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’