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Chapter 9, Section 2: Career Transition Assistance

Regulations at 5 CFR Part 330 require that agencies establish career transition assistance programs to help surplus and displaced workers find other jobs when their agency downsizes or restructures.

General Rules and Procedures

Regulations at 5 CFR Part 330 require that agencies establish career transition assistance programs to help surplus and displaced workers find other jobs when their agency downsizes or restructures. Agency plans must consist of:

  • Career Transition Services-- Each agency provides career transition services to surplus employees, giving them skills and resources to help them find other employment. These services might include skills assessment, resume preparation, counseling, or job search assistance. Agencies must also develop policies on retraining their surplus employees.
  • Re-Employment Priority Lists-- Each agency must also maintain a Re-Employment Priority List (RPL) for each local commuting area where it separates employees by RIF. Employees can register for their agency's RPL as soon as they receive a RIF separation notice. Before the agency can select a candidate outside its workforce, it must first check the RPL for that location. With a few exceptions, the agency must select a qualified employee from the RPL before hiring anyone from outside the agency.
  • Career Transition Assistance Plans-- Agencies must give selection priority to their own well qualified surplus or displaced employees who apply for vacancies in other agency components in the local commuting area. Agencies must notify their surplus or displaced employees when they plan to fill these jobs. With a few exceptions, the agency must select those who apply and are eligible and well qualified before any other candidate from within or outside the agency.

In addition, the Office of Personnel Management operates the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP), in which displaced employees apply for positions in the local commuting area and in which an eligible, well-qualified employee gets selection priority over almost any other applicant from outside the hiring agency.

Note: Because the Defense Department manages a separate program that provides selection priority to surplus and displaced employees within DoD--the Priority Placement Program (see below)--it is exempt from the special selection requirement affecting its own employees under the CTAP. However, DoD employees may enroll separately in the RPL program and may request selection priority for jobs in non-DoD agencies using the ICTAP.

Further information is at www.opm.gov/ctap.

Career Transition Assistance Plans

Each agency must establish a Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP) to actively assist its surplus and displaced employees under 5 CFR Part 330 subpart F. The plan must include policies to provide career transition services to all surplus and displaced agency employees affected by downsizing or restructuring, including employees in the excepted service and the Senior Executive Service. The plan also must include policies to provide special selection priority to well qualified surplus or displaced agency employees who apply for agency vacancies in the local commuting area, before selecting any other candidate from either within or outside the agency, as well as agency procedures for reviewing qualification issues, and operation of the agency's Re-Employment Priority List.

Special selection priority is available for an individual who:

  • is a surplus or displaced employee (still on the agency rolls);
  • has a current performance rating of record of at least fully successful or equivalent;
  • applies for a vacancy that is at or below the grade level from which the employee is being separated and that does not have a greater promotion potential than the position from which the worker is being separated;
  • files an application for a specific vacancy within the time frames established by the agency;
  • occupies a position in the same local commuting area as that of the vacancy and:
  • is determined by the agency to be well qualified for the specific vacancy.

You are "surplus" if you:

  • are in the competitive service;
  • are in tenure Group I or II; and
  • have an official notice from your agency saying that your position is no longer needed. This notice could be: a "Certificate of Expected Separation"; an agency certification that you are in a surplus organization or occupation; a notice that your position is being abolished; or a letter saying you are eligible for discontinued service retirement.

You are "displaced" if you:

  • are in the competitive service;
  • are in tenure Group I or II; and
  • have an official notice from your agency saying you will be separated by RIF. This notice could be: a specific RIF separation notice; or a notice of proposed removal because you declined a directed reassignment or transfer of function out of the local commuting area.

See Retention Registers, Competitive Service in Section 1 of this chapter for the definition of tenure groups.

Agencies can extend the definition of a "surplus" or a "displaced" employee to include employees in the excepted service if they are on Schedule A or B appointments without time limit and have received an appropriate notice. Selection priority for these employees is limited to other permanent Schedule A or B positions in the same agency and local commuting area.

Eligibility for special selection priority begins on the date the agency issues the employee a RIF separation notice, certificate of expected separation, notice of proposed separation for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside of the local commuting area, or other official agency certification identifying the employee as being in a surplus organization or occupation.

