Veterans' Employment Benefits
Under certain circumstances, preferential treatment in federal employment situations is granted under the Veterans’ Preference Act to those who have served in the Armed Forces and were honorably discharged. That preference gives veterans (plus certain family members in limited situations) an advantage in hiring for government jobs and gives them additional protections in reductions in force (RIFs).
Veterans’ preference does not guarantee a veteran a federal job and does not apply to appointments under merit promotion procedures or internal agency actions such as promotions, transfers, reassignments and reinstatements.
Eligibility for veterans’ preference is determined by the period in which an individual performed military service and the length of that service. Additional credits may be granted to veterans who are disabled. Military retirees are not included in the definition of preference eligible unless they have disabled veteran status or they retired below the rank of major or its equivalent.
Executive Order 13518 of 2009 created the Veterans Employment Initiative (see www.fedshirevets.gov) to increase the employment of veterans within the Executive Branch, help agencies identify qualified veterans, clarify the hiring process for veterans seeking employment with the federal government, and help veterans adjust to civilian life once they are hired. The order also:
• required establishment of a Veterans Employment Program office in most agencies, responsible for helping veterans identify employment opportunities within those agencies, providing feedback to veterans about their employment application status, and helping veterans recently employed by the agencies adjust to civilian life and the federal workplace culture;
• required the Office of Personnel Management to issue a governmentwide strategic plan focusing on creating leadership commitment and an infrastructure in each agency to promote continued skills development and employment success for veterans, along with marketing strategies aimed at agency hiring managers as well as veterans and transitioning service members; and
• created an interagency Council on Veterans Employment to oversee the initiative.
In 2010, that council created a model to guide an agency’s goal setting based on the its percentage of veterans hired, including disabled veterans. Agencies with lower hiring percentages have more aggressive goals and move to other tiers based on their performance. In 2014, the council added initiatives on the retention of veterans, reintegration of federal employees deployed as Reservists or National Guardsmen, developing skills that are in high demand within the government both for current and prospective employees, and increased outreach efforts regarding the program. In 2015, it added initiatives emphasizing diversity in hiring veterans, including the hiring of women.
Veterans’ Hiring Preference
Competitive hiring generally is done through category rating (see Candidate Assessment and Probation in Section 1 of this chapter), under which the agency assesses applicants against job-related criteria (in addition, there are several types of noncompetitive hiring authorities for veterans as described below). Within each category, all qualified preference eligibles are placed ahead of non-preference eligibles and a hiring manager generally cannot select a non-preference eligible candidate over one with preference within the same category. In addition:
• For scientific and professional positions at the grade 9 levels (or equivalent) or higher, qualified preference eligibles with a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more are placed ahead of non-preference eligibles within the same quality category.
• For all other positions (series) and grade levels, qualified preference eligibles with a compensable service-connected disability of 10 percent or more are placed at the top of the highest quality category regardless of the quality category in which they were placed, and ahead of non-preference eligibles rated in the highest quality category (that is, those with disability ratings of 10 percent or more “float” to the highest quality category).
Agencies may pass over preference eligibles under certain circumstances as described below.
Note: Under now relatively little-used numeric ranking systems, those eligible for veterans’ preference have points added to their earned passing scores, and then are listed ahead of persons without preference points whose earned scores were equal to the augmented scores of the preference eligibles. Under certain circumstances, preference eligibles could be placed ahead of all other eligible candidates,
To receive hiring preference, a veteran must have been discharged or released from active duty in the Armed Forces under honorable conditions (with an honorable or general discharge). Under 5 U.S.C. 2108(1), a “release or discharge from active duty” has the same effect as a “separation from the Armed Forces.”
Under 5 CFR 211.102, agencies must treat active duty service members as preference eligibles for purposes of competitive service hiring before their discharge or release from active duty, with submission of any written certification from the Armed Forces that the member is expected to be discharged or released from active duty under honorable conditions within 120 days.
Preference also extends to those released from active duty by reason of a “sole survivorship” discharge. That term refers to the early separation of a member who is the only surviving child in a family in which the father or mother or one or more siblings served in the Armed Forces and: was killed; died as a result of wounds, accident, or disease; is in a captured or missing in action status; or is permanently 100 percent disabled or hospitalized on a continuing basis (and is not employed gainfully because of the disability or hospitalization). The death, status, or disability may not result from the intentional misconduct or willful neglect of the parent or sibling and may not be incurred during a period of unauthorized absence.
