appointed under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 5534a, “Dual employment and pay during terminal leave from uniformed services.”

Treatment of certain individuals as veterans, disabled veterans, and preference eligible 5 U.S.C. 2108a

(a) Veteran.—

(1) In general.—Except as provided under paragraph (3), an individual shall be treated as a veteran defined under section 2108(1) for purposes of making an appointment in the competitive service, if the individual—

(A) meets the definition of a veteran under section 2108(1), except for the requirement that the individual has been discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions; and

(B) submits a certification described under paragraph (2) to the Federal officer making the appointment.


(2) Certification.—A certification referred to under paragraph (1) is a certification that the individual is expected to be discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions not later than 120 days after the date of the submission of the certification.


(b) Disabled Veteran.—

(1) In general.—Except as provided under paragraph (3), an individual shall be treated as a disabled veteran defined under section 2108(2) for purposes of making an appointment in the competitive service, if the individual—

(A) meets the definition of a disabled veteran under section 2108(2), except for the requirement that the individual has been separated from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions; and

(B) submits a certification described under paragraph (2) to the Federal officer making the appointment.


(2) Certification.—A certification referred to under paragraph (1) is a certification that the individual is expected to be separated from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions not later than 120 days after the date of the submission of the certification.


(c) Preference Eligible.—

Subsections (a) and (b) shall apply with respect to determining whether an individual is a preference eligible under section 2108(3) for purposes of making an appointment in the competitive service.


Attachment A - Fact Sheet on VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) To Hire Heroes Act of 2011
  • On November 21, 2011, President Obama signed the VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) To Hire Heroes Act of 2011.
  • The VOW amends chapter 21 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.) by adding section 2108a, “Treatment of certain individuals as veterans, disabled veterans, and preference eligibles.”
  • Section 2108a requires Federal agencies to treat active duty service members as veterans, disabled veterans, or preference eligibles for purposes of appointment in the competitive service when these service members submit a certification of expected discharge or release from active duty under honorable conditions along with their applications for Federal employment.
  • A certification is any written document from the armed forces that certifies the service member is expected to be discharged or released from active duty service in the armed forces under honorable conditions not later than 120 days from the date the certification is signed.
  • Agencies must accept, process, and consider applications for appointment from any service member who submits a certification in the same manner as they would consider other preference eligibles.
  • Prior to appointment, agencies must verify the veteran is eligible for veterans’ preference in accordance with 5 U.S.C. 2108, unless the service member is appointed under the provisions of 5 U.S.C. 5534a, “Dual employment and pay during terminal leave from uniformed services.”


Attachment B - Frequently Asked Questions on VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) To Hire Heroes Act of 2011

Q. What is the VOW to Hire Heroes Act of 2011?

The VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) To Hire Heroes Act of 2011 was signed into law by President Obama on November 22, 2011. It requires Federal agencies to treat active duty service members as veterans, disabled veterans and preference eligibles for purposes of an appointment in the competitive service.

Q. Why was VOW enacted?

Many service members begin their civilian job search prior to being discharged or released from active duty service and thus do not have a DD form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, when applying for Federal jobs. The VOW Act was enacted to ensure these individuals do not lose the opportunity to be considered for Federal service (and awarded their veterans’ preference entitlements if applicable) despite not having a DD form 214 to submit along with their résumés.

Q. What type of documentation is an active duty service member required to furnish with a job application?

The VOW requires the active duty service member to furnish a “certification.”

Q. What is a “certification?”

A “certification” is any written document from the armed forces that certifies the service member is expected to be discharged or released from active duty service in the armed forces under honorable conditions not later than 120 days after the date the certification is signed.

Q. What effect does this new provision have on how agencies process applications of eligible veterans?

Agencies are required to accept, process, and grant tentative veterans’ preference to those active duty service members who submit a certification along with their job application materials.

Q. Should agencies automatically award veterans’ preference to individuals eligible under the VOW Act upon receiving the veteran’s job application?

No, agencies must grant service members’ tentative veterans’ preference but verify the individual meets the definition of ‘preference eligible’ under 5 U.S.C. 2108 prior to appointment.