Eligibility expires on the earliest of:

  • the RIF separation date, the date of the employee's resignation from the agency, or the date of separation under adverse action procedures for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another local commuting area;
  • cancellation of the notice that made the employee eligible;
  • when an eligible employee receives a career, career-conditional, or excepted appointment without time limit in any agency;
  • when an employee moves to another position in the agency not affected by the RIF; or
  • when the employee is no longer being separated by the RIF.

Order of Selection-- An agency, when filling a vacancy, must select an eligible employee under its Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP) before selecting any other internal or external candidate, unless the agency can show that another employee would otherwise be separated by a RIF. Agencies may not procure temporary help services in lieu of appointing a surplus or displaced employee.

Once the agency has met its obligation to select employees eligible under its CTAP, it is free to select any other competitive service tenure Group I or II candidate from its workforce, following the appropriate procedures. An agency may provide selection priority to surplus and displaced agency employees from another commuting area after it has discharged its obligation to eligible surplus and displaced agency employees from the local commuting area.

When an agency has met its CTAP obligations and elects to fill a position from outside its workforce, it must first select agency employees who have been separated through RIF and are eligible under its Re-Employment Priority List (RPL); then, federal employees who are displaced from other agencies and who apply for positions in the local commuting area and are eligible under the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP).

Exceptions-- Numerous actions are not covered by these requirements, including: reassignments, changes to lower grade, or promotions, when no eligible employees apply; re-employment of a former agency employee exercising regulatory or statutory re-employment rights, including the re-employment of injured workers who have either been restored to earning capacity by the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs or who have received a notice that their compensation benefits will cease because of recovery from the disabling injury or illness; position changes resulting from disciplinary actions; temporary appointments of under 121 days (including all extensions); exchange of positions between or among agency employees, when the actions involve no increase in grade or promotion potential, that is, job swaps; noncompetitive placement of an employee into a different position as a result of a formal reorganization, when the former position ceases to exist, and no actual vacancy results; assignments made under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act; the filling of a position through an excepted appointment; details; and time-limited promotions of under 121 days, including all extensions.

At the time it issues a specific RIF separation notice, certificate of expected separation, or other official agency certification, an agency must give eligible employees information in writing about the CTAP special selection priority available to them. Such information must contain guidance to the employee on how to apply for vacancies under the CTAP, and the documentation generally required as proof of eligibility. Agencies must take reasonable steps to ensure eligible employees are notified of all vacancies the agency is filling and what is required to be determined well qualified for the vacancies. Vacancy announcements within an agency must contain information on how eligible employees within the agency can apply, what proof of eligibility is required, and the agency's definition of "well qualified."

Each agency is required to advise, in writing, its surplus and displaced employees who apply for specific vacancies within its local commuting area of the results of their application, and whether they were found well qualified. If they are not found well qualified, such notice must include information on the results of an independent, second review conducted by the agency. If an applicant is found well qualified, and another well qualified surplus or displaced candidate is selected, the applicant must be so advised.

To receive this special selection priority, an eligible employee must apply for a specific agency vacancy in the same local commuting area as the position the employee occupies within the prescribed time frames, attach the appropriate proof of eligibility, and be determined well qualified by the agency for the specific vacancy.

An agency may decide the specific order of selection of its eligible employees (for example, the agency may decide to select displaced employees before surplus employees or may select surplus and/or displaced employees from within a particular component of the agency before selecting surplus and/or displaced employees from another component of the agency). An agency cannot select any other candidate from within or outside the agency if eligible employees are available for the vacancy or vacancies. If two or more eligible employees apply for a vacancy and are determined to be well qualified, any of these eligible employees may be selected. If no eligible employees apply or none is deemed well qualified, the agency may select another agency employee without regard to this subpart.

Re-Employment Priority Lists

In addition to affording eligible current employees special selection priority for internal vacancies through the CTAP as described above, agencies also maintain Re-Employment Priority Lists (RPL) to give rehiring priority to employees who have RIF separation notices and those who have been separated from competitive service positions by RIF. Rules are at 5 CFR, Part 330, subpart B.

