I’m Still Active Duty; Can I Use Veterans’ Preference?

Most military members begin their job search prior to leaving service. If a military member is seeking a federal position, using veterans’ preference is important but if you’re still active duty, you do not have your final DD-214 or a disability rating from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).

The Veterans’ Opportunity to Work (VOW) (5 USC 2108a) Act requires federal agencies to treat active duty service members as veterans, disabled veterans, and preference eligibles, when they submit a “certification” of active service in lieu of a DD214 when they apply for federal positions. The certification letter should:

  • Be on appropriate letterhead (the letterhead of the appropriate service branch)
  • Include military dates of service, including expected discharge / release date
  • Note the character of service
  • Be signed by or by the direction of the adjutant, personnel officer or commander of your unit or higher headquarters
  • Indicate when your terminal leave will begin and your final rank

The certification must reflect that the member is expected to be discharged / released under honorable conditions not later than 120 days after the date of the submission. Agencies are required to verify your eligibility prior to appointment through a DD214 or something similar. If you do not include a valid certification with your application, you will be found “not eligible” for appointment. You may be appointed to a federal position before the effective date of your military retirement / separation if you are on terminal leave.