As defined in 5 U.S.C. 2101(2), “Armed Forces” means the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. The veteran must also be eligible under one of the preference categories below (also shown on the Standard Form 50, Notification of Personnel Action).
Active duty for training or inactive duty by National Guard or Reserve members generally does not qualify as “active duty” for preference; however, for preference based on a service-connected disability under 5 U.S.C. 2108(2), active duty may consist entirely of service for training purposes in the Reserves or National Guard. See 5 CFR 211.102(f). A “war” means only those armed conflicts declared by Congress as war.
Under 5 CFR 211, five points are added to the passing competitive examination score or rating of a veteran who meets those qualifications and who served:
• during a war or during a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized;
• during the period April 28, 1952, through July 1, 1955;
• for more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred from January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976;
• during the period August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992;
• for more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, any part of which occurred from September 11, 2001, through August 31, 2010.
Ten points of preference are added to the passing competitive examination score or rating of disabled veterans, as well as to those eligible for “derived” preference:
• A spouse of a veteran who has a service-connected disability and who does not qualify for any position in the civil service. (Note: This is separate from special hiring authorities for military spouses as described in Special Recruitment, Hiring and Placement Programs in Section 1 of this chapter.)
• A widow/widower who did not divorce their veteran spouse and not remarried, if the veteran served in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized or died while on active duty that included such service under conditions that would not have been the basis for other than an honorable or general discharge.
• The parent of a veteran who has a permanent and total service-connected disability or who died under honorable conditions while serving in the Armed Forces during a war, or in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge has been authorized, if: the spouse of the parent seeking the preference is totally and permanently disabled, or the parent is unmarried or legally separated from his or her spouse at the time preference is claimed. (Note: Before changes to 5 U.S.C. 2108(3) effective January 7, 2016, this preference applied only to mothers.)
Under 5 U.S.C. 3311, experience in the armed forces can be credited to meet the qualification requirements for a federal job.
Reserved Positions—Some federal positions are reserved for veterans entitled to preference as long as they are available. These include guards, messengers, and custodians.
Excepted Service—Excepted service positions are filled through different hiring rules than competitive service positions, often on grounds that it is not practical to conduct examinations for such positions. Regulations setting procedures for applying veterans’ preference rights to the excepted service, at 5 CFR 302, state that general rating and ranking procedures of 5 U.S.C. 3309 apply to nominations and appointments in the excepted service when an agency uses numerical scoring in evaluating applicants. However, not all appointments within the excepted service are made using numerical rate and ranking procedures. For these positions, the regulations provide for a more qualitative accounting of veterans’ preference rights. In addition, some positions within the excepted service are exempt from the appointment procedures of 5 CFR 302. For these positions, the rules direct agencies to follow the principle of veterans’ preference as far as administratively feasible.
Age Limit Waivers—Under 5 U.S.C. 3307, some federal jobs have maximum age limits for appointment (often 37, so that an employee can accumulate a full 20 years before mandatory retirement from those positions at age 57). However, qualified preference eligibles may apply and be considered for vacancies regardless of whether they meet the maximum age requirements. In order to determine whether it must waive a maximum entry age requirement, an agency must first analyze the affected position to determine whether age is essential to the performance of the position. If the agency decides it is not, the agency must waive the requirement for veterans’ preference-eligible applicants. Where the maximum is waived, the mandatory retirement age for affected individuals also is higher. Agencies still must apply suitability and occupational qualification standards and medical qualification determinations. See 5 CFR 338 subpart F, and an August 26, 2009, memo at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.
Military Retirees—Non-disabled military retirees at or above the rank of major and its equivalents are not eligible for preference except for retired Reservists who will not begin drawing military retired pay until age 60.
Also, military retirees generally may not be hired into civil service positions at the Department of Defense within 180 days of their retirement. P.L. 114-328 of 2016 repealed a prior authority allowing the Defense Department to waive that restriction on grounds of a national emergency, although waivers in certain other limited circumstances still are allowed.
