Veterans Preference Points – How Your Military Service Can Help You Land a Government Job

Many military veterans qualify for Veterans Preference Points which are helpful when applying for a job with the federal government. Civil service jobs are often very competitive, and Veterans Preference Points can give you an advantage in the hiring process. While Veterans Preference Points alone won’t be enough to secure the job—you still must qualify,…
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Many military veterans qualify for Veterans Preference Points which are helpful when applying for a job with the federal government. Civil service jobs are often very competitive, and Veterans Preference Points can give you an advantage in the hiring process. While Veterans Preference Points alone won’t be enough to secure the job—you still must qualify, apply, and interview for the position—they may be enough to get you an advantage when the position is filled. Let’s take a look at Veterans Preference Points, what they are, how the process works, and how they can help you get a civil service job.

Veterans Preference Points Overview

Understanding Veterans Preference PointsHere it is in the government’s words: “By law (Title 5 USC, Section 2108), veterans who are disabled or who serve 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).

… 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.” (source).

Now let’s break it down: Veterans Preference Points exist to help veterans find work with the federal government. But it’s not possible to place a veteran in every job for a variety of reasons. But it is possible to apply a uniform standard to help give veterans an advantage in the hiring process. This is where the Veterans Preference Points come in.

Veterans who qualify for Veterans Preference Points based on their service will receive either 5 or 10 points on their civil service examination or experience and education evaluation. These points can place you higher on the list than other applicants. Many veterans who qualify for Veterans Preference Points also have Protected Veterans Status, which can be helpful in certain hiring situations.

Veterans Preference Points Eligibility Requirements

Here are the general requirements for Veterans Preference Points:

  1. You must have an Honorable or General Discharge
  2. Military Retirees in the ranks of Major, Lieutenant Commander, or higher, are ineligible unless they have a service-connected disability.
  3. Guard or Reserve active duty service for training purposes does not qualify.
  4. Veterans should claim preference on their federal job application or resume. Veterans claiming a 10 point preference should complete form SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veteran Preference.

Veterans who meet the above general requirements will be able to earn either 5 or 10 Preference points, based on their service and other standards, listed below.

Types of Veterans Preference

Veterans Preference Points can be broken down into two classes: 5-Point Preference, and 10-Point Preference. These points are added to the passing examination score or rating of the qualified veteran. What follows is an excerpt of the ratings qualifications based on those listed on the Office of Personnel Management website.

5-Point Preference Qualifications – Eligible veterans include veterans 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.

A campaign medal holder or Gulf War veteran who originally enlisted after September 7, 1980, (or began active duty on or after October 14, 1982, and has not previously completed 24 months of continuous active duty) must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty. The 24-month service requirement does not apply to 10-point preference eligibles separated for disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or to veterans separated for hardship or other reasons under 10 U.S.C. 1171 or 1173. The OPM page lists an FAQ section for Gulf War vets.

10-Point Preference Qualifications Eligible veterans include veterans who served:

  • A veteran who served at any time and (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; or (3) a veteran who received a Purple Heart.
  • 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.

A note about qualifications for mothers or unmarried spouses: These are an abbreviated version of the requirements. See the OPM guide for more information.

How to Calculate your Veterans Preference Points: Use the Veterans’ Preference Advisor tool to determine your eligibility and number of points.

Veterans Preference Points Calculator
The Veterans’ Preference Advisor can help you determine eligibility.

How Veterans Preference Points Work

If you meet the criteria as described above, you will be eligible to have either 5 or 10 points added to your passing examination score (score of 70 or higher), or have 5 or 10 points added to the numerical evaluation of your experience and education. These examination scores and numerical evaluations are used to compare your application to other applications during the hiring process.

The highest possible score is 110 points: 100 on the exam or numerical evaluation of experience and education, plus the 10 point Veterans Preference rating.

During the application process, eligible applicants are listed on a roster in the order of their ratings. For scientific and professional positions in grade General Schedule GS-9 or higher, names of all qualified applicants are listed on competitor inventories in order of their 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 listed at the top of the register in the order of their ratings ahead of the names of all other eligibles. The names of other 10-point preference eligibles, 5-point preference eligibles, and other applicants are listed in order of their numerical ratings.

I’m a Qualified Veteran, Why Didn’t I get the Job?

Having Veterans Preference Points doesn’t guarantee you a job. But it does increase your scoring, and in some cases, places your application higher on the list. But it’s important to understand that the government has multiple ways to fill positions and there can be many reasons why one applicant is be hired over another applicant.

Veterans Preference Points also don’t give veterans a preference for internal agency actions such as promotions, transfers,reassignments, or reinstatement. Your Veterans Preference Points may, however, help your job status during a Reduction in Force (RIF).

For more detailed information about your eligibility and other benefits, visit the Veterans’ Preference Advisor tool, or contact the HR department at your local civil service office.

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  1. E says

    I’m starting to believe this veteran’s preference is a farce. I’ve been applying and applying and keep getting the same messages “you did not meet the minimum qualifications….”. Many of the jobs I am more than qualified for and tailor make my resume with a VA vocational assistant. It’s sad, HR probably does whatever it can to get around the 10 points

  2. Lebowski Achiever says

    I was in AIT/Tech School during my entire time in military, more than 180 days, before honorable/med discharge.

    Is that was is considered “For more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training..”

