How to apply to HHS as a veteran

The federal government’s hiring process is very different from the private sector’s hiring process. Specifically, when applying for federal jobs, veterans are often eligible to take advantage of hiring preferences and secure employment more quickly. You must meet the following legal eligibility requirements:

  • An honorable or general discharge is necessary;

  • Military retirees at the rank of major, lieutenant commander, or higher are not eligible unless they are disabled; and

  • Guard and reserve personnel on active duty for training purposes do not qualify.

HHS fills its vacancies in two ways, noncompetitively and competitively. For positions that are available through noncompetitive hiring, HHS uses Special Hiring Authorities to place eligible veterans on a fast track. Job announcements on specify whether a position is competitive or noncompetitive under the “Who May Apply” section.

  • Eligible veterans may be appointed to federal positions without competing with the general public, and HHS can hire you without posting a vacancy announcement. Veterans who are eligible for Special Hiring Authorities may be noncompetitively hired if they meet the eligibility and qualification requirements for the position. 

    Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA)

    The Veterans’ Recruitment Appointment (VRA) authority allows HHS to hire eligible veterans noncompetitively through the GS-11 grade level. You can then be converted to a career or career-conditional appointment after two years of successful performance. If you are hired to fill a temporary/term position under VRA, you will not be converted after two years of service. Veterans’ Preference applies when using this authority.

    30 Percent or More Disabled Veterans

    The 30 Percent or More Disabled Veteran authority allows any veteran with a 30 percent or more service-connected disability to be hired noncompetitively to any position for which they meet the qualification requirements. This is a time-limited appointment of more than 60 days, during which time you may be converted to a career or career-conditional appointment based on successful performance. There are no grade level limitations for job opportunities under this authority.

    Schedule A

    Schedule A authority allows HHS to noncompetitively hire eligible disabled veterans and persons with disabilities who have severe physical, psychological, or intellectual disabilities. You can be converted to a career or career-conditional appointment based on successful performance, and there are no grade restrictions for job opportunities under this authority.

    Competitive Hiring

    Noncompetitive Hiring

    Positions must be announced to a pool of job seekers in USAJOBS.

    Positions do not require public announcement.

    The applicant does not have to meet the same eligibility requirements as a noncompetitive job posting.

    The applicant must meet the requirements for noncompetitive status and be able to perform the essential duties of the job with or without reasonable accommodation.

    The applicant is rated based on qualifications.

    The applicant will not be subject to the usual requirement to determine the most qualified candidate and rating of qualification.

    All veterans have the option to apply.

    Veterans must provide proof of eligibility for Veterans' Preference or special appointments in order to be considered for noncompetitive placement. These documents may include:

    • SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veterans' Preference

    • DD214, Certification of Job Readiness

    • Other medical documentation as requested

  • Through the competitive process, jobs are advertised to the general public on and anyone can apply. Veterans’ Preference awards points to veterans during the competitive application process, providing an advantage in job placement. 

    Type Of Preference

    When You Apply For A Federal Job



    If you are classified as having a 0-point preference, you are evaluated on the basis of your qualifications only. When applying for a job, you must submit Form DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, to document your discharge under honorable or general conditions.



    You are eligible for 5-point preference if you served during any of the following:

    • During a war

    • From April 28, 1952, through July 1, 1955

    • For 180 or more consecutive days after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976

    • During the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through Jan 2, 1992

    • For 180 or more consecutive days between September 11, 2001, and the date prescribed by presidential proclamation or by law as the last date of Operation Iraqi Freedom

    • In a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, or between April 28, 1952, and July 1, 1955

    To pursue a 5-point preference, you must submit Form DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, to document your discharge under honorable or general conditions.



    You are eligible for 10-point preference if you served at any time and you have a service-connected disability or received a Purple Heart.

    To pursue 10-point preference, you must submit:

    • Form DD214, Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty, to document your discharge under honorable or general conditions

    • Form SF-15, Application for 10-Point Veterans' Preference

    • Letter from the Veterans Affairs (VA) Regional Office stating your disability rating

    Disabled veterans receive 10-point preference regardless of their disability rating. 


  • A resume for a federal job is different from a private-sector resume. It is longer, more detailed, and includes specific job-related terminology. Translate your military skills to civilian skills and follow these resume tips.

    • Collect your assets. Make sure you have the following information gathered:

      • Contact information for your former supervisors.

      • Performance appraisals.

      • Awards.

      • Letters of recommendation.

      • Military documentation like your DD214, ACE transcripts and Verification of Military Experience and Training.

      • Any additional information that could help you stand out as an applicant.

    • Create a master resume that includes your work history, skills, accomplishments, volunteer work, and training. Edit it for accuracy and clarity.

    • Use the federal agency's online resume builder.

      • Copy and paste sections from your master resume into the online resume builder website of the federal agency that you are applying to.

      • Complete any Knowledge, Skills, and Abilities sections and demonstrate success in the following area(s):

        • Initiative: You saw a problem and resolved it.

        • Innovation: You developed a new way of doing things.

        • Leadership: You mentored less-experienced employees.

        • Complexity: You overcame challenging times on the job.

        • Scope: You were involved in work that covered many functional areas.

        • Teamwork: Showcase and identify your role in team efforts.

    • Choose your words carefully.

      • Human resources staff, or a computer program, will scan your resume for job-related keywords and phrases.

      • Incorporate keywords and phrases from the "Duties" or "Qualifications" section of the job vacancy notice into the "Work History" section of your resume.

    • Fill in the details

      • Showcase details that demonstrate your past responsibilities and your work ethic.

      • Use numbers to quantify your accomplishments. Point out, for example, that you "reduced department expenses by 30 percent in the first six months."

    • Check spelling and accuracy. 

      • Proofread your resume.

      • Have a friend or family member proofread it.

      • Find a federal employee or someone with human resource experience to review your resume, if possible.

      • Read your resume backwards to catch spelling or typos.

    • Submit your resume and follow up. Make sure HHS or the agency received your resume. Follow the policies and timelines to check the status.

  • Depending on the job you are applying for, you may need to submit the following forms. Read the instructions carefully to determine which ones you will need.

    DD214 - Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty: The DD-214 is issued to military members upon separation from active service. It contains information about your dates of military service and separation. As a veteran, you may obtain free copies of your DD Form 214 Report of Separation and other military and medical records through the National Archives. Please visit Request Military Service Records for more information. 

    SF-15 - Application for 10-point Veteran's Preference: The SF-15 is used by federal agencies and OPM examining offices to adjudicate individuals' claims for veterans' preference.

    Note that a letter from the VA that contains the following may be sufficient instead of a SF-15:

    • Dates of service;

    • Discharge status; and

    • Disability rating.

  • The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA) makes a willful violation of veterans' preference a Prohibited Personnel Practice. If you are a preference eligible and you believe an agency violated any of your rights under the veterans' preference laws or regulations, you may file a formal complaint with the Department of Labor's Veterans' Employment and Training Service (VETS). This is the agency, by law, charged with investigating violations of veterans’ preference in federal employment. If VETS is unable to resolve the complaint within 60 days, you may appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

    The Uniformed Services Employment and reemployment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) prohibits discrimination in employment, retention, promotion, or any benefit of employment based on your uniformed service. The Department of Labor, through the VETS, provides assistance to all persons having USERRA claims.

    If you are a disabled veteran and you believe an agency discriminated against you in employment because of your disability, you may file a disability discrimination complaint with the agency in question under regulations administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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