Pass Over Policies—Agencies may pass over preference eligibles under certain circumstances under 5 U.S.C. 3318. A pass over must be based on “proper and adequate reasons,” which may include: affiliations that may present a conflict of interest; a conclusion by the hiring manager that the individual is not qualified to perform the duties of the job for reasons such as lack of education or experience that are part of the minimum requirements for the position; fraud or false statements; a medical condition that would prevent the candidate from performing the full range of essential duties and responsibilities of the position safely and efficiently; past performance or conduct problems in a federal job; or ineligibility for a needed security clearance, among others. Agencies may make pass over decisions except in cases involving medical disqualification or applicants with a 30 percent or greater disability rating; those decisions must be made by OPM.
See the Delegated Examining Operations Handbook, Chapter 6, Section D at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/hiring-information/competitive-hiring/deo_handbook.pdf.
Veterans Recruitment Appointment—The VRA (see 38 U.S.C. 4214 and 5 CFR 307) is an excepted appointment authority by which agencies can appoint an eligible veteran without competition to a position that is otherwise in the competitive service. After two years of satisfactory service, the veteran is converted to a career-conditional appointment in the competitive service. (A veteran may be given a noncompetitive temporary or term appointment based on VRA eligibility; these appointments do not lead to career jobs). When two or more VRA applicants are preference eligibles, the agency must apply veterans’ preference as required by law.
Not all five-point preference eligible veterans are eligible for a VRA appointment. Eligibility is restricted to those who received either an honorable or general discharge and who: are disabled; served in active duty in the armed forces during a war or in a campaign or expedition for which they received an authorized campaign/expedition badge/medal; while serving on active duty participated in a United States military operation for which they received an Armed Forces Service Medal; or separated from active service under honorable conditions within the last three years.
VRA eligibles may be appointed to any position for which qualified up to GS-11 or equivalent. The promotion potential of the position is not a factor. The veteran must meet the qualification requirements for the position (any military service is considered qualifying for GS-3 or equivalent). After two years of substantial continuous service in a permanent position under a VRA, the appointment will be converted to a career or career conditional appointment in the competitive service, providing performance has been satisfactory. Once on-board, VRA appointees are treated like any other competitive service employee and may be promoted, reassigned, or transferred.
VRA appointees with less than 15 years of education must complete a training program established by the agency.
30 Percent or More Disabled Veterans—These veterans may be given a temporary or term appointment to any position for which qualified. There is no grade limitation. After demonstrating satisfactory performance, the veteran may be converted at any time to a career-conditional appointment.
Initially, the disabled veteran is given a temporary appointment with an expiration date in excess of 60 days. This appointment may be converted at any time to a career conditional appointment.
Veterans should contact the federal agency personnel office where they are interested in working to find out about opportunities. Veterans must submit a copy of a letter dated within the last 12 months from the Department of Veterans Affairs or the Department of Defense certifying receipt of compensation for a service-connected disability of 30 percent or more.
Disabled Veterans Enrolled in a VA Training Program—Disabled veterans eligible for training under the VA vocational rehabilitation program may enroll for training or work experience at an agency under the terms of an agreement between the agency and VA. While enrolled in the VA program, the veteran is not a federal employee for most purposes but is a beneficiary of the VA. Training is tailored to the individual’s needs and goals, so there is no set length. If the training is intended to prepare the individual for eventual appointment in the agency rather than just provide work experience, the agency must ensure that the training will enable the veteran to meet the qualification requirements for the position. Upon successful completion, the host agency and VA give the veteran a Certificate of Training showing the occupational series and grade level of the position for which trained. The Certificate of Training allows any agency to appoint the veteran noncompetitively under a status quo appointment which may be converted to career or career-conditional at any time.
Veterans Employment Opportunities Act (VEOA)—The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-339) permits an agency to appoint an eligible veteran who has applied under an agency merit promotion announcement that is open to candidates outside the agency, regardless of where they are located. To be eligible for a VEOA appointment, a candidate must be a preference eligible or veteran separated after substantially completing at least three years of continuous active duty service performed under honorable conditions. A veteran given a VEOA appointment will be given a career or career conditional appointment in the competitive service. The 1998 law also:
• established a redress system for veterans modeled after the one in the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994;
• made it a prohibited personnel practice to knowingly take or fail to take a personnel action if that action or failure to act would violate a statutory or regulatory veterans’ preference requirement;
• required the Federal Aviation Administration to apply veterans’ preference in reductions-in-force, as it previously was required to do in hiring; and
• extended veterans’ preference to certain White House, Legislative Branch and Judicial Branch positions.
