How to Use Your Veteran Status to Apply for Federal Jobs

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Did you know you have a better chance of getting a federal job if you’re a Veteran?

Here are some job application tips to help you secure a government job


There is almost an invisible pipeline from the military to federal employment. Federal jobs are open to all qualified applicants, of course, but service members have an edge because they often get those qualifications during their military careers. Still, there is no shortage of competitive applicants in the civilian world, and those federal jobs are highly sought after.

If you’re transitioning out of your branch of service soon, we urge you to study up on one extra factor which can make or break your odds of success. Your Veterans’ Preference points! There’s nothing wrong with using your veteran status to help you land a federal job. The law which enables that exists for a good reason. Before we dive in, let’s talk about where to begin your federal job search…

What is Veterans’ Preference?

Veterans’ Preference is exactly what it sounds like. But it is not in any way a back door to getting a federal job. You’ll have to apply and interview like anybody else, and you’ll have to meet all the posted requirements for the job you’re interested in.

Most federal jobs fall under the category of Competitive Service. After applicants are assessed, they are rated and that’s when the preference kicks in. As stated on OPM’s Hiring Information page, “Preference eligibles receive veterans’ preference by being listed ahead of non-preference eligibles within the same quality category in which they are placed.”

In broad terms, think of Veterans’ Preference as sort of a tie-breaker.

If two or more equally qualified applicants interviewed for a job and are both finalists, the hiring authority must take the Veterans’ Preference into consideration. This may tip the scales so that the job goes to the vet.

In fact, it’s written in law: “By law (Title 5 USC, Section 2108), veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the Armed Forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over non-veterans both in Federal hiring practices and in retention during reductions in force (RIF).”

The intent is certainly not to fill up all federal jobs with veterans, and Veterans’ Preference doesn’t extend to any additional benefits if hired. It’s not a factor which can be considered for promotion, for example. But the government realizes that veterans do face unique challenges when transitioning into civilian jobs. In fact, in some cases, the government bears a measure of responsibility for veterans needing to separate during force reduction measures.

The military invests a ton of time, money, and effort to train troops, so if you had a good military career going but had to get out because of a RIF, it makes sense for Uncle Sam to extend a hiring advantage to you. This helps the government potentially keep an asset they invested in, employed in a different fashion. Plus it is fair to the service member who had invested their own time into a career they may not have wanted to leave.

Okay, now that we’ve explained the rationale for why Veterans’ Preference exists, let’s see how this works…




How to Apply Veterans’ Preference

While USAJOBS is the federal job board, FedsHireVets is the driver behind the government’s push to recruit and employ vets. In accordance with Executive Order 13518, Employment of Veterans in the Federal Government, the Veterans Services Office was created to “increase the number of veterans, transitioning military service members, and their families employed and retained in the civil service.”

Veterans’ Preference points can be grouped into three categories:

  1. Disabled (10 point preference eligible)
  2. Non-disabled (5 point preference eligible)
  3. Sole survivorship (0 point preference eligible)

To receive the Disabled 10 Point Preference, you need to prove a service-connected disability or be a Purple Heart recipient.

To receive the Non-disabled 5 Point Preference, your active duty service should meet ONE of the below:

  • Between April 28, 1952, and July 1, 1955, or between August 2, 1990, and January 2, 1992
  • More than 180 consecutive days (other than for training), any part of which occurred from January 31, 1955, to October 15, 1976, or between September 11, 2001, to August 31, 2010
  • “In a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal or badge has been authorized”

Sole Survivorship doesn’t offer points, but it still lists you “ahead of non-preference eligibles with the same score on an examination, or in the same quality category.” It is a less frequently used category applying to the surviving child who separated from the military after a parent or siblings were killed in the line of duty.

The Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Preference Advisor can help you determine which category you may fall under if it is uncertain.

How to Claim Veterans’ Preference Points

Claiming Veterans’ Preference points is very simple. You’ll just need to upload your DD Form 214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, or other release documents. Sometimes simply called the DD-214, this document is typically issued to virtually any veteran released from service after the 1950s.

You can request a copy of your DD 214 from eBenefits. Register for a free, premium account then find the “Manage Benefits” tab, go to the Military Personnel File (DPRIS) link, and submit your request.

*Note: to request the full 10-point Veterans’ Preference, you’ll also need to fill out and submit a short SF-15 form. That’s all there is to it!

Veterans Recruitment Appointment and Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans

Applying your Veterans Preference points to help get an edge is easy. But don’t forget, there are other ways your veteran status can help you with getting a federal job!

What is Veterans Recruitment Appointment?

Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) lets agencies “non-competitively appoint an eligible veteran” to a certain job. To qualify, you must meet ONE of the following:

  • Served during a war
  • Received a campaign badge for service in a campaign or expedition
  • Are a disabled veteran
  • Received an Armed Forces Service Medal
  • Separated from the military within 3 years, under honorable conditions

Qualified applicants may be appointed under the VRA all the way up to GS-11! After two years, these jobs convert to competitive service, unless onboarded to fill a temporary vacancy for just one year.

Special Hiring Authorities for Veterans

The 30% or More Disabled Veteran authority is a good way to get your foot in the door because it also allows agencies to non-competitively select qualified veterans… but only for temporary jobs longer than 60 days but less than a year.

The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 (VEOA) is one more way to get preference eligibles for “certain positions announced under an agency’s merit promotion procedures.” Essentially it lets certain vets apply for jobs that would otherwise only be open to current or prior employees.

As you can see, there are many ways your veteran status can help you get ahead of the pack. The time to begin is now.

Apply for Federal Jobs on the G.I. Jobs Board

G.I. Jobs has several federal employer partnerships. These agencies work with us because they want to hire Veterans. Look for online job fair announcements in our newsletters. You can also visit our job finder to see who is hiring.


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