QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: SEPARATIONS FOR POLITICAL APPOINTEES
Thrift Savings Plan
Post Separation Employment
1. Can I be separated before the resignation date of my agency head, and how much notice will I receive?
Yes. If you are a noncareer SES appointee, you may be removed at any time. Noncareer SES appointees must be given a written notice at least 1 day before the effective date of a removal. [5 U.S.C. 3592(c); 5 CFR 359.902]
If you are a Schedule C employee, you may be separated whenever your confidential relationship with your superior or the confidential nature of your job ends. There is no statutory notice requirement. However, some agencies have elected to provide Schedule C employees with advance notice of their separations. Your Human Resources Office can advise you of your agency’s policy on notice procedures.
2. Do I have appeal or grievance rights?
There is no appeal right to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) on the removal of a noncareer SES appointee. Employees separated from their Schedule C positions have no appeal rights to MSPB. In some agencies, noncareer SES appointees and Schedule C employees may grieve their separations under an agency administrative grievance system or another agency dispute resolution system. Your Human Resources Office can advise you if your agency permits such grievances.
3. Do I have additional procedural and/or appeal rights if I am a veteran?
An employee’s status as a veteran does not change an employee's rights beyond those described in the answers to Questions 1 and 2 above.
4. If my boss has a statutory term appointment that extends beyond the resignation date of my agency head, do I have to leave before the resignation date?
Not necessarily. This, too, will be up to your agency.
5. If my boss is asked to stay beyond the agency head’s resignation date, will I be allowed to remain in my position also?
Your continued employment may depend on whether both your confidential working relationship with your boss and the need for such a working relationship to do your job continue to exist.
6. Can my agency provide outplacement assistance?
If your agency offers outplacement services to all agency employees, noncareer SES appointees and Schedule C employees may use them.
7. Can my agency pay my travel and transportation expenses when I leave Government service?
The Government is not authorized to pay relocation expenses for separating Presidential appointees, noncareer SES appointees, or Schedule C appointees to return to private industry or to their place of residence. See the General Services Administration’s website for additional information about travel and transportation allowances, in particular those for departing political appointees. (http://www.gsa.gov/travelpolicy)
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8. What happens to my accrued annual and sick leave?
When your Federal employment ends, you will receive a lump-sum payment for any unused annual leave. The lump-sum payment is taxable and equals the pay you would have received if you had remained in Federal service on annual leave (as provided in OPM regulations). This payment excludes any allowances that are paid for the sole purpose of encouraging an employee to remain in Government service, such as retention incentives and physicians’ comparability allowances. No payment is made for accrued sick leave. Generally, sick leave will be recredited if you are reemployed in a Federal position.
9. Will I be eligible for severance pay?
No. Employees serving under noncareer SES or Schedule C appointments are not eligible for severance pay.
10. If I am separated, will I be eligible for unemployment compensation?
The U.S. Department of Labor advises that Presidential appointees, noncareer and limited SES appointees, and Schedule C employees are generally eligible for benefits under the
Unemployment Compensation for Federal Employees (UCFE) program because their separation from Federal service is viewed as being involuntary (i.e., occurring through no fault of their own). To make State unemployment compensation offices are aware that your separation is due to a change in agency leadership, it is important that this reason be clearly indicated on the SF-50 (Notification of Personnel Action) and all UCFE claims inquiry forms. Agencies are encouraged to use reasons such as “separation due to change in agency leadership” or “separation due to transition to new Presidential administration.”
11. If I resign, will I be eligible for unemployment compensation?
If you resign by request due to a change in Presidential administrations or agency leadership, you may be eligible, provided you meet all other State-specific eligibility requirements. If you resign before being requested to do so, you may not be eligible. To assure that State Workforce Agencies are aware that your resignation is by request due to a change in Presidential administrations or agency leadership, it is important that this be clearly stated in your written resignation. Your agency should also indicate the same on the SF-50 and all UCFE claims inquiry forms. Again, you should check with your State Workforce Agency if you have any questions.