Veterans’ Appeal Rights
Veterans who believe that they have not been properly accorded their rights have several different avenues of complaint, depending upon the nature of the complaint and the individual’s veteran status:
• The Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 allows preference eligibles to complain to the Department of Labor’s Veterans’ Employment and Training Service (VETS) (located at state employment service offices) when the person believes an agency has violated his or her rights under any statute or regulation relating to veterans’ preference.
• Under a Memorandum of Understanding between the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Labor, eligible veterans seeking employment who believe that an agency has not properly accorded them their veterans’ preference, failed to list jobs with state employment service offices as required by law, or failed to provide special placement consideration, may file a complaint with the local Department of Labor VETS representative.
• The Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994 (USERRA) prohibits discrimination in employment, retention, promotion, or any benefit of employment on the basis of a person’s service in the uniformed services. Complaints under this law should be filed with the local Department of Labor VETS representative.
• Since a willful violation of a provision of law or regulation pertaining to veterans’ preference is a prohibited personnel practice, a preference-eligible who believes his or her veterans’ preference rights have been violated may file a complaint with the Office of Special Counsel (see Chapter 10, Section 4).
• A disabled veteran who believes he or she has been discriminated against in employment because of his or her disability may file a discrimination complaint with the offending agency under regulations administered by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
• Any veteran may contact any OPM service center.
Generally speaking, complaints on the same issue may not be filed with more than one party.
Also see the publication Veterans’ Employment Redress Laws in the Federal Civil Service at www.mspb.gov/studies/browsestudies.htm.
Veterans’ Rights in RIF Situations
Generally, employees with career civil service tenure who are eligible for veterans’ preference in a reduction in force (except for certain “20-year” military retirees) have job retention rights over non-veteran workers in the same competitive level and, if qualified, in other jobs in the same competitive area.
Although military retirees are preference-eligibles for purposes of examinations and appointments, the retention rights of “20-year military retirees” are reduced. Most of these retirees are not entitled to veterans’ preference for a RIF. For RIF purposes, they will receive credit for periods of military service during a war, or in any campaign or expedition for which a campaign badge is authorized. Retention rights remain unchanged for military personnel retired on the basis of combat disability and in certain other limited situations. See 5 U.S.C. 3501.
Veterans with career-conditional tenure do not have job retention rights over non-veterans who have career civil service tenure. However, they do have retention rights over non-veteran career-conditional or term workers. Veterans who are rated 30 percent disabled or more have higher standing over other preference-eligibles in a RIF.
No job retention rights are given to employees—veterans or non-veterans—who have temporary appointments with definite time limitations.
Having veterans’ preference in a RIF does not guarantee that the employee won’t be separated.
For a description of RIF rules and the specific role veterans’ preference plays, see Chapter 9, Section 1.
Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program
Federal departments and agencies, including the U.S. Postal Service and Postal Regulatory Commission, are required to have an affirmative action plan for the recruitment, employment, and advancement of disabled veterans, under 38 U.S.C. 4214 and 5 CFR 720.
Such plans typically address:
• the current status of disabled veteran employment within the agency;
• recruitment methods used to seek out disabled veteran applicants, including 30 percent or more disabled veterans;
• internal advancement opportunities for disabled veterans; and
• how the agency will monitor, review, and evaluate its planned efforts during the period covered by the plan. To be considered a disabled veteran, the individual must meet the requirements in 38 U.S.C. 4211(3). Generally, a disabled veteran must have a compensable disability.
OPM monitors agency programs but has no authority over complaints of unfair treatment in those programs. Individuals should pursue resolutions of these problems through the avenues available to them at the agency in question.
Employment Rights of Those on Military Duty
If you are a civilian federal employee who is a member of the Armed Forces Reserve and are called to duty, you are entitled to federal job rights and protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-Employment Rights Act of 1994, Public Law 103-353. (Note: These policies are separate from those affecting employees who perform certain work related to military operations as civilians, as described in Combat Zone Assignments in Section 1 of this chapter.) The rights and benefits of such individuals include:
Pay—As federal worker called to active duty, you typically are placed in leave without pay status during your military tour of duty, and receive compensation from the Armed Forces in accordance with the terms and conditions of your military appointment.
