Federal Job Preferences for Veterans

Some veterans and their family members will be given special consideration for federal jobs.

By , Attorney Northeastern University School of Law

Veterans may be entitled to receive preference over non-veterans when being considered for federal jobs, which are coveted because of the good pay, health insurance, job security, and retirement benefits. The veteran preference system doesn't guarantee you a federal job, but it does ensure that your application will be given special consideration.

Eligibility for Federal Job Preference

Veterans must generally have served during a period of war to qualify for preference for federal jobs, and must have been discharged under honorable conditions. This means you must have either a general or an honorable discharge. Military retirees with a rank of major or above are ineligible unless they are disabled and eligible to receive VA disability compensation or pension.

Preference Categories

One of two preference categories will be available to you depending upon your eligibility, a 5-point preference or a 10-point preference. Criteria for each category are described below.

5-Point Preference for Service During War

You served during a period of war if you served in World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, or:

  • in a campaign for which campaign badges were issued
  • completed 24 months of uninterrupted service or the full period for which called
  • between April 28, 1952 and July 1, 1955
  • more than 180 days in a row on active duty (not for training) and some part of your period of service was between February 1, 1955 and October 14, 1976 (but if you are eligible for VA disability compensation or pension or are receiving disability retirement pay, active duty for training only will suffice)
  • between August 2, 1990 and January 2, 1992, or
  • served more than 180 days in a row (not for training) and some part of your period of service was during Operation Iraqi Freedom, which began September 11, 2001 (but if you are eligible for VA disability compensation or pension or are receiving disability retirement pay, active duty for training only will suffice).

10-Point Preference for Disabled Veterans and Purple Heart Recipients

A 10-point preference is awarded for veterans who served at any time who have:

  • service-connected disabilities rated at 10% or more
  • disability retirement benefits, or
  • a purple heart.

Preference Groups

After you have determined your preference category, the next step is to understand which preference group you are in.

There are four preference groups, as follows:

  • Three 10-point groups

  • Disability rating of 30% or higher
  • Disability rating of 10% or more but below 30%
  • Disability rating less than 10%
  • One 5-point group

  • Eligible veterans who are not disabled

You can use the online Veterans Preference Advisor to figure out which preference group you belong to.

How Preference Works

The preference group you are in determines how much priority you will be given as a candidate for a federal job or appointment. Some agencies using a ranking system to determine which candidate to hire; they assign points based on how qualified they find an applicant to be and then hire the candidate who has the highest number of points. When you apply for a job with these agencies, they add the applicable number of veterans' preference points (5 or 10) to your candidacy after ranking you based on your qualifications for the position.

Other agencies don't use a ranking system. When you apply for positions with these agencies, you will be given highest priority if you have a service-connected disability rated at 10% or higher. This will be true unless you are applying for a job at the GS-9 level or higher. Veterans with a disability rating of less than 10%, as well as non-disabled veterans, are placed in the next highest preference group.

How to Find and Apply for a Federal Job

Start by reading on the FedsHireVets website on how federal jobs are filled. You can then search for federal jobs and apply for them using USAJOBS. USAJOBS provides resources for veterans on their website. You can either submit a resume or use the application process available online at USAJOBS. There used to be a federal employment application you could print and complete, but it has been discontinued.

Preference for Your Family

A wife or husband, surviving spouse, or mother of a veteran is also entitled to preference in federal hiring, based on the veteran's level of preference, and must follow the same application procedures as the veteran, described below.

How to Apply for Preference

Make sure to claim your right to preference on your job application. If you are claiming a 10-point preference, you must complete an Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference and submit it to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management at:

1900 E St NW, Washington, DC 20240

Phone: (202) 606-1800

Whether you are claiming 5 or 10 points, you will need to have your discharge papers, typically a DD-214, to prove your time of service (when applicable) and that you have a qualifying discharge. Submit your DD-214 with your job application, or if you are claiming 10 points, attach it to your Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference.

If You Were Denied Preference

If you believe you were entitled to be given preference for a federal job and did not receive it, you have the right to file a complaint. The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 provides that you may file a complaint with the Veterans' Employment and Training Service of the Department of Labor. You may file a complaint online.

Preference applies to initial job applications or appointments only. Decisions about promotions and other personnel matters after hiring are based on merit, not veteran status.

State Preference

Many states also give veterans preference for state jobs. Check to see if your state provides preference by selecting your state on the Military.com state benefits website.

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