Response to Request for Opinion Concerning Veteran's Preference Status

B-204126: Published: Sep 18, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 4, 1985.

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GAO was asked whether a former commissioned officer in the Public Health Service (PHS) is entitled to veterans' preference status for the purpose of retention in the civilian service. The record showed that the former officer served in PHS during the Vietnam conflict. He is presently employed by the Department of Health and Human Services and anticipates a reduction-in-force (RIF) action in that agency. Consequently, he seeks to resolve the matter of his preference eligibility prior to the RIF action. Under the law, officers of PHS are entitled to the same rights, privileges, immunities and benefits of commissioned officers in the Army with respect to service performed in time of war. Therefore, officers of the commissioned corps of PHS would appear to be entitled to veterans' preference in the Civil Service only if they satisfy the requirement of active service. However, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has recently determined that the last period of war for the purposes of veterans' preference is World War II. GAO held that the matter of retention preferences in RIF situations is within the jurisdiction of OPM; therefore, GAO was without the authority to review such determinations.

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