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Veteran’s Preference Rights

Veterans have sacrificed a lot for our country. They have put their lives at risk and taken time away from their jobs and families to serve in the United States military. Accordingly, federal law provides some veterans with veteran’s preference rights in employment with the federal government when they are honorably or generally discharged from duty.

What are Veterans’ Preference Rights?

Veteran’s preference rights are given as points on federal job applications. Generally, veterans can receive five or ten preference points. Veterans who are eligible for five preference points include those who have served in a war declared by Congress or in certain other conflicts specifically allowed by law. For example, veterans who were on active duty during the first Gulf War of 1990 -1992 and veterans who have been on active duty for 180 consecutive days since September 11, 2001 are eligible for five preference points.

The ten preference points are generally reserved for disabled veterans and the families of disabled and deceased veterans. Veterans who became disabled on active duty or received purple hearts are eligible for ten preference points. The spouse of a veteran who is unable to work because of a disability obtained on active duty, the widow of a veteran killed in active duty and the mother of a veteran who died in service or who became permanently and totally disabled also qualify for 10 preference points.

How to Resolve a Veterans’ Preference Rights Issue with the MSPB

The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 provides preference eligible employees with standing to resolve a claim that they were denied their preference rights. Before filing a complaint concerning denial of Veterans’ Preference Rights with the MSPB, an aggrieved party must file a complaint with the Department of Labor. If the Department of Labor does not resolve the complaint within 60 days then the aggrieved party can file a claim with the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Individuals claiming a denial of Veteran’s Preference Rights violations should be aware that they have a very specific window during which they can file an MSPB appeal and that if they miss that window then the MSPB will not hear their appeal. As stated above, individuals may not file with the MSPB until the 61st day after which they filed a complaint with the Department of Labor, and then only if the complaint was not resolved by the Department of Labor. Similarly, complainants only have 15 days to file a complaint with the MSPB if they receive written notification from the Department of Labor that the DOL was unable to resolve the complaint.

In order to be successful in a Veterans’ Preference Rights Claim before the MSPB, an individual must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the agency violated one of his statutory rights related to Veterans’ Preferences. An individual is not entitled to a hearing, but one will be held if there is a dispute about a material fact that is important to the claim.

Veterans’ Preference Rights are important protections for those who have honorably served the country. Accordingly, if the MSPB finds that an individual’s Veterans’ Preference Rights were violated, then the MSPB may award the individual back wages and compensation for attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. An additional financial compensation may be awarded to an individual if the agency knew that it was denying these important rights to the individual, or acted with reckless disregard as to whether the conduct was prohibited by law.

For these reasons, it is important to file a timely complaint with the MSPB if you have been denied your Veterans’ Preference Rights.