12. What will my SF-50 say if I resign or if I am separated?
If you resign from your position due to a change in agency leadership or as a result of a transition to a new Presidential administration, the “Remarks” section of your SF-50 (Block 45) will state “Reason for Resignation” and will then summarize the reason you provided in your written resignation. You should state as your reason for resignation, “Resignation due to a change in Presidential administrations” or “Resignation due to a change in agency leadership.” If your resignation is requested, you should state, “Resignation due to a change in Presidential administrations” or “Resignation by request due to a change in agency leadership.” If you are separated, your agency will state in Block 45 under the “Reason for Termination” that you were separated “due to a change in Presidential administrations” or “due to a change in agency leadership.” (Note: The reason given for resignation may affect your eligibility for unemployment benefits. Resigning before receiving a request to resign is generally considered an unprompted resignation and is not usually viewed as sufficient for unemployment compensation purposes. See also Questions 10, 11, and 13; pages 41 and 42.)
13. How do I apply for unemployment compensation?
States act as agents of the Department of Labor in the taking, processing, and payment of UCFE benefits. Therefore, applications are generally filed with a State Workforce Agency in the State of the employee’s last official duty station. Employees returning from overseas can file in the State of residence after the most recent period of employment. Most States accept UCFE applications by telephone or through the Internet, so you may not have to report in person to file a claim. To locate unemployment benefit information in the State of your choosing, visit http://www.servicelocator.org/OWSLinks.asp. When you file a claim with the appropriate State agency, you may be asked to provide a copy of your Standard Form (SF) 8 (Notice to Federal Employee about Unemployment Insurance), a copy of your SF-50 (Notification of Personnel
Action), and/or copies of your leave and earnings statement. A copy of the SF-8 is shown in Appendix D.
Unemployment benefits are payable under State unemployment insurance laws. To receive these benefits, you usually must register with the local unemployment office in the State of your last duty station. Employees returning from overseas file in the State of residence. When you file a claim with the State Workforce Agency, you must provide a completed copy of your SF-8 and proof of your Federal employment earnings (an earnings and leave statement). If you have moved out of the State of your last duty station, you can file your claim by contacting the unemployment insurance (UI) agency of the State of your last duty station, or you may contact the UI agency of your State of residence. If you resigned by request, you may need to provide a copy of the request when filing. Your agency’s Human Resources Office will provide you with a copy of form SF-8 and answer any questions you may have in this area.
14. Can I keep my Federal employee health insurance coverage when I leave?
After separation, your group health insurance continues at no cost for 31 days. In addition, if you file an election with the separating agency and you pay both the employee and employer cost (plus 2 percent administrative cost), your current plan, or another Federal Employees Health Benefits plan you may choose, can be continued temporarily for 18 months. When the group coverage ends, you have a right to convert it to non-group coverage if offered by your health plan or you can enroll on or off the Health Insurance Marketplace.
If you retire under a retirement system for Federal employees, you can continue your group health insurance into retirement, provided you qualify for an immediate annuity and you were enrolled for the 5 years of service immediately before retirement, or – if less than 5 years – for all service since your first opportunity to enroll. As a retiree, you would pay the same contribution for health insurance as active employees do.
15. Can I keep my Federal employee life insurance coverage when I leave?
Life insurance continues for 31 days after separation at no cost, and the insurance can be converted. Under the conversion privilege, you may convert all or any part of your Basic and Optional insurance to a non-group policy, with rates based on age and class of risk. No medical examination is required, although you may be asked a few questions about your health to see if you qualify for a lower premium.
If you retire under a retirement system for Federal employees, your group life insurance (but not accidental death and dismemberment) can be continued into retirement, provided you qualify for an immediate annuity and you were enrolled for purposes of each type of coverage for at least the 5 years before retirement, or since the first opportunity to enroll if you had coverage for less than 5 years. As a retiree, you would pay the same premiums as employees, except that premiums stop at age 65, when the amount of insurance begins to decrease by 2 percent per month. The post-retirement reduction continues until the Basic and Option A coverage is 25 percent of its original value in force at retirement and until the other optional insurance expires completely. At the time of retirement, you can also elect (via the Standard Form 2818 “Continuation of Life Insurance as an Annuitant or Compensationer”) to pay additional premiums to prevent the Basic and Option B and/or Option C coverages (if applicable) from reducing after you reach age 65.
