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Incentive Programs and Governmental Hiring Practices for Veterans Explained by Partner Heather White

Written by: Federal Practice Group
Written by: Federal Practice Group

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After service members transition to retirement or otherwise leave active duty, many join the federal government, whether as contractors or employees. Congress created incentive programs to encourage the federal government to hire and retain veterans including Veterans’ Recruitment Appointments (VRA) and the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA). Together, these programs are intended to help veterans join the federal workforce and continue their public service as civilians.

A Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA) is an excepted authority that allows an agency to non-competitively appoint an eligible veteran to a vacant position. Per OPM’s guidelines, veterans are eligible for hire under the VRA if they:

  • Served during a war or are in receipt of a campaign badge for service in a campaign or expedition;
  • are a disabled veteran;
  • are in receipt of an Armed Forces Service Medal (includes the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal) for participation in a military operation;
  • are a recently separated veteran (within 3 years of discharge), or
  • separated under honorable conditions (this means an honorable or general discharge).

Federal agencies can use the VRA to make excepted service appointments at any grade level up to and including a GS-11 or equivalent. Upon satisfactory completion of 2 years of substantially continuous service, the veteran will be converted from the excepted service to the competitive service and become entitled to career service protections.

The Veterans Employment Opportunity Act is another special authority federal agencies can use to veterans. To be eligible for a VEOA appointment, a veteran’s latest discharge must be honorable or general, and those eligible include veterans who completed three or more years of service, veterans of wars or combat operations for which a campaign badge was authorized, disabled veterans, and certain family members and survivors of veterans who served in combat. Under VEOA, those with what is referred to as “veteran’s preference” (otherwise referred to as “preference eligible”) for prior military service are allowed to compete for federal vacancies that are not open to external candidates or the general public. Agencies must consider VEOA preference eligible candidates who have competed under agency merit promotion announcements when they are recruiting from outside their workforce.

Finally, there is a hiring authority the federal government can use to hire veterans who are rated as 30% or more disabled. Agencies can non-competitively appoint these disabled veterans to a position at any grade. Veterans are eligible if they either retired from active military service with a service-connected disability rating of 30% or more; or have a rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs showing a compensable service-connected disability of 30% or more. There is no restriction on the grade level for such appointments. It is left to agency discretion whether to convert hires under this authority to permanent positions.

The Federal Practice Group represents employees and applicants in employment complaints against the federal government, and can advise regarding potential violations of these and other policies intended to recruit and retain veterans for the federal workforce.

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