HR University Logo, Teaching the Business of HR; and CHCO Council seal



Recruitment Policy Studio

Federal Section
Planning for Recruiting - Pathways
Pathways for students and recent graduates to federal careers

Veterans’ Preference and Pass Overs



Are agencies required to apply veterans’ preference when making selections for Pathways Programs positions? (READ MORE)
Yes. Pursuant to 5 CFR 362.105(c)(2), each agency is required to apply veterans’ preference when filling positions using the Pathways Programs.


How is veterans’ preference applied when filling jobs under the Pathways Programs? (READ MORE)
Agencies must apply veteran’s preference in accordance with the procedures in 5 U.S.C. 3320 and 5 CFR 302, and any applicable agency policy. How veterans’ preference is applied depends upon the selection method the agency chooses to use when filling its Pathways jobs. In accordance with 5 CFR part 302, agencies can generally choose from among three selection methods when filling jobs in the excepted service: the ranked list, the unranked list, or a category rating-like process.

Ranked list – This method works the same as the ‘rule of three’ rating-and-ranking process used in the competitive service. Individuals are assessed against criteria which produces a numerical score. Preference eligibles who earn a passing score receive 5 or 10 points, as appropriate, which are added to their score. Applicants are then listed in score order and selection is made from the highest-ranked three names available on the list. Preference eligibles with a 10 percent or more disability are placed at the top of the list, and thus achieve the highest ranks. Agencies cannot select a non-preference eligible veteran over a preference eligible veteran with an equal or higher score without going through the applicable pass over procedures.

Unranked list – Applicants who meet basic eligibility criteria are listed by veterans’ preference category: 10 percent or more disabled veterans, other 10-point preference eligible veterans, 5-point preference eligible veterans, and then non-preference eligible veterans. An agency must consider the candidates in the highest preference group first. Agencies cannot select a non-preference eligible veteran until the preference eligibles are exhausted or the agency has gone through the proper pass over procedures with respect to the preference eligibles that are remaining

Category rating- like process – Under 5 CFR part 302.105, agencies may establish their own systems for applying veterans’ preference provided that such a system results in preference eligible applicants receiving at least as much advantage as they would under the numerical ranking or unranked selection methods. Out of convenience, many agencies have adopted a category rating-like process. This method works the same way as category rating does in the competitive service. Rather than using numerical scores, individuals are assessed against agency-established criteria and placed in one of two or more pre-defined quality categories. Preference eligibles are listed ahead of non-preference eligibles in the quality category into which they are placed. Preference eligibles with a 10 percent or more disability are placed in the highest quality category (ahead of the non-preference eligibles). An agency must make its selection from the highest quality category. An agency cannot select a non-preference eligible over a preference eligible veteran until the preference eligibles in the top category are exhausted, or the agency has gone through the applicable pass over procedures with respect to the preference eligibles that are remaining in that top group. An agency may select any preference eligible veteran in the highest quality category.

If fewer than three people are in the highest quality category, the agency can merge the highest and second highest quality category into a new category – provided that all preference eligible veterans from both categories are listed ahead of the non-preference eligibles in the newly merged category.

Professional Order – When filling professional and scientific positions at the GS-9 level and above, the rules differ slightly. Agencies may list applicants either in a ranked list by score order or in an unranked list by preference status. When a ranked list is used, preference eligibles who earn a passing score will have an additional 5 or 10 points, as appropriate, added to their score. Applicants are then listed in score order (i.e., nobody “floats”), and selection is made from the highest-ranked three names available on the list. When an unranked list is used all qualified preference eligibles will be listed in order of preference status (which will consistent of candidates eligible for 10-point veterans’ preference followed by candidates eligible for 5-point veterans’ preference), followed by all other qualified applicants. An agency must consider preference eligibles in the highest preference group first. An agency may not consider a non-preference eligible until all preference eligibles have been exhausted or the agency has gone through the proper pass over procedures with respect to the preference eligibles who are remaining.


What are the procedures for passing over a preference eligible veteran who has a compensable disability of less than 30 percent in the excepted service? (READ MORE)
A preference eligible veteran, who does not have a compensable disability of 30 percent or more, can be eliminated from consideration only if the agency sustains the selecting official’s objection to the preference eligible for adequate reason. These reasons, which must be recorded, include reasons based upon the criteria for medical disqualification under 5 CFR Part 339, reasons based upon the criteria for making suitability determinations listed at 5 CFR 731.202, or other reasons considered by the agency. Agencies should be mindful of 5 U.S.C. 3320 and 5 CFR 332.406 in considering reasons for passing over a preference eligible, and should consult with their counsel concerning whether a given reason is likely to meet the standard of making selections “in the same manner and under the same conditions required for the competitive service” standard set out in section 3320. OPM must approve the sufficiency of an agency reason to medically disqualify or pass over a preference eligible to select a non-preference eligible or to object to or pass over a candidate based upon medical reasons. The preference eligible (or his or her representative) is entitled to a copy of the agency’s reason(s) for the pass over, upon request.


What are the procedures for passing over a preference eligible veteran who has a compensable disability of 30 percent or more in the excepted service? (READ MORE)
In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 3312 and 5 CFR 339.102(c) and 332.406, the following special provisions apply to medically disqualifying a disabled veteran with a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more, based on inability to perform the physical requirements of the position:
  • The agency must at the same time notify, in writing, both OPM and the disabled veteran of the reasons for its desire to disqualify the disabled veteran and of the veteran’s right to respond to OPM within 15 days of the date of the notification.
  • The agency must provide evidence to OPM that the notice was timely sent to the disabled veteran’s last known address.
  • OPM must make a determination on the disabled veteran’s physical ability to perform the duties of the position, taking into account any additional information provided by the veteran. The agency must submit sufficient evidence to support its request, including evidence that a reasonable accommodation is not possible and that the employee cannot perform the essential functions of the position without endangering the health and safety of the individual or others.
  • OPM may ask the agency to submit more detailed information in support of its request.
  • If OPM agrees that the veteran cannot fulfill the physical requirements of the position, the agency may select another qualified person from the certificate of eligibles. If OPM finds the veteran able to perform the job, the agency may not pass over the veteran on the basis of inability to perform the physical requirements.
  • This procedure does not stop the agency from filling a position if it has more than one position to fill from the same certificate, and holds open a position that could be filled by the individual against whom a request has been filed.
  • OPM will notify the agency and the disabled veteran of its decision, with which the agency must comply.
  • OPM is prohibited by law from delegating these functions to any agency.
In accordance with 5 U.S.C. 3318 and 5 CFR 332.406, the following special provisions apply to passing over a disabled veteran with a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more, for nonmedical reasons:
  • The agency must at the same time notify, in writing, both OPM and the disabled veteran of the reasons for its desire to pass over the disabled veteran and of the veteran’s right to respond to OPM within 15 days of the date of the notification.
  • The agency must provide evidence to OPM that the notice was timely sent to the disabled veteran’s last known address.
  • OPM will determine if the request was for a proper and adequate reason under its regulations, and the sufficiency of the evidence presented, taking into account any additional information provided by the veteran.
  • OPM may ask the agency to submit more detailed information in support of its request.
  • If OPM sustains the pass over request, the agency may select another qualified person from the certificate of eligibles. If OPM does not sustain the request, the agency may not pass over the veteran on the basis of the reason presented.
  • This procedure does not stop the agency from filling a position if it has more than one position to fill from the same certificate, and holds open a position that could be filled by the individual against whom a request has been filed.
  • OPM will notify the agency and the preference eligible or disabled veteran of its decision, with which the agency must comply.
  • OPM is prohibited by law from delegating these functions to any agency.