16. Can I keep my Federal long term care insurance coverage when I leave?
Long term care insurance coverage is fully portable, which means it continues without change when employees leave the Federal Government – the same product and the same price – as long as premiums continue to be paid. OPM is still the policyholder and the coverage continues to be administered by Long Term Care Partners, LLC. If the employee is paying premiums through direct bill or automatic bank withdrawal, those arrangements continue unchanged. However, employees paying through payroll deduction should contact Long Term Care Partners directly so that they can switch their payment method to direct bill or automatic bank withdrawal.
17. Can I keep my Federal dental and/or vision insurance coverage when I leave?
After separation, FEDVIP coverage terminates unless you are eligible for an immediate annuity.
If an employee retires under a retirement system for Federal employees, FEDVIP coverage eligibility is retained. Retirees must have retired with an immediate annuity (a FERS Minimum Retirement Age plus 10 annuity, postponed, counts as an immediate annuity). Those in receipt of a deferred annuity are not eligible to enroll in FEDVIP. However, unlike FEHB coverage and FEGLI coverage, there is no length of time you must be enrolled in FEDVIP as an active employee in order to continue coverage after retirement.
18. What are the basic age and service rules for retirement?
Under the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), voluntary retirement is available at the minimum retirement age (MRA, currently age 56) with 30 years of service, age 60 with 20 years, or age 62 with 5 years. Individuals under FERS can also retire on a reduced annuity at MRA with as little as 10 years of service. Under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), you can retire voluntarily after reaching age 55 with 30 years of service, age 60 with 20 years, or age 62 with 5 years.
19. How do I know if I am eligible for early retirement?
You would be eligible for early retirement if you qualify for a discontinued service retirement (DSR) based on an involuntary separation (see next question) and have the required combination of age and service. Under both FERS and CSRS, you must be age 50 and have at least 20 years of service, or you may retire at any age if you have at least 25 years of service.
20. What is considered an involuntary separation for purposes of qualifying for discontinued service retirement?
Generally, a separation is qualifying for DSR if it is an agency-initiated action that is not a removal for cause on charges of misconduct or delinquency. A resignation qualifies you for DSR if you resign in response to a written request from an administration representative having the authority to request such resignation or the new agency head. The resignation of a Presidentially-appointed policy-making officer qualifies for DSR whenever the individual’s resignation is accepted by the President. When it is known that a Presidential appointee is leaving, the resignation of a noncareer SES or Schedule C appointee who works for that person is also considered an involuntary separation for purposes of DSR.
21. What if I am not yet eligible for retirement?
You might be eligible for a deferred annuity. Under both FERS and CSRS, if you have at least 5 years of civilian service, you may receive a deferred annuity at age 62. Also, a FERS employee with at least 10 years of Federal service (which must include at least 5 years of civilian service) may elect to receive a deferred annuity as early as the minimum retirement age (see Question 18; page 44). To qualify for deferred benefits, you must leave your retirement contributions in the retirement fund. If you have less than 5 years of civilian service, you do not qualify for a deferred annuity.
Whether or not you qualify for a deferred benefit, you may elect to receive a refund of your contributions as long as you are not eligible for an immediate annuity. To qualify for the refund, you must be separated for at least 31 days and apply for the refund at least 31 days before you qualify for a deferred annuity.
Generally, interest is payable on FERS refunds, but no interest is payable on CSRS refunds. Desirability of the refund depends on individual circumstances (how far from or close to retirement you are and whether you anticipate future Federal employment). You can reinstate credit for the service if you return to Federal service under CSRS or FERS and redeposit the refund with interest.
22. With regard to my benefits, is there anything else I need to watch out for?
You should ask your agency Human Resources Office to look at your particular circumstances. For example, you may need to make a deposit for military service before you leave the agency. Your Human Resources Office will be able to give you specific answers to your questions.
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Thrift Savings Plan (TSP)
23. What are my TSP withdrawal options after I leave Federal service?
The TSP provides several ways to withdraw your account.
A combination of any of the above three full withdrawal options is called a “mixed withdrawal."
You can have the TSP transfer all or part of any single payment or, in some cases, a series of monthly payments, to a traditional Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or eligible employer plan. Payments to you can be deposited directly into your checking or savings account by means of electronic funds transfer (EFT).