Under 5 U.S.C. 5538, if you are absent from employment with the government because you are ordered to perform active duty in the uniformed services (including a call to duty by the Coast Guard Ready Reserve) under 10 U.S.C. 101(a)(13)(B) and are entitled to re-employment rights under 38 U.S.C. 43 based on that absence, you will receive a “reservist differential” from your agency for each covered biweekly pay period. That is a supplemental payment equal to the amount by which your civilian basic pay exceeds the military pay and allowances allocable to the given period.
For this purpose, your civilian basic pay is the basic pay, including locality-based comparability payments and special rate supplements, you would have received if your employment had not been interrupted, and military pay and allowances are the payments payable to you for active-duty service allocable to the given pay period.
Civilian leave provisions such as military leave, annual or sick leave, compensatory time off, or other forms of paid leave remain available for use, if you are otherwise eligible. However, the supplemental payment does not apply during any period for which you receive any kind of paid leave or other paid time off. If you elect to use military leave or annual leave, your agency will continue the payment of annual premium pay for administratively uncontrollable overtime work or regularly scheduled standby duty during periods of military leave or annual leave.
Your agency must determine the projected gross amount of civilian basic pay that would otherwise have been payable to you for each pay period within a qualifying period if your civilian employment had not been interrupted by military active duty. It also must adjust your projected rate of basic pay as it would have been adjusted (with reasonable certainty) but for the interruption of military active duty. This would include general increases, locality pay increases, and within-grade increases (based on longevity and acceptable performance). It could also include certain career-ladder promotion increases and performance-based basic pay increases, if the reasonable certainty standard is met.
You must provide your agency with a copy of your monthly military leave and earnings statement for each affected month. Based on those statements, your agency must determine the actual paid gross amount of military pay and allowances allocable to each pay period in a qualifying period. For each affected month, a daily rate is computed by dividing the monthly total by 30 days for full months or by the actual number of days for partial months. Military pay and allowances will be allocated to a civilian pay period (usually a two-week period) based on the applicable daily rate for days within the pay period.
If the projected civilian basic pay is greater than the allocated military pay and allowances, the difference represents the unadjusted differential. The differential:
• is not basic pay for any purpose and is not counted as part of aggregate compensation in applying the aggregate pay limit in 5 U.S.C. 5307;
• is considered to be pay for the purposes of various other laws governing federal employee compensation (e.g., laws governing salary offset for debt collection, waiver of overpayments, garnishment, back pay);
• is taxable income for federal income tax purposes and is treated as wages for federal income tax withholding purposes regardless of the length of the active duty and regardless of whether the payment is for a period of active duty or for a period following active duty; and
• is subject to Social Security and Medicare taxes if paid for periods of active duty of 30 days or less but is not subject to those taxes if paid for active duty of more than 30 days.
Detailed guidance, including policies for employees in certain specialized situations, is in a fact sheet at www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/pay-leave/pay-administration.
Note: A separate Reserve Income Replacement Program provides income replacement payments for certain reserve component members experiencing extended and frequent mobilization for active duty service. An employee who is entitled to a reservist differential may not receive payments under both policies for the same period.
Military Leave—If you perform active military duty or training, as specified in 5 U.S.C. 6323(a), you may request the use of paid military leave. Under the law, as an eligible full-time employee, you accrue 15 calendar days of military leave each fiscal year, and any unused military leave at the beginning of the succeeding fiscal year (up to 15 calendar days) is carried forward for use in addition to the 15 days credited at the beginning of that fiscal year.
If you perform active military duty, you may be granted an additional 22 days of military leave under 5 U.S.C. 6323(b) for the purpose of providing military aid to assist domestic civilian authorities to enforce the law or protect life and property, or to perform full-time military service as a result of a call or order to active duty in support of a contingency operation. The 22-day entitlement is an annual limit that cannot be carried from one year to the next.
Also see Military Leave in Chapter 5, Section 1.
Leave and Compensatory Time Off—If you perform active military duty, you may request the use of accrued annual leave to your credit, receive a lump-sum payment for it, or have it remain to your credit. (Note: An agency must make a lump-sum payment for any restored annual leave under 5 U.S.C. 6304(d).) You do not earn sick or annual leave while in a non-pay status.
