Since the time of the Civil War, veterans of the Armed Forces have been given some degree of preference in appointments to Federal jobs. Recognizing their sacrifice, Congress enacted laws to prevent veterans seeking Federal employment from being penalized for their time in military service. Veterans' preference recognizes the economic loss suffered by citizens who have served their country in uniform, restores veterans to a favorable competitive position for Government employment, and acknowledges the larger obligation owed to disabled veterans.
- To receive preference, a veteran must have been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces under honorable conditions (i.e., with an honorable or general discharge). As defined in 5 U.S.C. 2101(2), "Armed Forces" means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The veteran must also be eligible under one of the preference categories below (also shown on the Standard Form (SF) 50, Notification of Personnel Action).
- A military retiree at the rank of major, lieutenant commander, or higher is not eligible for preference in appointment unless he/she is a disabled veteran. (This does not apply to a Reservist who will not begin drawing military retired pay until age 60.)
- For a non-disabled veteran, active duty for training by National Guard or Reserve soldiers does not qualify as "active duty" for preference.
- For a disabled veteran, active duty includes training service in the Reserves or National Guard, per the Merit Systems Protection Board decision in Hesse v. Department of the Army, 104 M.S.P.R.647 (2007).
- For this purpose and 5 U.S.C. 2108, "war" means only those armed conflicts declared by Congress as war and includes World War II, which covers the period from December 7, 1941, to April 28, 1952.
- When applying for Federal jobs, an eligible veteran should claim preference on his/her application or resume. An applicant claiming 10-point preference must complete Standard Form (SF) 15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference, and submit the requested documentation.
The following preference categories and points are based on 5 U.S.C. 2108 and 3309 as modified by a length of service requirement in 38 U.S.C. 5303A(d).
Five points are added to the passing examination score or rating of a veteran who served:
- During a war; 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 the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law 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.
10-Point Compensable Disability Preference (CP)
Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of a veteran who served at any time and who has a compensable service-connected disability rating of at least 10 percent but less than 30 percent.
10-Point 30 Percent Compensable Disability Preference (CPS)
Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of a veteran who served at any time and who has a compensable service-connected disability rating of 30 percent or more.
10-Point Disability Preference (XP)
Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of:
- A veteran who served at any time and has a present service-connected disability or is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension from the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs but does not qualify as a CP or CPS; or
- A veteran who received a Purple Heart.
10-Point Derived Preference (XP)
Ten points are added to the passing examination score or rating of a spouse, widow, widower, or mother of a veteran as described below. This type of preference is usually referred to as "derived preference" because it is based on service of a veteran who is not able to use the preference.
Both a mother and a spouse (including widow or widower) may be entitled to preference on the basis of the same veteran's service if they both meet the requirements. However, neither may receive preference if the veteran is living and is qualified for Federal employment.
Veterans’ preference is applied in a different manner when using category rating.