24. Can I leave my money in my account, and can I add to this money after I leave Federal service?
You can leave the money in your account. You cannot make direct deposits. However, under certain circumstances, you can make transfers (or rollovers) of eligible distributions from an eligible retirement plan, including a traditional IRA and an eligible employer plan (or its designated financial institution). Only TSP participants who have open accounts can transfer money into the TSP. This includes participants who are separated from Federal civilian service. However, a separated participant who is receiving monthly payments from his or her TSP account cannot transfer money into it.
Your account will continue to accrue earnings, and you can continue to move your money among the TSP investment funds by making interfund transfers. Caution: You must receive your account in a single payment or begin receiving monthly payments from the Thrift Savings Plan, or from the annuity vendor, by April 1 of the year following the year you turn 70 ½ .
25. If I leave Federal service, can I have the TSP transfer my payment to an Individual Retirement Arrangement (IRA) or other eligible retirement plan?
Yes, you can have the TSP transfer all or part of a single payment to an IRA or other eligible retirement plan. You also can transfer certain monthly payments.
26. Where can I find tax information about TSP disbursements?
For detailed information about withdrawing your account, see the booklet, Withdrawing Your TSP Account after Leaving Federal Service. For detailed information about the tax consequences of your withdrawal choices and Federal income tax withholding requirements, see the TSP tax notice, “Important Tax Information about Payments from your TSP Account.” The booklet and notice are available from the TSP website (www.tsp.gov). Also, your agency Human Resources Office must give you this information when you leave Federal service. You should also ask your State and local tax authorities about State and local taxes.
27. Will I keep the FERS Agency Automatic (1 percent) Contributions to TSP when I leave?
If you meet the TSP vesting requirements when you leave Federal service, you are entitled to the Agency Automatic (1 percent) Contributions in your account and their earnings. Most FERS employees become vested in their Agency Automatic (1 percent) Contributions after completing 3 years of Federal (generally civilian) service. However, employees who are in one of the following positions at separation are vested after 2 years of civilian service:
An Executive Schedule position listed in 5 U.S.C. 5312, 5313, 5314, 5315, or 5316.
A position placed in level IV or level V of the Executive Schedule, under 5 U.S.C. 5317.A position in the executive branch that is excepted from the competitive service by the Office of Personnel Management because of the confidential and policy-determining character of the position (i.e., a Schedule C position).
28. How soon can employees start participating in the Thrift Plan?
If you are a new FERS employee or rehired FERS or CSRS employee, you may begin contributing to the TSP immediately.
29. Does my Federal employment have an impact on my Social Security benefits?
Yes, it could affect your benefits. If you have ever worked under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) or another retirement plan for Federal employees that doesn't include Social Security, such as the Foreign Service Retirement System, and you receive an annuity based on that service, these two provisions of the Social Security law may affect your Social Security benefits:
The Government Pension Offset (GPO) may reduce or eliminate any spousal benefit you are otherwise eligible to receive. The GPO doesn't apply if you were required by law to have coverage under the CSRS-Offset provisions that are a combination of CSRS coverage and Social Security, or if you were automatically covered by FERS without electing coverage.
Your agency’s benefits officer can help you determine whether either of these provisions will affect your benefits. The Social Security Administration also has fact sheets: The Windfall Elimination Provision (Publication No. 05-10045) and Government Pension Offset (Publication No. 05-10007), that can be printed from www.ssa.gov or ordered by calling 1-800-772-1213. Benefit estimates received from the Social Security Administration do not reflect reductions under the WEP or GPO.
The Social Security website, http://www.socialsecurity.gov, also allows workers to view an online version of their Social Security earnings and benefits statements. You can also estimate your retirement, disability and survivor benefits. If you enter your earnings history (found on your Social Security Statement) and specific information about your non-covered pension, the detailed calculator can refigure your benefit, including the adjustment for the WEP.
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30. Are there restrictions on my seeking non-Federal employment while I am currently employed? Will I have any post-employment restrictions?
Yes, there are a number of restrictions. However, because of the complexity of the issues involved, you should address any questions to your agency’s Designated Agency Ethics Official or to the Office of Government Ethics.
31. May I compete for other Federal jobs in my agency or in other Federal agencies?
You may compete for any Federal career jobs that are open for applications from the general public. This would include jobs announced through OPM and jobs announced by agencies when the announcement specifies that applications will be accepted from all sources. However, many agency jobs are open only to current career employees or status candidates. You could not apply for those positions unless you had previous Federal career service and the announcements were open to reinstatement or status candidates.
