Veterans' Employment Benefits

Chapter 8: Section 8

General Preference Policy

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 spouses, widows, widowers, and mothers of veterans in certain situations) an advantage in hiring for government jobs and gives them additional protections in reductions in force (RIFs). 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.

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 OPM 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

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 (SF) 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 and includes World War II, which covers the period from December 7, 1941, to April 28, 1952.

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;
  • 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 after January 31, 1955, and before October 15, 1976;
  • during the Gulf War from August 2, 1990, through January 2, 1992;
  • for more than 180 consecutive days, other than for training, from September 11, 2001, through the close of Operation Iraqi Freedom; or
  • in a campaign or expedition for which a campaign medal has been authorized. Any Armed Forces expeditionary medal or campaign badge qualifies.

A campaign medal holder or Gulf War veteran who originally enlisted after September 7, 1980, (or began active duty on or after October 14, 1982, and had not previously completed 24 months of continuous active duty) must have served continuously for 24 months or the full period called or ordered to active duty. The 24-month service requirement does not apply to 10-point preference eligibles separated for disability incurred or aggravated in the line of duty, or to veterans separated for hardship or other reasons under 10 U.S.C. 1171 or 1173.

Military retirees at the rank of major, lieutenant commander, or higher are not eligible for preference in appointment unless they have disabled veteran status. (This does not apply to Reservists who will not begin drawing military retired pay until age 60.)

The following persons are eligible to receive 10 points in addition to their earned ratings: a disabled veteran, the spouse of a veteran who suffered a service-connected disability and is too disabled to work, the unmarried widow or widower of a campaign veteran or one who served between December 7, 1941, and July 1, 1955, and in some cases the mother of a dead or totally and permanently disabled veteran.

Preference points are added only after a passing rating is obtained.

Other benefits that come with veterans’ preference include the right to credit experience in the armed forces to meet the qualification requirements for federal jobs under 5 U.S.C. 3311 and the right to protection against being passed over during the hiring process in certain circumstances under 5 U.S.C. 3318 and 5 CFR 332.406 (see Candidate Assessment and Probation in Section 1 of this chapter).

Selection—A Presidential memo of May 11, 2010 ordered the phase-out in competitive hiring of the “rule of three” assessment system, under which managers generally had to hire from among the three candidates deemed best qualified, and replacing it with general use of category rating, which uses broad categories of qualifications. Veterans’ preference applies in category rating in a different way than under the rule of three. See Candidate Assessment and Probation in Section 1 of this chapter.

Reserved Positions—Some federal positions are reserved for veterans entitled to preference as long as they are available. These include guards, elevator operators, messengers, and custodians.

Excepted Service—Excepted service positions are those using different hiring rules than the competitive service, often on grounds that it is not appropriate 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, the Merit Systems Protection Board in Isabella v. Department of State and Office of Personnel Management, 2008 MSPB 146, held that an agency’s failure to waive the maximum entry-age requirements for a preference eligible veteran violates the Veterans Employment Opportunities Act of 1998 if there was no demonstration that a maximum entry age was essential to the performance of the position.

Due to that decision, 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, occupational qualification standards, and medical qualification determinations. See 5 CFR 338, subpart F, and an August 26, 2009, memo to agencies at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals.

Noncompetitive Appointments

Veterans Recruitment Appointment—Public Law 107-288 (see 38 U.S.C. 4214 and 5 CFR 307) revised the eligibility requirements for the former Veterans Readjustment Appointment, which the act redesignated as a Veterans Recruitment Appointment (VRA).

The VRA 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.

Eligible veterans are 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. Under the eligibility criteria, not all five-point preference eligible veterans are eligible for a VRA appointment.

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 new 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;
  • expanded certain provisions of Titles 31 and 38, U.S. Code, relating to employment of veterans by federal contractors;
  • 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.

Veterans’ Rights in RIF Situations

In government layoff programs brought about by economic or other factors, the law gives certain veterans in the federal service job priority rights over certain non-veterans.

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 other federal 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 mean that the employee won’t be separated. In many large-scale reductions, there are not enough jobs to go around and even veterans may 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.