To be eligible to register for an RPL, an employee must:

  • be in the competitive service in tenure Group I or II;
  • have received a performance rating above unacceptable as the last annual performance rating of record;
  • have received a specific RIF notice of separation or a Certification of Expected Separation; and
  • have not declined a job offer.

You also can register if you separated more than one year ago due to a work-related injury, you have fully recovered, and your workers' compensation benefits have ended. Group I employees get two years of rehiring priority starting from the date your name is put on the agency RPL and Group II employees get one year of priority.

Your eligibility ends if you:

  • ask the agency to remove your name from the RPL;
  • receive a career, career-conditional, or excepted service appointment without time limit in any agency;
  • decline a permanent job offer at your current or former grade;
  • decline an interview;
  • don't respond to an offer or an availability inquiry, or fail to appear for a scheduled interview; or
  • separate for some other reason (such as retirement or resignation) before the RIF date.
To be entered on the RPL, an individual must submit a completed agency application form, which may specify types of positions the employee will accept and other conditions, within 30 days after the separation date.

RPLs give employees hiring preference only within the employee's own agency and in the local commuting area and only for positions at or below the grade level of the position from which they are being (or may be) separated, and that have no higher promotion potential. Registrants will be given priority consideration in filling vacancies for which they qualify within the commuting area as long as they are on the RPL. Registrants get priority consideration when the agency fills competitive service vacancies from outside the agency. If a registrant is available, an agency may not fill a permanent or time-limited competitive service position by a new appointment (unless the individual appointed is a 10-point veteran) or by transfer or re-employment (unless the individual appointed is exercising restoration or re-employment rights).

However, an RPL candidate does not necessarily get priority if:

  • the agency is filling positions from within the current workforce.
  • no qualified RPL registrants are available, they decline the position, or they fail to respond to an agency inquiry of interest;
  • a current, qualified agency employee is available through detail, noncompetitive conversion to the competitive service; reappointment without a break in service; or extension of a temporary appointment;
  • the position is being filled by a 30-day "special needs" or "700 hour" appointment for persons with disabilities; or
  • the job is being filled at a grade level different from that for which the candidates have registered, or has greater promotion potential than the last position held.

Those who believe that their re-employment priority rights under the program have been violated may appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board.

Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan

ICTAP provides priority consideration and selection in other federal agencies for displaced employees. The vacancy must be in the same commuting area as the location where they were or are being separated. If an individual meets the eligibility requirements, the agency must select that person before hiring outside the agency. The program requires publication of job information on all federal vacancies for this purpose. Rules are at 5 CFR Part 330, subpart G.

To receive selection priority in other agencies, your current or last position must be/have been in tenure Group I or II in the competitive service, and you must fall under one of these categories:

  • RIF-- you have been (or are being) involuntarily separated from an executive branch agency through a RIF;
  • Transfer of Function/Directed Reassignment-- you have been (or are being) separated under adverse action procedures because you declined a transfer of function or directed reassignment to another local commuting area;
  • Injury Compensation-- you were separated due to work-related injury, your worker's compensation benefits have stopped because you recovered, and your former agency is unable to place you through its Re-Employment Priority List;
  • Disability Annuitant-- you retired with a disability and your annuity has been/will be terminated because OPM considers you recovered;
  • RIF-Retired-- you received a RIF separation notice and elected either optional retirement on the RIF effective date, or discontinued service retirement on or before the RIF date; or
  • Disabled Reserve/National Guard Technician-- you were a Reserve or National Guard technician and now receive a special OPM disability retirement annuity.

Excepted service employees are not eligible for selection priority in other agencies under the ICTAP.

Eligibility for special selection priority begins when you receive: a RIF separation notice; a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another local commuting area; an OPM notice that your disability annuity has been (or will be) terminated; certification from your former agency that it cannot place you after your recovery from a compensable injury; or certification from the National Guard Bureau or military department that you are eligible for a disability retirement and will receive the special OPM annuity. The application must comply with all job announcement instructions and a copy of the RIF separation notice must be attached.