OPM encourages agencies to grant a request to use the leave to the extent that it does not involve the use of annual leave that has not yet been earned as of the date you are placed in military leave without pay status (after exhausting any available military leave or annual leave). If you use annual leave while on active military duty, you receive both your full civilian and military pay for the appropriate period; you are in federal pay status and therefore continue to accrue annual and sick leave during that time.
A lump-sum payment for unused annual leave, if elected, equals the pay you would have received had you remained an active federal employee during the period covered by the annual leave. There is no requirement to separate from a civilian position to receive a lump-sum leave payment under 5 U.S.C. 5552.
Unused annual leave left to your credit is usable upon return to federal service and is not subject to “use or lose” restrictions. If you have been on military duty and return to active federal service prior to the end of the period covered by the lump-sum payment, you must refund an amount equal to the pay that covers the period between your date of re-employment and the expiration of the lump-sum leave period. Agencies may not re-credit any restored annual leave to your leave account.
You also may use sick leave, where appropriate, and earned compensatory time off for travel under 5 CFR 550 subpart N, to perform uniformed service. However, you may not use compensatory time off earned in lieu of overtime pay or credit hours earned under alternative work schedules.
Health Benefits—Under 5 CFR 890, if you are put in a non-pay status or separated for a period of more than 30 consecutive days in support of a contingency operation, you may keep your Federal Employees Health Benefits program coverage for up to 24 months from the date your absence to serve on military duty begins. Federal agencies have discretionary authority to pay both your and the government’s share of the premium if you are called to active military duty in support of a contingency operation (see 5 U.S.C. 8906(e)). If your agency does not pay your share, during the first 365 days, you are responsible for your share of the premium; you can either pay on a current basis or repay it when you return to active federal service, just as any other employee on non-pay status. During the remainder of the 24 months, you are responsible for both the employee and government share of the premium, plus a 2 percent administrative fee. These must be paid on a current basis.
FEHB coverage terminates at the end of 24 months. You get a free 31-day extension of coverage during which you can convert to a non-group policy. You are not eligible for Temporary Continuation of Coverage. If you do not want to continue FEHB while on military duty, you may elect in writing to have the coverage terminated. If you are participating in premium conversion and want to terminate FEHB, you may do so only within 60 days of beginning your leave of absence (as this is a qualifying life event), or during an annual open season. If you prefer to have the option of terminating coverage at a later date, you must waive premium conversion participation within 60 days or during an annual open season, since only those who do not participate in premium conversion may terminate FEHB at any time.
If your FEHB enrollment was terminated during military service, you are automatically reinstated when you are restored to a civilian position under 5 CFR 353. However, you may waive your right to immediate reinstatement of FEHB to take advantage of Transitional Tricare, which provides up to 180 days of continued Tricare military health care benefits for members of the military who are discharged from active duty. If eligible, you may postpone reinstating your FEHB enrollment until your Tricare coverage expires, or at any time up to that point. You must take care to avoid any breaks in health insurance coverage between the end of your Tricare and the reinstatement of your FEHB. You may make any changes to enrollment or premium conversion participation within 60 days of reinstatement of FEHB enrollment.
Postponement of automatic reinstatement in FEHB because of Transitional Tricare will not affect your eligibility to continue FEHB enrollment into retirement. While the time you are covered under Transitional Tricare counts toward meeting the five-year/initial opportunity requirement to continue FEHB into retirement, you must be covered under FEHB on the day you retire. If you plan to retire during a Transitional Tricare period, you must reinstate FEHB coverage before the retirement date. If you return to your civilian positions but are not restored under 5 CFR 353, you may enroll within 60 days of returning to civilian service provided the position is not excluded from FEHB coverage.
Life Insurance—If you enter on active duty or active duty for training in one of the uniformed services for more than 30 days—regardless of whether you separate or are put in non-pay status—you can keep your Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance coverage at no cost to you for up to 12 months. Public Law 110-181 allows coverage for up to an additional 12 months. However, you must pay both the employee and agency share of the premiums for that period.