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 annually asks agencies to submit their Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program (DVAAP) accomplishment reports and plan certifications. OPM then reviews each agency’s submission to determine if it is consistent with law and regulation.

Minimum DVAAP plan requirements are outlined in 5 CFR 720.304(e). Such plans typically include:

  • an assessment of the current status of disabled veteran employment within the agency;
  • a description of recruitment methods used to seek out disabled veteran applicants, including 30 percent or more disabled veterans;
  • a description of internal advancement opportunities for disabled veterans; and
  • a description of how the agency will monitor, review, and evaluate its planned efforts during the period covered by the plan.

OPM’s oversight responsibility for governmentwide DVAAP consists of monitoring agencies’ plans, evaluating agencies’ program effectiveness, providing technical assistance and guidance and reporting annually to Congress. OPM does not entertain or prosecute specific individual complaints of unfair treatment of disabled veterans, nor does it have the authority to adjudicate individual discrimination complaints. 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

Civilian federal employees who are members of the Armed Forces Reserve and who are called to duty are entitled to federal job rights and protections that are guaranteed by 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—Federal workers performing active military duty typically are placed in leave without pay status during their military tour of duty, and receive compensation from the Armed Forces in accordance with the terms and conditions of their military appointment.

Under 5 U.S.C. 5538 as amended by Section 751 of P.L. 111-8 effective March 15, 2009, federal employees who are absent from employment with the government because they are ordered to perform active duty in the uniformed services under 10 U.S.C. 101(a)(13)(B) and who are entitled to re-employment rights under 38 U.S.C. 43 based on that absence, are to receive from their agency for each covered biweekly pay period a supplemental payment equal to the amount by which their civilian basic pay exceeds the military pay and allowances allocable to the given period. For this purpose, civilian basic pay is the basic pay including locality-based comparability payments and special rate supplements the employee would have received if employment had not been interrupted, and military pay and allowances are the payments payable to the employee 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 employees are otherwise eligible. However, the supplemental payment does not apply during any period for which the employee receives any kind of paid leave or other paid time off. For employees who elect to use military leave or annual leave, agencies 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.

The employing agency must determine the projected gross amount of civilian basic pay that would otherwise have been payable to an employee for each pay period within a qualifying period if the employee’s civilian employment had not been interrupted by military active duty. It also must adjust an employee’s 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.

The employee must provide his or her employing agency with a copy of his monthly military leave and earnings statement for each affected month. Based on those statements, the employing 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 reservist differential.

The reservist 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 at www.opm.gov/reservist.

Military Leave—Employees who perform active military duty or training, as specified in 5 U.S.C. 6323(a), may request the use of paid military leave. Under the law, an eligible full-time employee accrues 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.

Employees who perform active military duty 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.

For details about these and other leave entitlements, see Military Leave in Chapter 5, Section 1.

Leave and Compensatory Time Off—Employees who perform active military duty may request the use of accrued annual leave to their credit. OPM encourages agencies to grant such requests to the extent that they do not involve the use of annual leave that has not yet been earned as of the date the employee is placed in a LWOP status (after exhausting any available military leave or annual leave). As in the case of military leave, employees who elect to use annual leave will receive full compensation from their civilian position throughout the period charged to annual leave in addition to their military pay for the same period. Employees do not earn sick or annual leave while in a non-pay status.

Employees who enter into active military duty may choose to have their annual leave remain to their credit until they return to their civilian position, or receive a lump-sum payment for all accrued and accumulated annual leave. However, an agency must make a lump-sum payment for any restored annual leave under 5 U.S.C. 6304(d). There is no requirement to separate from a civilian position to receive a lump-sum leave payment under 5 U.S.C. 5552.