    So do I not qualify for 5 Point preference?

  3. William Paulk says

    Unfortunately serving your country doesn’t really mean much anymore unless after the unfortunate happens. Our country is so undivided and hypocrisy runs high. The one in charge of making a decision on placing prospects might not agree with war or it’s participants. Plus a reservist can enlist for a long time,but it doesn’t mean anything when it comes to veterans preference. – Sgt. W.C.Paulk, U.S. Army,88Mike

  4. Vish Ramlatchan says

    I recently passed a promotional exam within the New York City Transit to be promoted to a Maintenance Supervisor.DCAS interviewed me and checked my DDForm 214 and denied me the 2.5 extra points towards my score.They claim that no where on my DD form 214 states Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal.I served in the USAF from May 1986 to July 1989,during the Lebanon Conflict.How can I get my DD Form 214 to reflect the Expeditionary Medal?

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Vish, Congratulations on passing your promotional exam. 

      You will need to contact the Board of Military Corrections for your branch of service to request a records update (each branch has its own Board). You will need to be able to provide proof of the correction that needs to be made. You can request copies of your service records from the National Archives (more info).

      I wish you the best, and thank you for your service. 

  5. Deshawn Richardson says

    I’m seeking help on trying to get my job back I’m a US Army veteran with PTSD I was wrongfully terminated from the VA health care system of West Haven CT I would like to know who do seek help from

    • Ryan Guina says

      Hello Deshawn, This is a highly specialized topic and not something I would try to handle on my own. The only recommendation I can make is to contact a lawyer that specializes in employment law. I wish you the best, and thank you for your service.

  6. joshua moose says

    The point where is says you must have a honorable or general discharge does not provide 100% accuracy. If you served 8 years had two re enlistments and on you 3rd on got an oth you still qualify for the classification of veteran. That is one mistake that is overlooked in section 18 of a dd214 as most employers just look at the character of the final one and not the whole enlistment. I encourage others to fight for your status if you are in a perdictiment like this.

  7. Joyce Frye says

    The dependents of a veteran who died due to a service-connected disease/mental illness should also receive this 10-point advantage when applying for civil service job.

    • Ryan Guina says

      Paul, There are many factors which go into a RIF. Veterans Points can play a role, but so can how long the member has been in the civil service, which jobs/positions are being cut, whether the member is willing to transfer to a new job or new location, etc. Unfortunately, I’m not an expert in all of these situations. The best place to start would be someone from your HR department, preferably someone who has been around the block a few times and has the corporate knowledge to help you navigate the system. I hope this helps, and thanks for your service!

  8. Debbra Salo says

    Veterans Preference is not handled consistently by employers. I was hired by the Federal Government, infact, and through layers and layers of Human Resource bureaucracy, I was told documents I provided couldn’t be found, and then their interpretation of Veterans Preference qualification changed. I have personnel files that went from 10 pt preference, to 5 pt preference, to zero preference, then back to 5 pt preference. It’s unbelievable how incompetent (that’s if I’m being optomistic about their intentions) the people in Human Resource are when it comes to Veterans Preference. To this date, my records as the Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census has maintained, is inaccurate, after I have provided all mandatory DD-214 and VA documentation. I can push AGAIN to fix their errors, but why would I. It’ll probably end up with zero Vet Preference again. (All of these errors in personnel records occurred during rounds of promotions and competetive applications for other positions within the Census. But who has the energy to fight this CRAP!)

    • Tom says

      I agree with you Debbra. I just experienced a ridiculous scenario today where as a 10 point veteran my status was completely overlooked for a position that I honestly have to assume I was the best candidate for or easily should have gotten an interview at the least. It was for a school custodian job – a job which I had for 2 years at a different school. I had 2 letters of recommendation from the highest people in the department at my previous school as well as having them and my previous manager as references. I’m also a 10 point veteran. The position paid just 22,000 and was open for 4 days (over the Easter weekend) and I was told I wasn’t even getting an interview. There were actually 2 custodian positions, one that started at 8am the other at 6am. I didn’t get an interview for either one. This is just getting to the point where it’s ridiculous. How can I as a 10 point veteran with 2 years of relevant experience doing literally the same job with these references not even get an interview for a position that was posted for only 4 days over the holiday weekend? I have applied to over 80 jobs this month, most of which pay in the $10-12/hour range, and I have gotten just one interview. When I first got out of the marines with an honorable discharge after 2 tours in the infantry fighting in Iraq it took me 128 applications before I got an interview by a grocery store to work part time nights stocking shelves for $9/hour. I am a nerdy guy and had a spreadsheet going of all the jobs I applied to and the responses (or lack there of). At this point getting 3-5 rejection emails every day is really starting to eat me up inside. It’s becoming challenging mentally and I’m questioning myself a lot. The next step will be for me to literally start applying to fast food jobs. I literally had a higher paying job as a 16-17 year old than I can get now at 28 with an associates degree. It’s killing me that I cannot even support my wife with any income.

      • Rudolph says

        I hear you brother, took me two years to finally land a job once I separated from service. I was a communication specialist in the Army and had a bachelors degree to boot! I separated at the rank of E-5, had been an instructor in satellite communication school plus completed other microwave communication courses. I finally just obtained my CNA licences and applied at the VA. Have you tried applying for Vocational Rehab?

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