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Veterans Hiring Authorities

In my last article, we looked at the types of hiring preferences available to veterans, how one becomes eligible for a preference, and how that preference is applied in the recruitment of Federal competitive and excepted service positions. This article describes special hiring authorities under which veterans, and their spouses, may be hired by the Federal government without competition. These are unique authorities and, if eligible, you should not hesitate to contact an agency’s hiring office and inquire as to the availability of such an appointment when conducting your job search.

Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) Authority

The VRA authority permits any agency to appoint, without competition, a qualified and eligible veteran to any position at any grade level up to and including GS-11 or equivalent. A VRA is an excepted service appointment to a position that would otherwise be in the competitive service.
After two years of satisfactory service, the agency must convert the veteran to a career or career-conditional appointment, as appropriate.

A veteran is eligible for a VRA appointment if he or she:

  • is disabled; or
  • is in receipt of a campaign badge for service during a war or in a campaign/expedition; or
  • received an Armed Forces Service Medal for participation in a military operation; or
  • is a recently separated (within three years of release/discharge) veteran, and separated as a result of an honorable or general discharge

Although these criteria are similar to those required for a veterans’ preference, they are not identical. For example, a veteran who served during the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992, would be eligible for veterans’ preference solely on the basis of that service. However, service during that timeframe alone does not confer VRA eligibility unless one of the criteria listed above is met.

The distinction between VRA eligibility and veterans’ preference is particularly significant once an agency decides to fill a position through a VRA appointment and considers more than one eligible candidate, at least one of which has a veterans’ preference. In this instance, the agency must apply the applicable regulatory veterans’ preference procedures.

Finally, as with veterans’ preference, it is essential that you properly document your eligibility when seeking a VRA appointment. Proper documentation entails submission of the number 4 copy of your DD214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty;” completion of an SF-15 if claiming a 10 point preference; and, if applicable, documentation of the relevant campaign badge or medal.

30 Percent or More Disabled Veterans

Pursuant to statutory and accompanying regulatory provisions, an agency may give a non-competitive, temporary appointment of more than 60 days or a term appointment to any veteran who:

  • retired from active military service with a disability rating of 30 percent or more; or
  • since 1991 was rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), or any branch of the Armed Forces at any time, as having a compensable service-connected disability of 30 percent or more

There is no grade level limitation for this authority, but the appointee must meet all qualification requirements. As a general matter, the agency may convert the employee to a career-conditional appointment at any time during the employee’s temporary or term appointment. Following conversion, and upon completion of the probationary period, the individual acquires competitive status.

Spousal Appointment Authority

In an effort to enhance the recruitment and retention of skilled members of the military, and to further honor those killed or disabled while serving their country, the Obama Administration issued a 2008 Executive Order authorizing the non-competitive appointment of certain military spouses to competitive service positions.

If you are a military spouse qualified for the position in question, you are eligible under this appointment authority if your active duty spouse:

  • received permanent change of station (PCS) orders; or
  • has a 100% disability rating from a military department or Department of Veterans Affairs; or
  • was killed while on duty and you, as the widow/widower, have not remarried

Agencies may use this authority to fill temporary, term or permanent positions without grade level restriction. This authority does not entitle spouses to a hiring preference and is subject to the agency’s clearance of applicable reemployment priority lists.

In order to meet the eligibility requirements, active duty spouses with PCS orders also must be authorized to, and actually relocate to, the new duty station. Spouses can only receive appointments to positions located within a reasonable commute of the new duty station. The appointment must also occur within two years of the relocation order. The geographic limitation does not apply to spousal appointments based on the service member’s death or 100% disability rating. Finally, although a spouse can receive an unlimited number of temporary or term appointments during the two-year window, he or she may only receive one permanent appointment through the use of this authority.

The spousal appointment authority can prove to be a very useful option, particularly when military families are uprooted and need the financial support of two jobs. As with veterans’ preference and other hiring authorities, it is important that you submit all relevant documents when seeking an appointment, such as a marriage certificate, the PCS orders, a DD214, and documentation establishing disability or death.

For detailed information regarding this authority, see the applicable regulations and the Office of Personnel Management’s Questions & Answers on the subject.

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The information provided may not cover all aspects of unique or special circumstances, federal regulations, and programs are subject to change. Our articles and replies are time sensitive. Over time, various dynamic human resource guidance and factors relied upon as a basis for this article may change. The advice and strategies contained herein may not be suitable for your situation and this service is not affiliated with OPM or any federal entity. You should consult with school counselors, hiring agency personnel offices, and human resource professionals where appropriate. Neither the publisher or author shall be liable for any loss or any other commercial damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages.

About The Author

David Scholl recently retired with 35 years of Federal legal and human resources experience from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. While at OPM, Scholl served as a Deputy Assistant General Counsel where he was the principal agency labor-management relations legal advisor and handled a variety of Federal staffing issues. At the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, Scholl held positions as an Assistant Director of Personnel for Labor and Employment Relations and as a Senior Counsel in the Legal Division, where he conducted labor and employment law mediation, negotiation and litigation. Scholl began his Federal career with the Office of the General Counsel of the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Scholl received his law degree from The Catholic University of America and undergraduate degree from Lehigh University.