Transition Guidance

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Title:Veterans Preference

Author:Barbara Adams. All rights reserved.

Since the Civil War, veterans have been given preference in appointments to federal jobs. Congress recognizes the sacrifices made by members of the armed forces by passing laws that provide hiring preferences to military veterans. Disabled veterans often receive a higher preference. Not only does this help veterans during the hiring process, but also give veterans retention preference during periods of reduction in force. Preference alone will not place a veteran in every federal job, nor will it apply to promotions or other in-service actions, but it does give the veterans an edge against the competition.

The rules can vary from job to job, but generally speaking, a veteran must have an honorable or general discharge to receive a Veterans Preference, unless the veteran retired at the rank of Major/Lieutenant Commander or higher and is not disabled. Members of the National Guard and Reserve active duty for training do not qualify for preference unless they are disabled veterans. For preference to be considered, it must be indicated on the resume.

Veterans who served during specific periods of conflict may be eligible for a 5 or 10 point bonus to their application scores. A 5-point preference is given to veterans who served during a war, from April 28, 1952 through July 1, 1955, on active duty for more than 180 consecutive days (other than for training) any part of which occurred between January 31, 1955 and October 15, 1976, during the Gulf War from August 2, 1990 through January 2, 1992, for more than 180 consecutive days (other than for training) any part of which occurred between September 11, 2001 and an ending prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge, including El Salvador, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia or Haiti qualifies for preference. NOTE: a campaign medal holder or Gulf War veteran who originally enlisted after September 7, 1980 (or began active duty on or after October 14, 1982) and has not previously completed 24 months of continuous active duty must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty.

A 10-point preference is given to veterans who served at any time and received a Purple Heart or who has a present service-connected disability or is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension from the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Spouses, widows, widowers, or mothers of veterans may also be eligible for this preference as a "derived preference" if the veteran is not able to use the preference. To obtain the 10 point preference, the veteran (or qualifying relative) must complete form SF 15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, available from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) web site:

In addition to point preferences, there are other benefits such as Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA), which gives federal agencies discretionary authority to hire veterans who meet the basic requirements for the position without competition. After two years of satisfactory service, the veteran may be converted to a career-conditional appointment in the competitive service, or may receive a noncompetitive temporary or term appointment based on VRA eligibility (which does not lead to a career job).

New VRA eligibility requirements limit appointments to veterans who are disabled, who served on active duty in the armed forces during a war (or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized), who served on active duty or participated in a United States military operation for which an Armed Forces Service Medal was awarded, or who are recently separated from the military (generally meaning veterans discharged within the past three years). VRA allows appointment of eligible Veterans up to the GS-11 or equivalent grade. Direct appointments can be made for entry-level to mid-level positions often without need for a vacancy announcement.

30 percent or more disabled veterans may be directly appointed to a position with no grade-level limitation and without a vacancy announcement. Initial appointments can be time-limited to 60 days or more, with potential noncompetitive conversion to permanent status at any time during the time-limited appointment. Such positions are discretionary within federal agencies.

The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 (VEOA) allows veterans to compete for jobs that are not open to other external candidates. A VEOA eligible who is selected will be given a career or career-conditional appointment. VEOA applies to veterans who are "preference eligible" (as explained above) or who are separated under honorable conditions after three or more years of continuous active service.

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