If an employee who has been on military duty returns to active federal service prior to the end of the period covered by the lump-sum payment, the employee must refund an amount equal to the pay that covers the period between the date of re-employment and the expiration of the lump-sum leave period. Agencies may not re-credit any restored annual leave to the employee’s leave account. Employees 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, they 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 Part 890, employees who are put in a non-pay status or separated for a period of more than 30 consecutive days in support of a contingency operation on or after September 14, 2001, may keep their Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage for up to 24 months from the date the absence to serve on military duty begins. Federal agencies have discretionary authority to pay both the employee and government shares of the premium for employees who are called to active military duty in support of a contingency operation (see 5 U.S.C. 8906(e) as amended by Sec. 519, Public Law 107-107). If the agency does not pay the employee share, during the first 365 days, employees are responsible for the employee share of the premium; they can either pay on a current basis or repay it when they return to active federal service, just as any other employee on non-pay status. During the remainder of the 24 months, they 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. Employees get a free 31-day extension of coverage during which they can convert to a non-group policy. They are not eligible for Temporary Continuation of Coverage. An employee who does not want to continue FEHB while on military duty may elect in writing to have the coverage terminated. Employees participating in premium conversion who want to terminate FEHB may do so only within 60 days of beginning their leave of absence (as this is a qualifying life event (QLE)), or during an annual open season.

Employees who prefer to have the option of terminating coverage at a later date must waive premium conversion participation within 60 days of this QLE or during an annual open season, since only those who do not participate in premium conversion may terminate FEHB at any time. The FEHB enrollment of an employee whose enrollment was terminated during military service is automatically reinstated when the employee is restored to a civilian position under 5 CFR Part 353.

However, an employee may waive his or her rights 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. Eligible employees may postpone reinstating their FEHB enrollment until their Tricare coverage expires, or at any time up to that point. Individuals must take care to avoid any breaks in health insurance coverage between the end of their Tricare and the reinstatement of their FEHB. They 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 eligibility to continue FEHB enrollment into retirement. While the time an employee is covered under Transitional Tricare counts toward meeting the five-year/initial opportunity requirement to continue FEHB into retirement, the employee must be covered under FEHB on the day he/she retires. An employee who plans to retire during a Transitional Tricare period must reinstate FEHB coverage before the retirement date.

Employees who return to their civilian positions but are not restored under 5 CFR Part 353, may enroll within 60 days of returning to civilian service provided the position is not excluded from FEHB coverage.

Life Insurance—Employees who enter on active duty or active duty for training in one of the uniformed services for more than 30 days—regardless of whether they separate are put in non-pay status—can keep their Federal Employees’ Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) coverage at no cost to them for up to 12 months. Public Law 110-181 allows coverage for up to an additional 12 months. However, employees must pay both the employee and agency share of the premiums for that period.

Affected employees receive a notice from their agencies giving them the opportunity to elect to continue coverage beyond the initial free 12 months. Employees who wish to continue coverage must indicate their election on the notice, and return it to the employing office. Employees may make their elections at any time before the end of their first 12 months in non-pay status. Employees who elected to continue coverage during the second 12 months and then wish to stop or reduce coverage must notify their agencies 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. Employees whose coverage terminates at the end of the second 12 months in non-pay status have a 31-day extension of coverage with the right to convert to an individual policy.

Employees who do not wish to continue coverage beyond the initial 12 months should submit the notice indicating their election for coverage to terminate at the end of 12 months in non-pay status. FEGLI coverage will continue at no cost to the employee 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 for employees called to active-duty status. Accidental death benefits in addition to regular death benefits are payable under Basic insurance (and Option A, if the employee had that coverage) unless the employee was in combat or unless nuclear weapons were being used at the time of the injury that caused the employee’s death. Even if accidental death benefits are not payable, regular death benefits are payable.

When an employee who has been on military duty returns to active federal service, he or she gets back whatever type(s) of life insurance he or she had before going into non-pay status (as long as the position is not excluded from coverage), even if the employee declines to continue coverage for up to the additional 12 months, reduces some or all of the coverage, or allows coverage to terminate due to non-payment.

Long-Term Care—There is no war exclusion under the Federal Long-Term Care Insurance Program. Whether you are a civilian or member of the uniformed services, 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, online 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/qscform.pdf.

Retirement—An employee who is placed in an LWOP status while performing active military duty continues to be covered by the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Death benefits will be paid as if he or she were still in the civilian position. If the employee becomes disabled for his or her civilian position during the LWOP and has the minimum amount of civilian service necessary for title to disability benefits (five years for CSRS, 18 months for FERS), the employee will become entitled to disability benefits under the retirement law. Upon eventual retirement from civilian service, the period of military service is creditable under either CSRS or FERS, subject to the rules for crediting military service.

