Q: What is Veterans Preference and am I eligible for it?
A: Veterans' Preference is a benefit afforded by the Federal government to many veterans in order to give them a preference in Federal hiring as a thank you for serving. If you've served in the Armed Forces you might be eligible; not all veterans are eligible, but the majority are if you fit certain criteria.
If you are eligible, you'll need to attach your DD-214 to your application so your Veteran status can be verified.
There are two different point values assigned based on your status: 5-point preference is given to veterans who've served, and 10-point preference is given to veterans who've either been given a disability rating for a service connected disability or who've received a Purple Heart.
In order to be eligible for Veteran's Preference, you must have been discharged from the Armed Forces under honorable conditions, which means you received either an honorable or general discharge.
Federal Government Hiring Systems
It's no secret that the systems of the Federal hiring process are complex. There are so many different kinds of positions available under the numerous Federal agencies, yet not all positions have the same eligibility requirements or fit under the same Federal hiring systems. In the Federal government there are three main hiring systems: the Competitive Service, the Excepted Service, and the Senior Executive Service.
The majority of Federal positions fall under the Competitive Service. This service is required to follow all civil service hiring laws passed by Congress (Title 5 of the US Code.) The hiring process is competitive, meaning all applicants will be evaluated equally under the same set of standards. Veteran's Preference applies to these positions.
There are two types of positions that fall under the Competitive Service: General Schedule (GS) and Wage Grade (WG). General Schedule are positions that are salaried with benefits. They are categorized under grades of 1-15, and within each grade you'll find pay steps that can be a part of potential promotions. Wage Grade are hourly positions. They also offer benefits. You can find open GS and WG positions through searches on USAJobs.
Some employees currently in the Competitive Service are called "Status" candidates. You might have noticed this term as you search for positions on USAJobs. This means they have been in a permanent appointment for at least three years of qualifying service.
Excepted Service positions are those not subject to the same civil service laws as the competitive service (although most are still followed) due to the unique nature and needs of the agencies that fall under the service. Veteran's Preference, however, still does apply with these agencies. Some agencies that are part of the Excepted Service include TSA, the CIA, FBI, the US Marshals Service, Federal courts, and the Postal Service, among others. You can find a complete list here
These positions are not required to be posted on USAJobs, although many of them are. If you consult the agency's website you'll be able to find their listings of open positions.
Senior Executive Service
These positions, also known as SES, are for the leaders of the Federal civilian workforce. These positions are higher than the GS-15 level positions of the Competitive Service. The positions require executive-level skills and are highly competitive. They require high levels of experience. The hiring process is more complex than the hiring process for Competitive Service and Excepted Service positions. You can find many SES positions on USAJobs, although some will be found on the agency websites.
It's important to be aware of these different hiring systems so you apply to the ones that best fit your experience and skills. Make sure you're aware of the requirements for the different positions you're interested in; some positions are only for candidates already with the respective agency, and some require particular experience or degree. There are so many opportunities available, you're sure to find one that works for you!