Some non-political jobs are filled in what is called the excepted service. These jobs are excepted from the specific appointment procedures required for competitive career jobs although they are subject to the basic principle of selection based on merit. Agencies may establish their own procedures and qualification requirements for filling certain excepted service positions. If you qualify for such a position, you will be considered in accordance with the agency’s procedures.
You may compete for an SES career appointment when the position is advertised under proper merit staffing procedures. However, if you are a noncareer SES appointee, you cannot receive a career SES appointment in your current position, or a successor position, since there is no bona fide vacancy.
32. Where and how can I find current job openings and other information on applying for other Federal jobs?
OPM provides access to employment information through USAJOBS, the official job site of the United States Federal Government. USAJOBS can be accessed through the Internet at www.usajobs.gov.
USAJOBS enables job seekers to use a single system to locate many positions across the Federal Government and use a single résumé to apply for positions across the Government.
33. What are my reinstatement rights if I previously worked for the Federal Government in a career (competitive) position?
You do not have a right (i.e., an entitlement) to be reinstated to a career job. However, if you are eligible for veterans’ preference, if you had career tenure, or if you have not had a break in Federal service of more than 3 years since you left a competitive service job, you do have reinstatement eligibility in the competitive service. This means that you may apply for jobs open only to status candidates and do not have to compete for employment with candidates from outside the Government. However, agencies do not have to consider reinstatement candidates for any particular job.
However, you have lifetime reinstatement eligibility if you left a permanent competitive service job with career tenure or you are a veterans’ preference eligible and left with career-conditional tenure. (Non-veterans’ preference eligibles who separate with career-conditional tenure generally have 3 years of reinstatement eligibility.) [5 CFR 315.401].
You may be reinstated in the SES if you previously successfully completed the 1-year SES probationary period as a career appointee, or if you converted to a career SES appointment when the SES was established in 1979. However, separation from the SES career appointment must not have been for performance or disciplinary reasons. [5 CFR 317.702]
34. If I am reemployed in the Federal Government, must the agency match my current salary and grade?
An agency is not required to match your salary and grade. However, if you are reemployed in a General Schedule (GS) position, an agency may, if its internal rules permit, set your basic pay based on the highest previous rate you received in the Federal Government, but not above the highest rate for the grade of the new position. If you are reemployed following a break in service of at least 90 days, an agency may, if its internal rules permit, use the superior qualifications and special needs pay-setting authority to set your GS pay above step 1, not to exceed step 10, based on your superior qualifications or a special need of the agency for your services.
35. If I retire, can I later return to Federal service?
Yes. However, depending on the type of annuity you receive, in most cases your annuity will terminate or your salary as a reemployed annuitant will be offset by the amount of the annuity. There are exceptions, as indicated in the paragraph on “Reemployed Annuitants” on page 24. If you received a lump-sum payment for unused annual leave and are reemployed in the Federal service before the end of the annual leave period covered by the lump-sum payment, you must refund that portion of the lump-sum payment. The refunded portion covers the period between the date of reemployment and the expiration of the lump-sum leave period. Upon full refund, your employing agency will recredit to you an amount of annual leave that is equal to the days or hours of work remaining between the date of reemployment and the expiration of the lump-sum leave period.
(see attached PDF)
SAMPLE SEPARATION NOTICE
Notice of Removal to an Employee who does not have a property right to the job under law or regulation, e.g., Noncareer SES Appointee, Schedule C without status in the position.
Mr. C. B. Blank
4731 99th Avenue Washington, D.C.
Dear Mr. Blank:
This is to notify you that your service as (insert position title) will be terminated effective at the close of business, (insert date) .
Under the law, incoming leadership has the authority to select staff in whom it has personal confidence to carry out its policy goals. This often necessitates the replacement of existing personnel. As a result, this action should not be construed in any way as a reflection on you personally or on your performance under the prior leadership.
