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Veteran Labor Laws & Employment Rights

Under federal law, U.S. military veterans have special rights regarding employment. Specifically, they are given preference for hiring within the federal government during layoff periods for jobs. The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Veterans' Employment and Training was created in 1981 to oversee relevant laws.

The eligibility of Veterans varies widely per state, job, service, and other factors. To discover if you qualify, contact your local VETS office.

The Veteran's Employment and Training Service

The Veteran's Employment and Training Service (VETS) monitors and investigates Veteran's right. This Department of Labor agency was created to help veterans transition from military service to civilian life with good jobs and reliable employment opportunities. The program provides employment and training services through grants and cooperative agreements at a national level.

Disabled Veterans' Outreach

The Disabled Veterans' Outreach Program (DVOP) is a part of VETS that aims to place disabled veterans with jobs they can perform despite any injuries and disabilities they suffered during military service. These types of disability-specific programs are typically stationed at state employment offices, medical centers, military installations, and veterans' affairs outreach centers.

Working with the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Defense, and other Veteran organizations, DVOP specialists help train and find Veterans appropriate jobs. The DVOP provides grant funds for these state's employment services, which currently allows for 1,400 DVOP specialists nationwide.

Local Veterans Employment

Another labor program focuses on helping veterans know which employment and community services are available to them. The Local Veterans Employment Program (LVER) helps former military professionals search for jobs, write resumes, and practice interviewing skills. They also monitor job listings to give priority referrals for eligible veterans, identify training opportunities, and provide counseling.

Typically, for every 1,100 veterans registered for assistance one-full LVER is employed and one halftime LVER is employed for each 350 registered veterans in a local employment service office.

Uniform Service Employment Reemployment Rights Acts (USERRA)

USERRA addresses Veterans questions of eligibility, job entitlements, employer obligations, and benefits. It does not establish federal regulations but provides "elaws" to serve as guidance for employees and employers. The right of each Veteran changes with many different circumstances, and any Veteran wondering about his or her rights and eligibility should contact an USERRA Advisor. General rights include:

  • If the veteran left job for service, right to reemployment to a job with matching benefits as long as:
    • Employer receives a verbal or written advanced notice of your service
    • Veteran returns to work in a timely manner after service
    • Veteran received no dishonorable discharge from service
    • While working for that employer, veteran has five or less years of cumulative service
  • Employers may not deny those who have, are, or will be a member of the uniformed service initial, re-, or retention in employment, promotions, or benefits because of his or her involvement in the uniformed services
  • Employees who leave their job for military services may maintain their employer-based health plan, including coverage for their dependent's, for up to 24 months. If the employee opts out of this option, he or she has the right to be re-instated into health plan upon reemployment

If any veteran was not hired for being a veteran or any other incident where a veteran felt discriminated against, he or she can file a discrimination report.


Employers may hire a replacement for a position vacated by someone performing military service; however, upon the service member's return, he or she is entitled to reemployment even if the replacement must be terminated. Employers cannot require an employee to produce a military order granting leave of absence, though the employee should provide a verbal or written notice.

Employers are not obligated to pay an employee during his or her military service, though many do so. However, employers may be entitled to continue the employee's health insurance for up to 18 months.

Federal Contractors

Federal contractors must give veterans priority in hiring. All contractors and subcontracts must annually file a VETS-4212 form if the contract exceeds $100,000. Details about filing the form can be found on VETS-4212 Federal Contractor Reporting page.

Other VETS Programs and Veteran Rights

In addition to giving veterans preference in hiring for federal government jobs, there are other labor programs relevant for veterans. VETS provides on-the-job training and transition assistance for veterans and members of the National Guard called to active duty. VETS also provides employers and veterans service organizations with technical assistance to help them understand and comply with these labor laws.

When employees return from military service, employers are required to promptly rehire them - "promptly" meaning within days rather than months. Veterans who believe that their rights have been violated can file a complaint with VETS within 60 days of the alleged allegation.

To learn more about labor laws that apply to veterans, check out the U.S. Department of Labor's VETS site and the Frequently Asked Questions page. National, state, and regional VETS contacts can be accessed on this site as well.