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Veterans’ Hiring Preference

If you are a veteran who recently left or are about to leave military service, the Federal government is a great option for you to consider in your civilian job search. In further recognition of their sacrifice to our nation, the Obama administration issued a 2009 Executive Order designed to promote employment opportunities for veterans. Since that time, government-wide hires of veterans have risen from 24 percent to 31 percent for FY 2013. In addition to enhancing the recruitment of veterans, the government applies a long-standing preference for many veterans when assessing their job applications in relation to similarly qualified applicants. This article describes the types of preference and the circumstances under which they are applied. My next article will describe special hiring authorities under which veterans may be hired without competition.

Types of Preference

Only veterans discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces under an honorable or general discharge may receive a preference. If you are retired from the armed forces you are not eligible for a preference unless you are a disabled veteran or retired below the rank of major or equivalent.

Note that not all active duty service qualifies for veterans’ preference. Along with the required application materials, it is critically important that you document your preference eligibility with the member 4 copy of your DD214, “Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty.” If you do not yet have a DD214 because you are still in the military, you may request and submit an official statement of service with the dates and type of discharge you will receive. This allows for the application of a tentative preference pending receipt of your formal discharge document. Failure to include this documentation may result in the agency’s denial of your preference in the particular recruitment action.

In order to receive a preference, you must also meet one of the eligibility requirements of the two categories detailed below.


You are a 5 point preference eligible if your active duty service meets any of the following:

  • During a “war” (those declared by Congress) ; or
  • During the period April 28, 1952 through July 1, 1955; 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
  • During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992; or
  • 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 date prescribed by Presidential proclamation 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, and Haiti, qualifies for preference.


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

When claiming a 10 point preference, you must also submit a SF-15 in order to receive appropriate consideration.

Application of Preference To A Hiring Action

Entitlement to a veterans’ preference is an extremely valuable job search asset. Your preference applies when applying for permanent and temporary positions in both the competitive and excepted services of the executive branch. The preference does not apply to positions in the Senior Executive Service or positions requiring Senate confirmation. Additionally, the preference does not apply in the event an agency determines to fill a job through merit promotion, reassignment, transfer or reinstatement of a former Federal employee.

Although the preference does not apply when an agency determines to fill a position through a merit promotion action, veterans’ preference holders should be aware that they have the right to apply for these positions pursuant to the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA) as long as the announcement is open to Federal employees outside the agency advertising the vacancy. Bear in mind that an agency has the discretion to recruit for the same job through both a competitive examination, or all sources, announcement and a merit promotion announcement, and to make a selection from either announcement. In this case, the individual with veterans’ preference should apply under both announcements to insure consideration depending on the method of selection.

Preference Groups

Assuming you’ve applied for a position through a competitive examination announcement, are determined as qualified for that position, and have properly established your preference, you are placed into one of the following groups for ranking your application:

  • 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 of less than 10% (10 points); this group also includes the “derived preference” applicable to qualified spouses, widows/widowers and mothers of veterans who otherwise meet the applicable preference requirements
  • TP – No disability rating (5 points)

Category Rating

Pursuant to a 2010 Presidential Memorandum, agencies are currently required to assess and select job applicants for positions filled through competitive examining by use of a category rating approach rather than requiring the selecting official to select from the three highest scoring applicants, otherwise known as the “rule of 3.” Under this rating system, qualified candidates are placed in one of at least two predefined categories, e.g., Highly Qualified and Qualified, rather than ranking by a numeric score.

When using the category rating process, veterans’ preference is applied as follows:

  • Qualified preference eligibles with a compensable service-connected disability of 10% or more (CPS and CP preference groups) are placed at the top of the highest category on the referral list in all jobs other than scientific or professional positions at the GS-9 level or higher.
  • Qualified XP or TP preference group eligibles are placed ahead of non-preference eligibles within the same rating category.

The process for determining and applying veterans’ preference can be complicated. If you pursue Federal employment and believe you are entitled to such a preference, make sure you have included all the documents relevant to your preference and do not hesitate to contact the hiring office throughout the recruitment action in order to insure that your application is properly considered.

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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.