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SAMPLE STANDARD FORM (SF) 8 (NOTICE TO FEDERAL EMPLOYEE ABOUT UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE) (see attached pdf)
QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: SENIOR EXECUTIVE SERVICE
This appendix provides technical guidance, in the form of questions and answers, on transition to a new Presidential term or Presidential administration as it may affect the Senior Executive Service (SES). This material supplements the information in other parts of the Transition Guidance. The questions and answers are organized as follows:
1. Are there any special procedures that agencies must follow in making career appointments during the transition?
As with staffing actions at any time, appointments must meet all civil service laws, rules, and regulations and be free of any impropriety. Agencies should also refer to the memorandum of January 11, 2016, to agency heads concerning limitations on appointments and awards during the election period (Appendix B). (See also Question 27; page 77.)
All initial career appointments to the SES must be made under SES merit staffing procedures, and the executive qualifications of the selected candidate must be approved by an OPM-administered Qualifications Review Board (QRB) before appointment can occur. Since the SES is separate from the competitive and excepted services, there is no provision for noncompetitive movement from the other services to a career SES appointment. [5 U.S.C. 3393; 5 CFR part 317, subpart E.]
2. Does a transition affect the processing of actions by a Qualifications Review Board?
OPM will impose a moratorium on the processing of an agency’s SES Qualifications Review Board (QRB) cases when the agency head departs for any reason, effective on the date of his or her departure. A QRB moratorium will also be imposed when the head of an agency announces his or her intention to leave that office, effective immediately upon that announcement. This is done to enable the incoming head of that agency to exercise his or her prerogative to make or approve executive resource decisions that will affect the agency’s performance during his or her tenure.
While a QRB moratorium is intended to preserve the prerogatives of an incoming agency head, this must be balanced against the need to ensure the continuity of agency operations during such transitions. Accordingly, OPM will consider requests for exceptions to an agency’s QRB moratorium on a case-by-case basis. Requests for exceptions should be signed by the agency head or the official who is designated to act in the agency head’s absence and must specifically address the potential for adverse impact on national security, homeland security, or critical agency mission, program, or function if a particular SES candidate is not immediately certified.
[5 CFR 317.502 (d)]
3. Do individuals who formerly held career SES appointments need to compete and be approved by a Qualifications Review Board to get a new career SES appointment?
If the individual successfully completed the SES probationary period or did not have to serve one (e.g., converted to the SES as a career appointee when the SES was established in 1979), the individual may be noncompetitively reinstated in the SES. However, separation from the SES must not have been for performance or disciplinary reasons. There is no time limit on reinstatement eligibility after leaving the SES. [5 U.S.C. 3593; 5 CFR part 317, subpart G]
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REASSIGNMENTS AND DETAILS OF CAREER APPOINTEES
4. What authority does an agency head have to reassign career SES appointees?
Career SES appointees may be reassigned to any SES position in the agency for which they are qualified without OPM approval. One of the basic premises of the SES was to enable an agency head to reassign senior executives to best accomplish the agency’s mission. However, there are a number of restrictions in the law to protect career executives from arbitrary or capricious actions, as indicated in Questions 5 through 14. [5 U.S.C. 3395; 5 CFR 317.901]
5. What advance notice requirements apply to the reassignment of career SES appointees?
The appointee must be given a 15-day advance written notice if the reassignment is within the same commuting area and a 60-day advance written notice if the reassignment is between commuting areas. The agency must consult with the appointee before providing a 60-day advance notice for a geographic reassignment, and the advance notice must include the reasons for the action. [5 U.S.C. 3395(a)(2); 5 CFR 317.901(b)]
6. If a career SES appointee is reassigned to an SES position where the individual will have a policy-making role, is it necessary for the appointee to give up his or her career status?
No. A career SES appointee may be reassigned to any SES position and retain career status. If a career appointee elects to accept a noncareer or limited appointment, the voluntary nature of the action must be documented in writing before the effective date of the action, and a copy of the documentation must be maintained as a permanent record in the individual’s Official Personnel Folder. [5 CFR 317.904]
7. What protections do career SES appointees have against involuntary reassignment?
A career SES appointee cannot be involuntarily reassigned within 120 days after the appointment of a new agency head or the appointment of a new noncareer supervisor who has authority to make the initial performance appraisal of the career appointee. The 120-day moratorium is a protection built into the law to prevent peremptory reassignments before the capabilities of the career appointee are known.