As an affected employee, you will receive a notice from your agency giving you the opportunity to elect to continue coverage beyond the initial free 12 months. If you wish to continue coverage, you must indicate your election on the notice, and return it to your employing office. You may make your elections at any time before the end of your first 12 months in non-pay status. If you elected to continue coverage during the second 12 months and then wish to stop or reduce coverage, you must notify your agency in writing. Notification should not be made on the SF 2817 “Life Insurance Election,” because that might have the undesired effect of canceling non-extended coverage as well. If your coverage terminates at the end of the second 12 months in non-pay status, you have a 31-day extension of coverage with the right to convert to an individual policy.
If you do not wish to continue coverage beyond the initial 12 months, you should submit the notice indicating your election for coverage to terminate at the end of 12 months in non-pay status. FEGLI coverage will continue at no cost to you for the initial 12 months, after which it will terminate, subject to a 31-day extension of coverage and the right to convert to an individual policy.
FEGLI coverage remains in effect if you are called to active-duty status. Accidental death benefits in addition to regular death benefits are payable under Basic insurance (and Option A, if you had that coverage) unless you were in combat or unless nuclear weapons were being used at the time of the injury that caused your death. Even if accidental death benefits are not payable, regular death benefits are payable.
When you have been on military duty and return to active federal service, you get back whatever type(s) of life insurance you had before going into non-pay status (as long as the position is not excluded from coverage), even if you declined to continue coverage for up to the additional 12 months, reduced some or all of the coverage, or allowed coverage to terminate due to non-payment.
Long-Term Care—Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program benefits may be payable for conditions due to war or acts of war, declared or undeclared, or service in the armed forces or auxiliary units. However, the FLTCIP does not pay benefits for care or treatment you would receive in a government facility, including a Department of Defense or Department of Veterans Affairs facility, unless otherwise required by law. Also, a catastrophic coverage limitation might affect the benefits some enrollees receive in the event of war. See Benefit Eligibility Determination and Appeals in Chapter 2, Section 3.
Employees called to active military duty may still initially apply for FLTCIP.
Premium payments must be kept current during active military duty. In some cases direct payment of premiums might not be feasible. Employees may arrange to have premiums deducted from active duty pay by contacting LTC Partners at (800) 582-3337 or TTY (800) 843-2557, www.ltcfeds.com.
Federal Employees Dental and Vision Insurance Program—You may cancel enrollment upon your deployment or your spouse’s deployment to active military duty by contacting Benefeds at www.benefeds.com, phone (877) 888-3337.
Flexible Spending Accounts—Employees who go on LWOP for military deployment may either cancel or change the amount of their annual elections in their flexible spending accounts by filing a Qualifying Life Event election form, available at www.fsafeds.com/forms.
Retirement—If you are placed in a leave without pay status while performing active military duty, you continue to be covered by the Civil Service Retirement System or the Federal Employees Retirement System. Death benefits would be paid as if you were still in the civilian position. If you become disabled for your civilian position during the LWOP and have the minimum amount of civilian service necessary for title to disability benefits (five years for CSRS, 18 months for FERS), you will be entitled to disability benefits under the retirement law. Upon eventual retirement from civilian service, your period of military service is creditable under either CSRS or FERS, subject to the rules for crediting military service.
If you separate to enter active military duty, you generally will receive retirement credit for the period of separation when you exercise restoration rights to your civilian position. If you do not exercise the restoration right, but later re-enter federal civilian service, your military service may be credited under the retirement system, subject to the rules governing credit for military service.
Return to Civilian Duty—If you are a federal employee, permanent or temporary, in an executive agency other than an intelligence agency, but including the U.S. Postal Service, Postal Regulatory Commission, and non-appropriated fund activity, who performs duty with a uniformed service (including active duty, active duty for training, or inactive duty training), whether voluntary or involuntary, you are entitled to be restored to the position you would have attained had you not entered the uniformed service. This is possible, provided you: gave the agency advance notice of departure except where prevented by military circumstances; were released from uniformed service under honorable conditions; served no more than a cumulative total of five years (exceptions are allowed for training and involuntary active duty extensions, and to complete an initial service obligation of more than five years); and applied for restoration within the appropriate time limits.
If you are an employee in the intelligence agencies, you have substantially the same rights, but are covered under agency regulations rather than OPM’s and have different appeal rights.
