Considering going to work for the Federal Government after you leave the military?  Then knowing how Veterans’ preference points work is a must. The following guide will help you take advantage of this hiring preference program for veterans.

Veterans’ Preference Points Fast FAQs:

Fast FAQ #1: What do Veterans’ preference points do?

Veterans’ preference points can help you land a government job by making you more competitive when competing head-to-head with a more or equally qualified civilian candidate.

Fast FAQ #2: Do Veterans preference points work for all government jobs?

No, not all government jobs use a competitive point system for hiring. You will be notified if preference points are used when you apply for a federal position.

Fast FAQ #3: Do state and local governments use the federal Veterans’ preference points system?

No, however, many states, counties, and cities do have their own ways of giving Veterans preference.

Fast FAQ #4: How many points would I get?

The answer really depends on where you land within the 3 levels or types of preference: The three types of Veterans preference are:

0 Point Preference: You would get a 0-point preference if you were released or discharged from active duty after August 29, 2008, because you were the only surviving child in a family in which a parent or a sibling(s) either served in the armed forces, and was killed, or is permanently 100 percent disabled or hospitalized on a continuing basis. (See more details below)

5 Point Preference: You are eligible for a 5-point preference if your time on active duty was more than 180 consecutive days during a time of conflict (specific service dates and criteria are listed below).

10 Point Preference: You are eligible for a 10-point preference if you served at any time, and you have a service-connected disability, or received a Purple Heart.

Fast FAQ #5: If I am eligible for 0-point preference does it mean that I don’t get Veterans’ preference?

No, it simply means that no points are added to your passing score, but you are entitled to be listed ahead of other non-preference candidates with the same score on an examination.

Fast FAQ #6: How do I apply for Veterans preference points?

You will be required to provide the following acceptable documentation to apply for Veterans preference:

  • Copy of your DD-214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” which shows dates of service and discharge under honorable conditions. OR
  • “Certification” from the armed forces that certifies you are 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
  • Standard Form (SF-15 (PDF file)), Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference. If you are claiming 10 point preference, you will need to submit an (SF-15 (PDF file)).

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.

Fast FAQ #7: How do the preference points apply to my hiring?

In federal jobs called “competitive service” jobs, agencies use a numerical rating and ranking system to determine the best qualified applicants for a position. As a Veteran you may have an additional 5 or 10 points are added to your numerical score. However, their several other types of Federal Government jobs. Details on all the ways Veterans preference is applied will be addressed below.

Veterans Preference Points in Detail

Veterans preference points apply 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.

Veterans preference points are designed to ensure that if you apply for a federal job and you served on active duty during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns, you are entitled to preference over non-veterans both in hiring from competitive lists and in retention during reductions in force.

In addition, the VOW Act (Veterans Opportunity to Work to Hire Heroes Act of 2011), ensures that as a veteran you have an opportunity for Veterans’ preference even before you leave the military.

If you apply before your ETS you can receive consideration as a preference eligible veteran, if you can provide a certification that you are expected to be discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions no later than 120 days from the date of the certification; the circumstances of the discharge are verified at the time of actual appointment.

Keep in mind that Veterans preference only applies to veterans that were discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions. This means you must have been discharged under an honorable or general discharge.

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.

Types of Preference Eligibility in Detail

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).

0 Point Preference:

You are eligible for a 0-point preference 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:

  1. Served in the armed forces, and
  2. 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
  3. 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.

Note: 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 eligible with the same score on an examination, or in the same quality category.

5 Point Preference:

You are eligible for a 5-point preference 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 August 31, 2010, the last day of Operation Iraqi Freedom, OR
  2. During the Gulf War, 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, OR
  4. Between April 28, 1952 and July 1, 1955 OR
  5. In a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or badge has been authorized.

10 Point Preference:

You are eligible for a 10-point preference if you served at any time, and you:

  1. have a service connected disability, OR
  2. received a Purple Heart.