This restriction does not apply to a reassignment action taken as a result of an unsatisfactory performance rating, if the rating was given before the appointment of the new agency head or noncareer supervisor. However, if an unsatisfactory rating is given during a moratorium, the resulting reassignment cannot be effected until the moratorium ends. (See Question 26; page 77) concerning the moratorium on appraisal and rating of a career appointee’s performance within 120 days after the beginning of a new President’s term of office.) [5 U.S.C. 3395(e); 5 CFR 317.901]
8. How is the advance notice requirement affected by the moratorium?
The 120-day moratorium does not interrupt or affect the progress of a 15- or 60-day advance notice; however, it can prevent the agency from taking action immediately upon expiration of the advance notice period. This depends upon when the advance notice is issued. If an advance notice is issued after the 120-day moratorium begins, the reassignment may not be effected until after the moratorium ends. If an advance notice is issued before the 120-day moratorium starts, the reassignment may be effected when the advance notice period ends even if the moratorium is still in effect.
It is not appropriate for a proposed agency head or noncareer supervisor to have someone else issue a reassignment notice before the 120-day moratorium starts to avoid application of a moratorium. The action must be initiated independent of the incoming agency head or noncareer supervisor. [5 U.S.C. 3395(e); 5 CFR 317.901]
9. Who is covered by a moratorium initiated by the appointment of a noncareer supervisor?
A moratorium on involuntary reassignments initiated by the appointment of a noncareer supervisor applies only to those career appointees for whom the noncareer supervisor gives the initial performance appraisal. It does not apply to those career appointees for whom the new noncareer appointee serves as the higher level supervisor and functions as a reviewing official or final rater but does not give the initial performance appraisal. While this moratorium precludes involuntarily reassigning specific career appointees, it does not otherwise restrict a new noncareer appointee’s delegated authority to reassign other career appointees to whom no moratorium applies. [5 U.S.C. 3395(e); 5 CFR 317.901(c)]
10. Who is considered a “noncareer appointee” for purposes of initiating the moratorium on involuntary reassignments?
A noncareer appointee includes an SES noncareer or limited appointee, an appointee in a position filled by Schedule C appointment, or an appointee in an Executive Schedule or equivalent position that is not required to be filled competitively. [5 CFR 317.901(c)]
11. Can an agency head take an involuntary reassignment action instead of a noncareer supervisor?
If a moratorium is initiated by the appointment of a noncareer appointee, the agency head may not involuntarily reassign a career appointee to whom the moratorium applies (as defined in Question 9), even if the agency head has been in office more than 120 days. [5 U.S.C. 3395(e); 5 CFR 317.901(c)]
12. Is a moratorium on involuntary reassignments initiated when an “acting” agency head or noncareer supervisor is named?
No. The designation of an “acting” agency head or noncareer supervisor (e.g., by a detail or when a deputy acts in the position) is not considered an appointment. Therefore, the statutory moratorium technically does not apply. However, the agency, at its discretion, may apply the moratorium in such situations. In this case, if the “acting” individual is later permanently appointed to the position without a break in service, time spent under the agency-imposed moratorium counts toward the 120-day moratorium initiated by the permanent appointment. [5 CFR 317.901(c)(5)]
13. May career SES appointees be reassigned voluntarily before the 15- or 60-day advance notice period and/or the 120-day moratorium on involuntary reassignments has ended?
Yes. However, the career appointee must agree in writing to the reassignment. The agreement is retained as a temporary record in the appointee’s Official Personnel Folder. [5 CFR 317.901(c)(3)]
14. May career SES appointees be detailed during the 120-day moratorium on involuntary reassignments?
Yes. If a career appointee is detailed during the moratorium, the first 60 days of the detail (or any combination of details) do not count against the 120 days. For example, if the employee is placed on a 90-day detail, the first 60 days would be added to the 120 days, and the moratorium would last 180 days. Although there is no limit on the total length of a detail during the moratorium, any detail during the period must meet the detail requirements in the regulations and should be made judiciously and only when there is a clear, bona-fide need. [5 U.S.C. 3395(e); 5 CFR 317.901(c)(4) and 317.903]
15. Does the moratorium on involuntary reassignments apply to a realignment or position abolishment?
No. The 120-day restriction does not apply to a realignment, which is the movement of an employee and the employee’s position when a transfer of function or an organization change occurs within the same agency and there is not a change in the employee’s position.