If an employee separates to enter active military duty, he or she generally will receive retirement credit for the period of separation when the employee exercises restoration rights to his or her civilian position. If the separated employee does not exercise the restoration right, but later re-enters federal civilian service, the military service may be credited under the retirement system, subject to the rules governing credit for military service.

Return to Civilian Duty—Any 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, is entitled to be restored to the position he or she would have attained had the employee not entered the uniformed service. This is possible, provided the employee: gave the agency advance notice of departure except where prevented by military circumstances; was 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 applies for restoration within the appropriate time limits.

Employees in the intelligence agencies 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, the agency carries the employee on leave without pay unless the employee requests separation. A separation under these circumstances does not affect restoration rights.

Employees who served in the uniformed services:

  • Less than 31 days (or who leave to take a fitness exam for service) must report back to work at the beginning of the next regularly scheduled work day following their completion of service and the expiration of eight hours after a time for safe transportation back to the employee’s residence.
  • More than 30 but less than 181 days must apply for re-employment no later than 14 days after completion of service.
  • More than 180 days have 90 days following completion of service to apply for restoration.

Employees who fail to meet these time limits are subject to disciplinary action.

Agencies must re-employ 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 the employee’s service and the timeliness of the application.

Employees who served less than 91 days must be placed in the position for which qualified that they would have attained had their employment not been interrupted. If not qualified for such position after reasonable efforts by the agency to qualify the person, the employee is entitled to be placed in the position he or she left.

Employees who served more than 90 days have essentially the same rights as described above except that the agency has the option of placing the employee in a position for which qualified of like seniority, status, and pay.

Employees with service-connected disabilities who are not qualified for the above must be re-employed in a position that most closely approximates the position they would have been entitled to, consistent with the circumstances in each case.

An employee who was on a temporary appointment serves out the remaining time, if any, left on the appointment. The military activation period does not extend the civilian appointment.

An employee performing active military duty is 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 to agencies at www.chcoc.gov/transmittals. The memo also created an interagency working group to: monitor agency performance under the law; coordinate best practices, training and other steps to improve compliance; and reach out to veterans and uniformed services members to assist them in exercising their rights under the law. For appeal procedures related to denial of restoration rights, see Other OSC Responsibilities in Chapter 10, Section 4.

Post-Combat Care—Under 5 U.S.C. 7906, each agency must assign a point of contact to ensure that employees who incur a qualifying injury, disability, or illness while performing civilian duties in a war-risk hazard assignment receive the benefits to which they are entitled. Guidance on “post-combat care coordinators” and positions of similar responsibility is in Benefits Administration Letter 13-201 at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters.

Excused Absence—Agencies must grant five work days of excused absence, without charge to leave, to employees upon return to federal civilian employment. The benefit applies to each deployment, for employees deployed more than once. See Military Leave in Chapter 5, Section 1.

OPM Job Placement—If the employing agency is unable to re-employ an individual returning 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 the person;
  • an intelligence agency or an agency in the legislative or Judicial Branch notifies OPM that it is impossible or unreasonable to re-employ the person, and the person applies to OPM for placement assistance; or
  • a non-career National Guard technician who is not eligible for continued membership in the Guard for reasons beyond his or her control applies to OPM for placement assistance.

Service Credit—Upon restoration, employees are generally treated as though they 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. (Employees 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 the employee is 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 the employee is under the Federal Employees Retirement System. However, these amounts may be different if: the employee’s creditable civilian service was interrupted by military duty; and re-employment occurred pursuant to 38 U.S.C. Chapter 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 the individual not entered uniformed service, if this amount is less than the normal deposit for military service. Certain special considerations apply to Federal Employees Retirement System “Revised Annuity Employees”—see Benefits Administration Letter 13-102 at www.opm.gov/retirement-
services/publications-forms/benefits-administration-letters
.

Thrift Savings Plan—Employees who perform uniformed service may make up any contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan they missed because of such service. In addition, members of the Ready Reserve or National Guard serving on active duty and in any military pay status can contribute to the TSP through a uniformed services TSP account. See Military Reserve TSP Accounts in Chapter 6, Section 1.

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