I used to give briefings to departing military personnel and was regularly told by them of problems they were encountering seeking post military federal employment, including applying for civilian positions in the military.
The general rule is one cannot draw two salaries from the federal government, but there is a special exception for military personnel who are getting off active duty. This has been the law for many years but there is still a lot of misinformation, ignorance, or cultural bias against military personnel within many agencies’ hiring offices, even those connected with the military.
Individuals on terminal military leave may be hired as civilian employees of the United States Government. See 5 U.S.C. §5534a (text is referenced below). This law applies to military personnel on such leave who are transitioning out of the military at the end of their enlistment as well as those who have sufficient time to retire from the military.
For example, a military person may elect to take terminal military leave of, say, 60 days if he or she has that many days of leave instead of cashing them in when they are actually discharged or retire. He or she may be hired for a civil service position within the Federal Government and start drawing his or her civilian federal salary while at the same time receiving their full military pay and allowances while on terminal leave.
Military personnel may apply for civilian positions while still on active duty and start such work while on terminal leave. Even though this has been the law for decades, some human resources personnel still do not have a full understanding of the fact that active duty members can apply for a job while still on active duty or that they can be hired and start working while on terminal leave. If you run into a problem in this area, contact the Department Veterans Program Manager for the agency you are seeking employment with and ask them to contact the human resource or hiring official involved.
You can find a list of the Department Veteran Program Managers for all Federal Agencies online.
Commander Wayne L. Johnson, JAGC, is a retired member of the Navy from Alexandria, VA
§ 5534a. Dual employment and pay during terminal leave from uniformed services
A member of a uniformed service who has performed active service and who is on terminal leave pending separation from, or release from active duty in, that service under honorable conditions may accept a civilian office or position in the Government of the United States, its territories or possessions, or the government of the District of Columbia, and he is entitled to receive the pay of that office or position in addition to pay and allowances from the uniformed service for the unexpired portion of the terminal leave. Such a member also is entitled to accrue annual leave with pay in the manner specified in section 6303(a) of this title for a retired member of a uniformed service.
(Added Pub. L. 90–83, §1(22), Sept. 11, 1967, 81 Stat. 199; amended Pub. L. 109–364, div. A, title XI, §1101, Oct. 17, 2006, 120 Stat. 2407.)