Eligibility expires: one year after your RIF separation; one year after your agency separates you for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another local commuting area; one year after your agency certifies that they cannot place you after your recovery from a compensable injury; one year after you are notified that your disability annuity has been or is being terminated; when you receive a career, career conditional, or excepted service position without time limit in any agency; when your agency cancels or rescinds your RIF or removal notice; if you move to another position, time-limited or permanent, before the RIF date; if you separate by resignation or non-discontinued service retirement before the RIF effective date; or with a specific agency, if you decline a permanent offer from that agency.

Generally, when filling a vacancy from outside the agency's workforce, an agency must select: current or former agency employees eligible under its Career Transition Assistance Plan; then from its Re-Employment Priority List; then current or former federal employees displaced from other agencies eligible under the ICTAP; and then any other candidate under appropriate selection procedures, if there are no well qualified ICTAP candidates.

At the time it issues a specific RIF separation notice or notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside of the local commuting area, an agency must give each of its eligible employees information in writing about the special selection priority available to them under the ICTAP. Such information must contain guidance to the employee on how to apply for vacancies under the ICTAP, and what documentation is generally required as proof of eligibility.

Agencies must take reasonable steps to ensure eligible employees are notified of all vacancies the agency is filling and what is required for them to be determined well qualified for the vacancies. Each agency is required to advise, in writing, ICTAP candidates who apply for specific vacancies within its local commuting area of the results of their application, and whether they were found well qualified. If they are not found well qualified, such notice must include information on the results of an independent, second review conducted by the agency. If an applicant is found well qualified, and another well qualified surplus or displaced candidate is selected, the applicant must be so advised.

To receive this special selection priority, eligible employees must apply directly to agencies for specific vacancies in the local commuting area within the prescribed time frames, attach the appropriate proof of eligibility, and be determined well qualified by the agency for the specific position.

In making selections, an agency must adhere to the overall order of selection set forth above. An agency cannot select another candidate from outside the agency if eligible employees are available for the vacancy or vacancies. If two or more eligible employees apply for a vacancy and are determined to be well qualified, any of these eligible employees may be selected. If no eligible employees apply or none is deemed well qualified, the agency may select another candidate. This flexibility does not apply to selections made from the agency's Re-Employment Priority List.

An agency may select a candidate from its Career Transition Assistance Plan or Re-Employment Priority List, or another current agency employee (if no eligible employees are available through its CTAP) at any time.

Job Vacancy Information

USAJobs-- The government's main Web site for jobs and employment information is at www.usajobs.gov. Job seekers can access current job vacancies, review federal employment information, and apply for jobs online. Complete job announcements are attached to job listings and can be printed or saved from the screen. Other features include an e-mail service to assist with job searches, an online résumé builder, and a section designed specifically for students.

Automated Telephone System-- An interactive voice response telephone system at (703) 724-1850, TDD (978) 461-8404, provides access to current job vacancies, employment information fact sheets, and applications and forms, and in some instances, allows one to apply for jobs by phone.

Other Resources-- In addition to posting listings on USAJobs, some agencies post vacancies and other employment information on their own Web sites. Links to most agencies can be found at www.usa.gov.

State employment offices typically have access to current open federal examination and vacancy announcements. Links to state offices are on a Labor Department-sponsored site, www.careeronestop.org.

Defense Department RIF and Placement Benefits

In addition to the RIF-related benefits described in Section 1 of this chapter, Defense Department employees may be eligible for benefits unique to that department, some of which have special provisions related to base closings and realignments, as described below.

Base Closings and Realignments-- In 2005, a package of base closings and realignments that had been prepared by a special commission was accepted by Congress, setting off a process lasting through fiscal 2011 and affecting two dozen major facilities and many smaller ones, in many cases with work shifting from one place to another. A list of affected facilities is at www.defense.gov/brac, and information related to the transition process is at www.cpms.osd.mil/brac. That site also has links to BRAC-related sites of the individual military services and Defense agencies.

