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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 that sacrifices are made by those serving in the Armed Forces, Congress enacted laws to prevent veterans seeking Federal employment from being penalized because of the time spent in military service.

By law, 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 hiring from competitive lists of eligibles and in retention during reductions in force.

Preference does not have as its goal the placement of a veteran in every vacant Federal job; this would be incompatible with the merit principle of public employment. Nor does it apply to promotions or other in-service actions. However, preference does provide a uniform method by which special consideration is given to qualified veterans seeking Federal employment.

Preference applies in hiring from civil service examinations, for most excepted service jobs, and when agencies make temporary appointments or use delegated examining authorities from the U. S. Office of Personnel Management.

General Requirements for Preference

To be entitled to preference, a veteran must meet the eligibility requirements in section 2108 of title 5, United States Code. This means that:

  • An honorable or general discharge is necessary.
  • Military retirees at the rank of major, lieutenant commander, or higher are not eligible for preference unless they are disabled veterans.
  • Guard and Reserve active duty for training purposes does not qualify for preference.
  • When applying for Federal jobs, eligible veterans should claim preference on their application or resume. Applicants claiming 10-point preference must complete form SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference. The SF-15 is available online at: .


5-Point Preference

Five points are added to the passing examination score of a veteran who served:

  • During the period December 7, 1941, to July 1, 1955; or
  • For more than 180 consecutive days, any part of which occurred after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976; or
  • For more than 180 consecutive days, 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
  • During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990 through January 2, 1992; or
  • In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized, including El Salvador, Grenada, Haiti, Lebanon, Panama, Somalia, Southwest Asia, Bosnia, and the Global War on Terrorism.

Medal holders and Gulf War veterans who enlisted after September 7, 1980, or entered on active duty on or after October 14, 1982, must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty. The service requirement does not apply to veterans with compensable service-connected disabilities, or to veterans separated for disability in the line of duty, or for hardship.

10-Point Preference

Ten points are added to the passing examination score of:

  • A veteran who served any time and who (1) has a present service-connected disability or (2) is receiving compensation, disability retirement benefits, or pension from the military or the Department of Veterans Affairs. Individuals who received a Purple Heart qualify as disabled veterans.
  • An unmarried spouse of certain deceased veterans, a spouse of a veteran unable to work because of a service-connected disability, and
  • a mother of a veteran who died in service or who is permanently and totally disabled.


Veterans meeting the criteria for preference and who are found eligible (achieve a score of 70 or higher either by a written examination or an evaluation of their experience and education) have 5 or 10 points added to their numerical ratings depending on the nature of their preference. For scientific and professional positions in grade GS-9 or higher, names of all eligibles are listed in order of ratings, augmented by veteran preference, if any. For all other positions, the names of 10-point preference eligibles who have a compensable, service-connected disability of 10 percent or more are placed ahead of the names of all other eligibles on a given register. The names of other 10-point preference eligibles, 5-point preference eligibles, and non-veterans are listed in order of their numerical ratings.

Entitlement to veterans' preference does not guarantee a job. There are many ways an agency can fill a vacancy other than by appointment from a list of eligibles.


A 10-point preference eligible may file an application at any time for any positions for which a non-temporary appointment has been made from a competitive list of eligibles within the past 3 years.

In addition, a person who is unable to file for an open competitive examination because of military service may file after the closing date. In either of the above situations, the veteran should contact the agency that announced the position for further information.


Certain examinations are open only to preference eligibles as long as such applicants are available. These are custodian, guard, elevator operator and messenger.


Veterans who believe that they have not been accorded the preference to which they are entitled may file a complaint with the U. S. Department of Labor�s Veterans Employment and Training Service (VETS).

The Department of Labor's Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy and Veterans' Employment and Training Service developed an "expert system" to help veterans receive the preferences to which they are entitled. Two versions of this system are currently available, both of which, help the veterans determine the type of preference to which they are entitled, the benefits associated with the preference and the steps necessary to file a complaint due to the failure of a Federal Agency to provide those benefits. The Internet address for the veterans' preference program is (State Employment Service Offices have veteran representatives available to assist veterans in gaining access to this information.)


Any disabled veteran can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs, Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Offices for information on veterans� benefits and related employment services. Certain veterans may also be considered under special hiring programs for disabled veterans with disability ratings of 30% or more or Vietnam Era Veteran Readjustment Act opportunities. Federal agencies have the authority, by law, to give noncompetitive appointments to any veteran who has a service-connected disability of 30% or more. Like the VRA, this authority is discretionary with the agency.


To be eligible, you must be a disabled veteran who has a compensable service-connected disability of 30% or more. The disability must be officially documented by the Department of Defense or the Department of Veterans Affairs.


This authority covers all grade levels and occupations.


Sometimes it may be necessary or advisable for Federal hiring officials to make "a reasonable workplace accommodation," if requested, in either the duties of the job, or where and how job tasks are performed.

The Department of Defense (DoD) established Computer/Electronic Accommodations Program (CAP) to eliminate employment barriers for employees with disabilities. CAP serves as the government�s centrally funded program to provide assistive technology and services free of charge to Federal agencies that have a partnership agreement with CAP. CAP provides accommodations to individuals who are blind, have low vision, are deaf, hard of hearing, or have a dexterity, communication, cognitive, or learning disability.

Examples of workplace reasonable accommodation include:

  • Providing interpreters, readers, or other personal assistance.
  • Modifying job duties.
  • Restructuring work sites.
  • Providing flexible work schedules or work sites.
  • Obtaining accessible technology or other workplace adaptive equipment.

Such forms of accommodation make it easier to successfully perform the duties of the position. CAP supports Federal employees throughout the employment lifecycle, including; recruitment, placement, promotion, and retention of people with disabilities. In an effort to make the Federal government a model employer for people with disabilities, it is important that you contact CAP to work together to provide real solutions for real needs.

Additional information on Veterans� Preference is located at

AS OF: 08/03/2006

VETERANS' PREFERENCE can be printed as it appears on your browser.

It also can be printed as an exact replica of the official publication (ei-03VeteransPreference.pdf). Download the file by clicking on the .pdf file name and follow print help instructions below.


An exact replica of the SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference (SF15.PDF) can be printed. Download the file by clicking on the .pdf file name and follow the print help instructions below.



To Print your browser File:

*Prints file as it appears on your browser.
Most web browsers support an option to print the document that is displayed on the screen. Simply choose the option to print the document (usually located under the file option) and then choose the option to print. How the document prints is dependent on the printer you are using.

If you are on a local area network (LAN) then you may need to select a printer before you can print. An option to do this is normally available in the same area that you choose to print a document.

You will also need to make sure that the printer is powered on, is on-line, and has paper available.

To Print an *Adobe Acrobat/PDF files:

*Prints exact replica of official publication.
The Adobe Acrobat reader is a freeware product available from Adobe at There are versions of the Adobe Acrobat reader for several computer platforms. Click here to connect to the Adobe Acrobat site. Once there you can obtain the reader for your computer platform. Follow the instructions on the Adobe site to install the reader on your system. Once you have installed the reader you can view or print files that end in .PDF.

Some browsers will allow you to configure a "helper" application that will load the Adobe Acrobat reader whenever you click on a file that ends in .PDF. Please refer to the instructions that came with your web browser on how to set up or install a "helper" application. The Adobe site also contains instructions on how to do this.

The Windows file manager will also allow you to specify an association so that whenever Windows needs to display a file that ends in .PDF it will load the Adobe Acrobat reader.


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