Other Veteran Hiring Programs You Should Know About

Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA)

Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) is an excepted authority that allows an agency to non-competitively appoint an eligible veteran. If you:

  • Served during a war or are in receipt of a campaign badge for service in a campaign or expedition, OR
  • are a disabled veteran, OR
  • are in receipt of an Armed Forces Service Medal (includes the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal) for participation in a military operation, OR
  • are a recently separated veteran (within 3 years of discharge), AND
  • separated under honorable conditions (this means an honorable or general discharge).

You can be appointed under this authority at any grade level up to and including a GS-11 or equivalent. This is an excepted service appointment. Upon satisfactory completion of 2 years of substantially continuous service, you will be converted to the competitive service. If an agency has two or more VRA candidates and at least one is preference eligible, the Veterans’ preference procedures of 5 CFR, part 302 of OPM’s regulations must be applied when using the VRA authority.

Agencies may also use VRA to fill temporary (not to exceed 1 year) or term (more than 1 year but not to exceed 4 years) positions. If you are employed in a temporary or term position under VRA, you will not be converted to the competitive service after 2 years.

There is no limit to the number of times you can apply under VRA, as long as you meet the definition of a covered veteran under applicable law.

You must provide acceptable documentation of your preference or appointment eligibility. The member 4 copy of your DD214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” is preferable. If claiming 10 point preference, you will need to submit a Standard Form (SF-15 (PDF file)), “Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference.”

30% or More Disabled Veteran

The 30% or More Disabled Veteran authority allows an agency to non-competitively appoint any veteran with a 30% or more service-connected disability.

You are eligible if you:

  • retired from active military service with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or more, OR
  • have a rating by the Department of Veterans Affairs showing a compensable service-connected disability of 30% or more.

This authority can be used to make temporary (at least 60 days but not to exceed 1 year) or term (more than 1 year, but not more than 4) appointments in the competitive service. There is no grade level restriction. There is no requirement that you be converted to a permanent position, but an agency has the authority to convert such a position to a permanent position if it chooses to do so.

The agency would first place you on a time limited appointment of at least 60 days and could then convert that appointment to a permanent appointment at management’s discretion. When the authority is used to meet a time-limited need, however, you will not be converted to a permanent appointment.

You must provide acceptable documentation of your preference or appointment eligibility. The member 4 copy of your DD214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty,” is preferable. If claiming 10 point preference, you will need to submit a Standard Form (SF-15 (PDF file)), “Application for 10-point Veterans’ Preference.”

Disabled Veterans Enrolled in a VA Training Program

Disabled veterans eligible for training under the VA vocational rehabilitation program may enroll for training or work experience at an agency under the terms of an agreement between the agency and VA. While enrolled in the VA program, the veteran is not a Federal employee for most purposes but is a beneficiary of the VA.

Training is tailored to the individual’s needs and goals, so there is no set length. If the training is intended to prepare the individual for eventual appointment in the agency rather than just provide work experience, the agency must focus the training on enabling the veteran to meet the qualification requirements for the position.

Upon successful completion, the host agency and VA give the veteran a Certificate of Training showing the occupational series and grade level of the position for which trained. The Certificate of Training allows any agency to appoint the veteran noncompetitively under a status quo appointment which may be converted to career or career-conditional at any time.

Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans

Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans are just that…designed for veterans. Knowing about these authorities and identifying your eligibility will enhance your job search. These special authorities represent a few of many appointing authorities that agencies can use entirely at their discretion. Veterans are not entitled to appointment under any of these authorities. Check the vacancy announcements, which should clearly state “Who May Apply.”

Go to Feds Hire Vets for U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s Governmentwide Veterans Employment Website

Schedule A Hiring

Though not specifically for veterans, the Schedule A authority for Persons With Intellectual Disabilities, Severe Physical Disabilities and Psychiatric Disabilities, 5 CFR 213.3102(u), is an excepted authority that agencies can use to appoint eligible veterans who have a severe physical, psychological, or intellectual disability.