Priority Placement Program-- The PPP, sometimes referred to as "Program A," is an automated referral program for those facing involuntarily separation, downgrade, or transfer of function, which is designed to assist DoD employees in locating positions within the agency. If eligible, individuals may register voluntarily in the PPP to seek employment at other DoD installations. Those scheduled to receive severance pay benefits must register for installations within their commuting areas.

Current competitive service employees on an appointment without time limitation who have career or career-conditional status or those in the excepted service with or without personal competitive status may register in the PPP if they are scheduled for displacement. The employee's performance and conduct must be fully satisfactory.

Unless early registration is authorized, employees become eligible to register when they: receive a specific RIF notice of separation or demotion, decline in writing an official RIF reassignment or demotion out of the commuting area, decline in writing a transfer of function or a covered management-directed reassignment out of the commuting area, or receive a notice of furlough for six months or more. Employees entitled to severance pay are automatically registered.

Employees must register for their current skill and may register for a total of five skills, provided they are well qualified. Mandatory registrants must be registered for all skills for which they are well qualified, including appropriate special skill identifiers.

Employees must register while still employed. The employee must fill out registration forms, which are available through DoD civilian personnel offices. DoD sends personnel specialists to bases identified for closure to assist employees registering in the PPP. Unless registration is mandatory, individuals can select locations and grade levels for which they wish to be considered within program guidelines.

Competitive service employees may register no higher than their current permanent grade or retained grade. If registering for other pay systems, registration is restricted to the grade having the representative rate equal or below the representative rate of the registrant's current permanent or retained grade. If registering from GS to other pay systems, the individual may register for the highest grade for which well qualified; the potential gaining activity makes the determination as to whether an offer should be made based on their local pay scale.

Generally, employees may register down to and including three GS grades or equivalent below their current permanent grade. Employees facing separation are registered for the minimum number of activities nearest their duty station likely to provide a reasonable opportunity for placement. They may not skip over DoD activities or states to register for more distant locations. Activities in an adjoining zone that are no more distant from the employee's duty station than the furthermost activity selected in the zone may be included in the initial area of referral.

Registration does not, in and of itself, guarantee an offer of continued employment. Placement can only occur when a vacancy matching the skills is being filled and the applicant is deemed well qualified.

PPP uses a computerized system that continually matches the skills of displaced employees with vacant DoD positions. If an employee meets the skills and grade level of a vacant position, that opening must be offered to the employee. Use of an automated "stopper" and referral system ensures consideration within DoD.

Employees are referred using a numeric priority (1 through 3). The priority assigned is based on the severity of the employee's proposed personnel action. For example, an employee facing RIF separation with no offer of continued employment is assigned a Priority 1, while an employee with a RIF offer of a change to a grade one grade below their current grade held is assigned Priority 3. Priority 1 employees must be considered for placement before priority 2 and 3 employees. Additionally, the priority assigned determines which recruitment actions are "stopped" when a match occurs.

Generally, individuals can remain in the program for the duration of the notice period and for 12 months after separation. During this period, placement in an appropriate position, declining a valid offer, optional retirement, or a personal request can terminate registration.

Only one valid offer will be made. If that offer is declined, the employee is removed from the program. If an individual accepts a PPP offer, the government will pay related travel and transportation costs to the new location under the DoD Joint Travel Regulations.

Further information is at www.cpms.osd.mil/care/care_ppp.aspx.

RPL and ICTAP-- The Re-Employment Priority List (RPL), which is administered under government-wide regulations (see above), is an additional opportunity for placement consideration for DoD employees. The RPL program is separate from the PPP and requires a separate application. RPL rights apply only to DoD installations within the same commuting area as the position from which the employee has been, or will be, separated. A DoD employee who registers for the RPL will receive preference over non-DoD applicants for vacant competitive service DoD positions that match their qualifications.

DoD employees also are eligible to enroll in the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (see above).

These programs are available only to those who have not previously declined a reasonable offer.

Retained Grade Placement Program-- Employees on a competitive and/or excepted appointment and serving under grade retention as a result of a RIF or job reclassification are required to register in this program, sometimes known as "Program R." Employees with grade retention in the excepted service (excluding National Guard technicians) who do not have personal competitive status are eligible for excepted positions only.