While on duty with the uniformed services, your agency will carry you on leave without pay unless you request separation. A separation under these circumstances does not affect restoration rights. If you served in the uniformed services:
• Less than 31 days (or leave to take a fitness exam for service), you must report back to work at the beginning of the next regularly scheduled work day following your completion of service and the expiration of eight hours after a time for safe transportation back to your residence.
• More than 30 but less than 181 days, you must apply for re-employment no later than 14 days after completion of service.
• More than 180 days, you have 90 days following completion of service to apply for restoration.
If you fail to meet these time limits, you are subject to disciplinary action.
Your agency must re-employ you as soon as practicable, but no later than 30 days after receiving the application. Agencies have the right to ask for documentation showing the length and character of your service and the timeliness of the application.
If you served less than 91 days, you must be placed in the position for which qualified that you would have attained had your employment not been interrupted. If not qualified for such position after reasonable efforts by the agency to qualify you, you are entitled to be placed in the position you left.
If you served more than 90 days, you have essentially the same rights as described above except that your agency has the option of placing you in a position for which qualified of like seniority, status, and pay.
If you have service-connected disabilities and are not qualified for the above, you must be re-employed in a position that most closely approximates the position you would have been entitled to, consistent with the circumstances in each case.
If you were on a temporary appointment, you serve out the remaining time, if any, left on the appointment. The military activation period does not extend the civilian appointment.
If you are performing active military duty, you are protected from a reduction in force and may not be discharged from employment for a period of one year following separation (six months in the case of a Reservist called to active duty under 10 U.S.C. 12304 for more than 30 days but less than 181 days, or ordered to an initial period of active duty for training of not less than 12 consecutive weeks), except for poor performance or conduct or for suitability reasons. A Presidential memo of July 19, 2012 ordered agencies to “ensure robust compliance” with USERRA’s employment and re-employment protections through steps including providing training and information, undertaking re-employment measures, and allocating sufficient resources to enforce those protections. Guidance on those requirements is in a September 10, 2013 memo at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals. For appeal procedures related to denial of restoration rights, see Other OSC Responsibilities in Chapter 10, Section 4.
Excused Absence—Agencies must grant you five work days of excused absence (paid time off without charge to leave) upon your return to federal civilian employment. The benefit applies to each deployment, if you are deployed more than once. See Military Leave in Chapter 5, Section 1.
OPM Job Placement—If your agency is unable to re-employ you on your return from duty with a uniformed service, OPM will order placement in another agency when:
• OPM determines that it is impossible or unreasonable for an agency in the Executive Branch (other than an intelligence agency) to re-employ you;
• an intelligence agency or an agency in the Legislative or Judicial Branch notifies OPM that it is impossible or unreasonable to re-employ you, and you apply to OPM for placement assistance; or
• you are a non-career National Guard technician who is not eligible for continued membership in the Guard for reasons beyond your control and you apply to OPM for placement assistance.
Service Credit—Upon restoration, you are generally treated as though you had never left. This means that time spent in the uniformed services counts for seniority, within-grade increases, completion of probation, career tenure, retirement, and leave rate accrual. (You do not earn sick or annual leave while off the rolls or in a non-pay status.)
To receive civil service retirement credit for military service, a deposit to the retirement fund is usually required to cover the period of military service. Only active, honorable military service is creditable for retirement purposes. If you are under the Civil Service Retirement System, a deposit of 7 percent of military basic pay (plus interest under certain conditions) is required. The deposit is 3 percent if you are under the Federal Employees Retirement System. However, these amounts may be different if: your creditable civilian service was interrupted by military duty; and re-employment occurred pursuant to 38 U.S.C. 43 on or after August 1, 1990. In such a situation, the contribution is either the above-prescribed amount or the amount of civilian retirement deductions which would have been withheld had you not entered uniformed service, if this amount is less than the normal deposit for military service. Certain other special considerations are described in Benefits Administration Letter 13-102 at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters.
Thrift Savings Plan—If you perform uniformed service, you may make up any investments in the Thrift Savings Plan you missed because of such service. In addition, if you are a member of the Ready Reserve or National Guard serving on active duty and in any military pay status, you can invest through a separate uniformed services TSP account. See Catch-Up Contributions for Reservists and see Military Reserve TSP Accounts in Chapter 6, Section 1.