Q. What should an agency do if the certification has expired, i.e., more than 120 days have lapsed since the date the certification was signed?

If the certification has expired; an agency must request other documentation (e.g., a copy of the DD form 214) that demonstrates the service member is a preference eligible per 5 U.S.C. 2108, before veterans’ preference can be awarded.

Q. Does this new section 2108a of title 5 United States Code (U.S.C.) apply to the Excepted Service?

No. The provisions in title 5 U.S.C. 2108a apply only to applications for appointments in the competitive service.



Military retirees at the rank of major, lieutenant commander, or higher are not eligible for preference in appointment unless they are disabled veterans. (This does not apply to Reservists who will not begin drawing military retired pay until age 60.)

For non-disabled users, active duty for training by National Guard or Reserve soldiers does not qualify as "active duty" for preference.

For disabled veterans, active duty includes training service in the Reserves or National Guard, per the Merit Systems Protection Board decision in Hesse v. Department of the Army, 104 M.S.P.R.647(2007).

For purposes of this chapter and 5 U.S.C. 2108, "war" means only those armed conflicts declared by Congress as war and includes World War II, which covers the period from December 7, 1941, to April 28, 1952.

Numerical rating and ranking system

In general, when agencies use a numerical rating and ranking system to determine the best qualified applicants for a position, an additional 5 or 10 points are added to the numerical score of qualified preference eligible veterans.

0-point Preference (SSP)
On August 29, 2008, the Hubbard Act was enacted as Public Law 110-317. The Hubbard Act amended the eligibility categories for veterans’ preference purposes by adding subparagraph (H) to 5 U.S.C. 2108(3). Subparagraph (H) establishes a new veterans’ preference eligibility category for veterans released or discharged from a period of active duty from the armed forces, after August 29, 2008, by reason of a “sole survivorship discharge.”

Under the sole survivorship preference, the individual (1) does not receive veterans’ preference points as other preference eligibles do when the “rule of 3” is applied; (2) is entitled to be listed ahead of non-preference eligibles with the same score on an examination, or listed ahead of non-preference eligibles in the same quality category when agencies are using category rating; (3) is entitled to receive the same pass over rights as other preference eligibles; and (4) is entitled to credit experience in the armed forces to meet the qualification requirements for Federal jobs.

No points are added to the passing score or rating of a veteran who is the only surviving child in a family in which the father or mother or one or more siblings:
  • served in the armed forces, and
  • was killed, died as a result of wounds, accident, or disease, is in a captured or missing in action status, or is permanently 100 percent disabled or hospitalized on a continuing basis (and is not employed gainfully because of the disability or hospitalization), where
  • the death, status, or disability did not result from the intentional misconduct or willful neglect of the parent or sibling and was not incurred during a period of unauthorized absence.


5 point preference
You are a 5 point preference eligible if your active duty service meets any of the following:
  1. For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred during the period beginning September 11, 2001 and ending on a future date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law as the last date of Operation Iraqi Freedom, OR
  2. Between August 2, 1990 and January 2, 1992, OR
  3. For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955 and before October 15, 1976.
  4. In a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized or between April 28, 1952 and July 1, 1955.


10 point preference
You are a 10 point preference eligible if you served at any time, and you:
  1. have a service connected disability, OR
  2. received a Purple Heart.


Preference Groups
Now that we have discussed your preference eligibility and the associated points, let's discuss preference groups. Preference eligibles are divided into five basic groups as follows:
  • CPS - Disability rating of 30% or more (10 points)
  • CP - Disability rating of at least 10% but less than 30% (10 points)
  • XP - Disability rating less than 10% (10 points)
  • TP - Preference eligibles with no disability rating (5 points)
  • SSP - Preference eligibles with no disability rating (0 points)
NOTE: Disabled veterans receive 10 points regardless of their disability rating.


Non-numerical rating and ranking system (e.g. category rating)

When an agency does not use a numerical rating system, preference eligibles who have a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more (CPS, CP) are placed at the top of the highest category on the referral list (except for scientific or professional positions at the GS-9 level or higher). XP, TP, and SSP preference eligibles are placed above non-preference eligibles within their assigned category.

Veterans Preference Topics:

For more information on Veterans' Preference in Employment, click here.


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