Registration is mandatory for all DoD employees receiving a retained grade. Affected employees must register for the retained grade position and all other skills in the same pay group for which the registrant is well qualified.

Normally, the area of referral for the duration of the retained grade period must include all DoD installations in the commuting area. However, for those who relocate to the current DoD activity at government expense, registration is restricted to the new installation for one year. If an offer is made through this program, the individual must accept the written offer or lose retained grade entitlement.

Registrants are assigned a "2" priority when demoted two or more GS grades or the equivalent and a "3" when demoted less than two GS grades or the equivalent. If a Priority 2 accepts or declines an offer at an intervening grade, the priority must be reviewed to determine if it is still appropriate. Valid and reasonable offers must be made in writing. Registrants must accept or decline offers within two calendar days. Program registrants are ineligible for temporary or term positions.

If you previously relocated through the PPP to your current DoD activity at government expense, registration is restricted to your current installation for one year from the effective date of the placement. After one year, your area of referral will be expanded to include all other DoD activities within the commuting area.

Defense Outplacement Referral System-- DORS is an automated referral system operated through a cooperative effort between DoD and OPM. The purpose of DORS is to provide placement opportunity for current DoD civilian personnel and their spouses through referral to other DoD activities, non-DoD agencies, state and local governments, and the private sector. Registration and placement through DORS is voluntary for both employees and participating employers. Local personnel offices have information on the program and can assist employees and their spouses in registering. Qualifications are determined based on education and experience. Only the first three different series appearing on the registration will be used for referral to private sector. Special skill identifiers will only be used for referrals within DoD.

Current employees on permanent appointments may register no higher than their current permanent grade. Employees on temporary appointments with prior federal service or spouses with prior federal service may register at the last permanent grade held. Registrants without status or with no prior federal service may register for the highest grade for which eligible based on the qualification standards. Registrants may register no more than three grades below the high grade for which registered. If registering for different pay plans, each pay plan is treated separately. An employee may register for any location in the U.S. and/or overseas, but the spouse's area of referral must be the same as the sponsor's. Relocation expenses cannot be authorized for spouses and are not guaranteed for DoD employees.

Local Placement Programs-- Contacts with local, federal, state, and private employers are made by the installation in an effort to locate acceptable employment opportunities for those who wish to remain in the local area.

Training and Retraining-- The Department of Labor, in coordination with local downsizing activities and installations, manages training and retraining programs authorized by the Work Force Investment Act of 1998. This training normally is targeted to a specific and known employment opportunity. Closing or downsizing activities create employee assistance/transition centers to provide career transition instruction, including resume preparation, interview and job search techniques, financial planning, and other services. Similarly, instruction in skills such as written communication is provided through the installation's transition assistance center.

Job Exchanges-- Job exchanges may be made available at installations that are closing, for example due to base closings, in which an employee at the closing installation trades jobs with one at an installation that is not closing. Employees who are eligible, or will soon be eligible, for retirement may be interested in taking a job slated for abolition since the program provides them a chance to leave the federal service sooner than would otherwise be feasible, and would qualify them for certain separation benefits.

The human resources office registers the position online in a system administered through the DoD Priority Placement Program (PPP). Non-Closing installations are then required to publicize job exchange opportunities along with other vacancy announcements.

Job exchanges are allowed only when the two employees occupy positions at the same grade, and only if the employee being reassigned to the closing installation will be eligible for optional retirement or discontinued service retirement (DSR) on or before the closure date. If eligibility for the job exchange is based on DSR eligibility, the employee reassigned to the closing installation must remain employed there for at least 12 months before retiring and the position must be designated as "critical" to installation operations. Additionally, employees must acknowledge in writing that they will remain in their new positions until released by the closing installation, and they will not be eligible for registration in the PPP in conjunction with the installation's closure.

A position must be expected to last at least an additional 12 months to qualify for a job exchange.

Leave Restoration-- When an installation has been designated for realignment or closure through the Base Realignment and Closure process, any excess leave that affected employees forfeit due to leave carry-over restrictions may be restored so long as they continue to work at their current activity. Annual leave restored under this special BRAC provision (Title 5, United States Code Sections 5551(c) and 6304(d)(3)) is placed in a separate leave account, and employees are not required to use their restored leave before other available annual leave. They're also exempt from the standard requirement of having to previously schedule leave before it can be restored.

