Veterans' Preference gives eligible veterans preference in appointment over many other applicants. Veterans' preference applies to all new appointments in the competitive service and many in the excepted service. Veterans' preference does not guarantee veterans a job and it does not apply to internal agency actions such as promotions, transfers, reassignments and reinstatements.
Understanding how veterans' preference works can be a challenge. In accordance with title 5, United States Code, Section 2108 (5 USC 2108) veterans' preference eligibility can be based on dates of active duty service, receipt of a campaign badge, receipt of a Purple Heart, or a service-connected disability. Please know that not all active duty service may qualify for veterans' preference.
Only veterans discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions are eligible for veterans' preference. This means you must have been discharged under an honorable or general discharge. Under the VOW (Veterans Opportunity to Work) to Hire Heroes Act of 2011, an individual who has reason to believe s/he will be entitled to veterans’ preference upon discharge may apply for a position in advance of the discharge, and receive consideration as a preference eligible, if the service member is able to provide a certification that s/he is expected to be discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions not later than 120 days from the date of the certification; the circumstances of the discharge are verified at the time of actual appointment.
If you are a "retired member of the armed forces" you are not included in the definition of preference eligible unless you are a disabled veteran OR you retired below the rank of major or its equivalent.
There are basically three types of preference eligibility, sole survivorship (0 point preference eligible), non-disabled (5 point preference eligible) and disabled (10 point preference eligible).
You are a 0-point preference eligible if you were released or discharged from a period of active duty from the armed forces, after August 29, 2008, by reason of being 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.
No points are added to the passing score or rating of 0 point preference eligible, but you are entitled to be listed ahead of non-preference eligibles with the same score on an examination, or in the same quality category.
You are a 5 point preference eligible if your active duty service meets any of the following:
- 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 August 31, 2010, the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, OR
- During the Gulf War, between August 2, 1990 and January 2, 1992, OR
- For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955 and before October 15, 1976, OR
- Between April 28, 1952 and July 1, 1955 OR
- In a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or badge has been authorized.
You are a 10 point preference eligible if you served at any time, and you:
- have a service connected disability, OR
- received a Purple Heart.
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 – Sole Survivorship Preference (0 points)
The letters preceding each category, e.g., "TP," are a shorthand reference used by OPM in competitive examinations. Disabled veterans receive 10 points regardless of their disability rating.
How Preference is Applied
In the competitive service, 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.
When an agency uses a category rating system, preference eligibiles 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 and TP preference eligibles are placed above non-preference eligibles within their assigned category.
For positions excepted from the competitive service by the President or OPM, agencies must follow one of the options laid out in 5 CFR, part 302 of OPM’s regulations, unless the position is not only in the excepted service, but also exempt from part 302 procedures.
For positions excepted from the competitive service by statute, agencies must follow any rules that Congress imposes.
You must provide acceptable documentation of your preference or appointment eligibility. Acceptable documentation may be:
A copy of your DD-214, "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty," which shows dates of service and discharge under honorable conditions;
A "certification" that is a 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; OR
You may obtain a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs reflecting your level of disability for preference eligibility by visiting a VA Regional Office, contacting a VA call center or online.
Prior to appointment, an agency will require the service member to provide a copy of the DD-214.