Since the time of the Civil War, Veterans of the U.S. armed forces have been given some degree of preference in appointments to federal jobs. Veterans’ preference in its present form comes from the Veterans’ Preference Act of 1944, as amended, and now codified in Title 5, United States Code. By law, Veterans who are disabled or who served on active duty in the U.S. armed forces during certain specified time periods or in military campaigns are entitled to preference over others when hiring from competitive lists of eligible candidates, and also in retention during a reduction in force (RIF).
To receive preference, a Veteran must have been discharged or released from active duty in the U.S. armed forces under honorable conditions (honorable or general discharge). Preference is also provided for certain widows and widowers of deceased Veterans who died in service; spouses of service-connected disabled Veterans; and mothers of Veterans who died under honorable conditions on active duty or have permanent and total service-connected disabilities. For each of these preferences, there are specific criteria that must be met in order to be eligible to receive the Veterans’ preference.
Recent changes in Title 5 clarify veterans’ preference eligibility criteria for National Guard and Reserve members. Veterans eligible for preference include National Guard and Reserve members who served on active duty as defined by Title 38 at any time in the armed forces for a period of more than 180 consecutive days, any part of which occurred during the period beginning on Sept.11, 2001, and ending on the date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or by law as the last date of OEF/OIF. The National Guard and Reserve service members must have been discharged or released from active duty in the armed forces under honorable conditions.
Another recent change involves veterans who earned the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal for service in OEF/OIF. Under Title 5, service on active duty in the armed forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized also qualifies for Veterans’ preference. Any Armed Forces Expeditionary medal or campaign badge qualifies for preference. Medal holders must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty.
As of December 2005, Veterans who received the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal are entitled to Veterans’ preference if otherwise eligible. For additional information, visit the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Web site at www.opm.gov/veterans/html/vetguide.asp#2.
Veterans’ preference does not require an agency to use any particular appointment process. Agencies can pick candidates from a number of different special hiring authorities or through a variety of different sources. For example, the agency can reinstate a former federal employee, transfer someone from another agency, reassign someone from within the agency, make a selection under merit promotion procedures or through open, competitive exams, or appoint someone noncompetitively under special authority such as a Veterans Readjustment Appointment or special authority for 30 percent or more disabled veterans. The decision on which hiring authority the agency desires to use rests solely with the agency.