Placement Assistance for Spouses-- If you register in the PPP and subsequently accept a DoD position outside the commuting area, your spouse may register in the PPP if he or she is a permanent DoD employee and is included as a dependent on your permanent change of station orders. The area of consideration is limited to DoD activities within the commuting area of your new permanent duty station.

Voluntary RIFs-- Title 5, U.S. Code Section 3502(f) provides a "voluntary RIF" authority at the Defense Department. The program allows the release of an employee who volunteers for separation in a RIF even though the employee would not otherwise be subject to separation. The provision is designed to help minimize the impact of downsizing by encouraging employees to volunteer to be separated in lieu of another employee who is slated to be separated. The authority has been extended several times since the law initially was enacted.

The authority gives component heads the discretion to allow RIF volunteers under these circumstances:

  • Voluntary separation will be allowed only during a formal RIF, that is, where official RIF notices will be issued.
  • Both the separation volunteer and the person to be "saved" must be in the same competitive area.
  • Matches of separation volunteers with those affected by the formal RIF will be based on the similarity of their positions. Any position affected by the RIF can be identified for the placement of a RIF separation volunteer, if separation of the RIF volunteer would result in the cancellation of a RIF separation action, and the subsequent placement of a RIF-affected employee. The placement cannot result in promotion.

Where there are more volunteers than needed and all are equally good matches, activities will process voluntary RIF applicants in order of seniority. Where there are fewer volunteers than needed and there are equally good matches for placement, activities will select RIF-affected employees for placement in order of RIF retention standing.

If, at any point in the RIF process, it is determined that the voluntary separation would not result in saving a RIF-affected employee, the voluntary separation will be canceled. Volunteering for separation under the provisions of the policy does not confer RIF assignment rights.

Only U.S. citizen civilian employees of DoD serving under an appointment without time limitation, who are not re-employed annuitants, and who do not have a pending or approved application for disability retirement may be RIF volunteers.

Generally, employees occupying critical or hard-to-fill positions, or with critical knowledge and skills, will not be allowed to participate except with the approval of the commanding officer or activity head. Employee participation in the program is not an entitlement and is subject to the discretion of the military departments, defense agencies, and their activities and installations.

Separation volunteers will be issued RIF separation notices effective on the RIF effective date. The notice will advise them of their entitlements under the RIF. Volunteers must sign a statement that they realize the action is irrevocable once they have been issued a RIF separation notice. However, activities may cancel the action if necessary.

Separation volunteers are treated as involuntary RIF separations and are eligible for most of the benefits accrued to those involuntarily separated, such as severance pay (except for retirement eligibles) and temporary continuation of federal health insurance coverage. However, they are ineligible for registration in the Priority Placement Program or voluntary separation incentive payments (buyouts). Separation volunteers who are re-employed by the federal government are subject to the rules governing repayment of severance pay.

Relocation Entitlements-- Generally, when relocation is in the best interest of the government, relocation expenses are paid to move the individual from one duty station to another at a different location. Relocation services, also known as permanent change of station (PCS) benefits, are provided to defray the costs of transporting employees, their families, and households to new locations.

At the discretion of the organization, an employee relocating under permanent change of station may be authorized round trip travel for up to 10 days for him/herself and his/her spouse for the purpose of seeking residence quarters. Separate round trips by the employee and spouse may be allowed, provided the overall cost is less than or equal to the cost of one round trip for the employee and spouse traveling together. The benefit is not authorized until the employee has agreed to transfer and the date of the transfer has been established.

The supporting personnel and transportation offices provide counseling on these benefits. Rules governing PCS benefits can be found in Chapter 4 of the DoD Joint Travel Regulations, Volume 2, at www.defensetravel.dod.mil/site/travelreg.cfm.

