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Veterans Preference and VRA Programs


If you’ve done any federal job hunting, you’ve probably seen questions about preference eligibility on applications, and you may have wondered what it is and how it might apply to you. This article will take a look at two areas of opportunity for veterans to apply for or preferential hiring consideration for participating federal or state job opportunities: Veterans Preference and Veteran Recruiting Appointment programs.

Both programs can be confusing. First we’ll take a look at Veterans’ Preference.

Veterans' Preference
At its core, Veterans' Preference provides eligible veterans preference in appointment over other applicants. Veterans' preference can apply to nearly all new appointments in competitive and excepted service. It does not apply to any internal agency personnel activity, like promotions, transfers, reinstatements or reassignments, and it does not guarantee veterans a job.

When seeking veterans’ preference, it’s important to know the definition of a veteran according to the federal government. Not all veterans are actually considered veterans, and not all active duty service qualifies for Veterans' preference. For a full review of the law that agencies follow for federal civilian employment, take a look at title 5, United States Code, Section 2108 ( 5 USC 2108).

Veterans who were discharged or released from active duty with an honorable or general discharge are eligible for Veterans’ preference. If you are a retired service member you are not preference eligible unless you are a disabled veteran or you were below the rank of major or its equivalent when you retired.

Not every agency uses a numerical rating and ranking system in their hiring process. But when they do, an additional five or ten points are added to the numerical score of qualified preference eligible veterans. This can mean the difference between an interview or the waste bin. There are two types of preference eligibles: disabled (10 point preference eligible) and non-disabled (5 point preference eligible). We’ll examine both types.

You are 5 point preference eligible if:

  • You were on active duty service for 180 or more consecutive days beginning September 11, 2001 and ending on a future date prescribed by Presidential proclamation or law as the last date of Operation Iraqi Freedom, OR
  • You served on active duty between August 2, 1990 and January 2, 1992, OR
  • You were on active duty for 180 or more consecutive days after January 31, 1955 and before October 15, 1976, OR
  • You served on active duty in a war, campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized OR between April 28, 1952 and July 1, 1955.

You are a 10 point preference eligible if:

  • You served on active duty at any time and have a service-connected disability OR
  • You served on active duty at any time and received a Purple Heart.

Preference eligible candidates are divided into four basic groups. Regardless of their disability rating, disabled veterans receive 10 points.

CPS - Disability rating of 30% or more (10 points)

CP - Disability rating of at least 10% but less than 30% (10 points)

XP - Disability rating less than 10% (10 points)

TP - Preference eligibles with no disability rating (5 points)

In circumstances where a hiring agency does not use a numerical rating system, preference eligibles who have a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more (CPS, CP) are placed at the top of the highest category on the referral list (except for scientific or professional positions at the GS-9 level or higher). XP and TP preference eligibles are placed above non-preference eligibles within their assigned category.

To claim a preference eligibility: Provide acceptable documentation of your preference or appointment eligibility, preferably using the member 4 copy of your DD214, "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty." If you wish to claim 10 point preference, you will need to submit a Standard Form (SF-15Adobe Acrobat Version [152 KB]) "Application for 10-point Veterans' Preference."

VRA Programs

Federal agencies who wish to do so may use special hiring authorities to provide hiring preferences to veterans. Knowing these, and knowing how to use them, can help you in your job search. Veterans are not entitled to appointment, but if the vacancy announcement states that veterans are encouraged to apply, and you meet all the other qualifications, your chances of landing the job are increased.

Below, we will take a look at Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) programs, what they do and what they mean for you.

Veterans' Recruitment Appointment (VRA)

What it is: A VRA is an excepted hiring authority that enables federal or state agencies to appoint eligible veterans without competition. You can be appointed under this authority at any grade level up to and including a GS-11 or equivalent. After successfully completing 2 years, you will be converted to the competitive service.

Agencies can also use VRA to fill temporary (not longer than one year) or term (longer than one year but no more than four years) positions. If you are hired to fill a temporary or term position under VRA, you will not be converted to the competitive service after 2 years.

You are VRA eligible if you:

  • Are a disabled veteran OR
  • Received a campaign badge for service during a war or in a campaign or expedition;
  • Received an Armed forces Service Medal for participation in a military operation, OR
  • Separated from the military within the last 3 years AND
  • Separated under honorable conditions (with an honorable or general discharge)

How to apply:

To apply for a VRA appointment, first you need to provide acceptable documentation of your eligibility. The member 4 copy of your DD214, "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty," is preferable. If claiming 10 point preference, you will need to submit a Standard Form (SF-15Adobe Acrobat Version [152 KB]), "Application for 10-point Veterans' Preference."

There is no limit to the number of times you can apply under VRA.

Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998, as amended (VEOA)

The Veterans Employment Opportunity Act of 1998, as amended (VEOA) is a competitive service appointing authority that can only be used when filling permanent, competitive service positions.

What it does: The VEOA allows veterans to apply to announcements that are only open to current competitive service employees, otherwise known as “status” candidates. This cannot be used to fill excepted service positions.

  • To be eligible for a VEOA appointment:
  • You must have been discharged under honorable conditions (honorable or general discharge) AND

You must be either:

  1. a preference eligible (defined in title 5 U.S.C. 2108(3)), OR
  2. a veteran who substantially completed 3 or more years of active service.

To be considered for appointment when applying under VEOA, you must rank among the very best as compared to current employee applicants. Remember that your veterans' preference does not apply to internal agency actions such as promotions, transfers, reassignments and reinstatements.

When agencies recruit from outside their own workforce for internal appointments, the job vacancy announcements must state VEOA is applicable. As a VEOA eligible you are not subject to geographic area of consideration limitations.

Current or former Federal employees meeting VEOA eligibility can apply, but current employees applying under VEOA are subject to time-in- grade restrictions like any other General Schedule employee.

To use VEOA: Provide acceptable documentation of your eligibility, preferably using the member 4 copy of your DD214, "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty." To claim 10 point preference, you must submit a Standard Form (SF-15Adobe Acrobat Version [152 KB]), "Application for 10-point Veterans' Preference."

30% or More Disabled Veteran

A preference called “30% or More Disabled Veteran” is a preference status that permits veterans who have a 30% or more service-connected disability to be non-competitively appointed.

To be eligible, you must be:

  • retired from active military service with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or more; OR
  • Rated by the Department of Veterans Affairs showing a compensable service-connected disability of 30% or more.

There is no grade level restriction on using this hiring authority, and it can be used to make permanent, temporary or term appointments in the competitive service. If you use this to appoint on a permanent basis, you are first placed on a time-limited appointment of at least 60 days and then converted to a permanent appointment at management's discretion. When the authority is used for temporary or term appointments, you will not be converted to a permanent appointment.

To apply: Provide acceptable documentation of your preference or appointment eligibility, preferably using member 4 copy of your DD214, "Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty." To claim 10 point preference, you will need to submit a Standard Form (SF-15Adobe Acrobat Version [152 KB]), "Application for 10-point Veterans' Preference."

In general, the Office of Personnel Management encourages veterans to make good use of as many qualified preferential eligibilities as possible when they are seeking federal employment.

OPM encourages job-seeking veterans to ask for consideration under as many hiring authorities as they are eligible, in addition to claiming their preference under the competitive examining process (if applicable).

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