Relocation expenses usually reimbursed include:

  • transportation, packing, crating, and temporary storage of household goods and personal effects up to 18,000 pounds;
  • per diem and transportation for the employee and spouse when seeking permanent housing at the new duty location;
  • temporary quarters subsistence expense payments for up to 60 days when warranted, which can be extended 60 days based on exceptional circumstances;
  • specified expenses, when authorized, when the employee sells a residence or settles an unexpired lease at the old duty station or when buying a residence at the new duty location;
  • expenses incurred within two years of the transfer for the sale of the employee's residence at the old duty station, the settlement of an unexpired lease involving the residence or a lot on which a mobile home used as a residence was located and the purchase (including construction) of the employee's new residence at the new duty station;
  • payment of miscellaneous moving expenses of up to two weeks' pay or $1,000 for those who are married, and one week of pay or $500 if single (whichever is less in both cases); and
  • permanent storage of household goods and personal effects when the assignment is to an isolated area where living quarters are not available.

Homeowner's Assistance Program-- Under this program, operated by the Army Corps of Engineers, a career employee who is separated from a base that is being closed (in whole or in part) may be eligible to receive assistance. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (P.L. 111-5) eliminated, for closures under the 2005 base closings initiative, a prior requirement that it must be proven that a closing caused a local market decline. That law also liberalized several other criteria.

The assistance may take the form of: case-by-case payments by the government to cover part of the losses resulting from sale of the home, sale of the residence to the government, or reimbursement of losses as a result of mortgage foreclosure. Those serving under a time-limited appointment are not eligible. The application is made on DD Form 1607. available at the housing office or personnel office on a base. Further information is at http://hap.usace.army.mil/homepage.html.

Early Retirement and Buyouts-- DoD has permanent authority to reduce staff by allowing employees to retire under reduced age and service requirements (that is, age 50 with 20 years of service, any age with 25 years of service). See Section 5 of Chapter 3.
DoD also has permanent authority to reduce staff for either downsizing or restructuring purposes by offering voluntary separation incentive payments, also called buyouts. See DoD Authority in Section 3 of this chapter.

In early retirements and buyouts, DoD operates under special rules regarding waivers of the general requirement that a retiring employee needs to have been in the Federal Employees Health Benefits program for five years before retirement in order to continue health insurance in retirement. See FEHB Coverage After Retirement in Chapter 2, Section 1.

FEHB Premiums--Under 5 U.S.C. 8905a(d)(4), DoD continues to pay its share of Federal Employees Health Benefits program premiums, plus the administrative surcharge, for up to 18 months for employees who take temporary continuation of coverage (see Temporary Continuation of Coverage in Chapter 2, Section 1):

  • after separation due to a reduction in force;
  • after voluntarily separating from positions that have been identified as surplus for RIF purposes;
  • after resigning after receiving a RIF separation notice; or
  • after volunteering for separation under the voluntary RIF authority.

The former employee must continue to pay the enrollee share.

Those who had been serving on temporary appointments are eligible if they receive a government contribution to their FEHB coverage, and their appointments are terminated or allowed to expire because of RIF.

Hiring Incentives-- Under 5 U.S.C. 5724(e), the department may offer outplacement subsidies as an incentive to encourage other federal agencies to hire displaced DoD employees. If you're being separated as a result of a RIF or transfer of function and you accept a non-DoD federal job in another area, the department may reimburse your new agency for up to $20,000 of your moving expenses. If your installation or activity is offering this subsidy, you will receive information to include with your applications for jobs in other federal agencies. In order to take advantage of this program, you must apply for the vacant position and advise the gaining agency of the availability of the subsidy. Employees who decline valid job offers through the Priority Placement Program are ineligible.

Lump-Sum Payment of Severance Pay-- Under 5 U.S.C. 5595(i), DoD employees who are eligible for severance pay may elect to receive that pay as a lump sum rather than in biweekly installments.

Employee Assistance After Separation-- Most employees separated by RIFs are entitled to payment for unused annual leave, severance pay (based on salary, years of service, and age), and unemployment compensation under the policies described in Section 1 of this chapter. If eligible employees elect to continue their health insurance for up to 18 months, DoD will pay the employer portion of the premium and any administrative fees, as described above. In addition, separated employees may remain in the Priority Placement Program for up to one year after separation.

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