The 120-day restriction does not preclude the abolishment of a position during the moratorium. For example, a position could be abolished, and the incumbent could elect immediate discontinued service retirement or agree to an immediate voluntary reassignment. However, the incumbent could not be involuntarily reassigned until the 120 days have elapsed. [See 5 CFR 317.901(a) for definition of reassignment]
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CAREER APPOINTEES WHO ACCEPT APPOINTMENT OUTSIDE THE SES
16. What benefits may career SES appointees retain if they accept Presidential appointments or certain other appointments to positions paid equivalent to Executive Level V or higher?
The following provisions apply to a career SES appointee who is appointed by the President, subject to Senate confirmation (PAS), to a civilian position in the executive branch which is not in the SES, and for which the rate of basic pay payable is equal to or greater than the rate payable for level V of the Executive Schedule. The same provisions apply to a career appointee who is appointed (by the President or other appointing authority) to a civilian position in the executive branch which is not in the SES and which either is covered by the Executive Schedule or has a rate of basic pay fixed by statute at a rate equal to one of the levels of the Executive Schedule.
If the appointment is made without a break in service, the individual may elect to retain any or all of the following SES benefits: SES basic pay (including the SES aggregate pay limit); eligibility for performance and rank awards; severance pay; annual and sick leave; and retirement. (The individual retains his or her current retirement coverage. However, if the position to which the individual is appointed is an Executive Schedule position listed in 5 U.S.C. 5312-5317, the individual is subject to mandatory Social Security coverage. An individual under CSRS would then be covered under CSRS-Offset.)
If the individual elects to retain severance pay coverage, the individual is entitled to severance pay if involuntarily separated from the Presidential appointment and if otherwise eligible, even if the individual is entitled to reinstatement in the SES (see Question 17; page 73). A resignation is considered an involuntary separation for severance pay purposes if the SES member resigns after receiving a written resignation request or notice of separation from the President or an authorized representative. A self-initiated resignation is not qualifying for severance pay.
See Question 27 on page 77 for information about restrictions on granting awards to Presidential appointees who were SES career appointees and retained awards eligibility. [5 U.S.C. 3392(c); 5 CFR part 317, subpart H]
17. What are the reinstatement rights of a former career SES appointee who took a Presidential appointment?
A former career SES member who received a Presidential appointment without a break in service from the career SES appointment is entitled to reinstatement to the SES. (This applies regardless of the pay rate of the position held as a Presidential appointee.) The individual must have left the Presidential appointment for reasons other than misconduct, neglect of duty, or malfeasance. OPM will provide placement assistance (and direct placement if necessary) if the individual applies to OPM within 90 days after separation. The individual also may negotiate his or her own reinstatement without OPM assistance. Note that a former post-probationary career SES appointee who can elect to retain certain SES benefits under 5 U.S.C. 3392(c) (see Question 16; page 72) but is not a Presidential appointee is eligible for, but not entitled to, reinstatement to the SES. A former probationary career SES appointee who can elect to retain benefits under 5 U.S.C. 3392(c) but is not a Presidential appointee is not eligible for reinstatement to the career SES appointment. [5 U.S.C. 3593(b); 5 CFR part 317, subpart G]
If the individual elected to continue SES pay while serving in the Presidential appointment (see Question 16; page 72), the appointee’s pay rate does not change on reinstatement unless 12 months have elapsed since his or her last pay adjustment, except as allowed under OPM regulations. If 12 months have elapsed, the appointee’s pay may be increased. Any adjustments in the individual’s pay will be subject to the normal SES pay rules. If the individual did not elect to continue SES pay and is later reinstated in the SES, the agency may set his or her pay at a rate within the SES pay range, subject to the requirements in OPM regulations. [5 CFR part 534]
If eligible, the individual may apply for discontinued service retirement (DSR) when the Presidential appointment is terminated, instead of reinstatement in the SES, whether or not the individual has received a job offer in the SES. OPM considers the resignation of a Presidential appointee to be an involuntary separation for DSR purposes whenever it is submitted and accepted. [CSRS and FERS Handbook for Personnel and Payroll Offices, Chapter 44 – see http://www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/hod.htm]
18. Can SES appointees be reinstated to the competitive service?
Yes, if they held a competitive service appointment before their SES appointment and meet certain other conditions. Career SES appointees who are eligible for reinstatement in the competitive service may be appointed to any competitive service position for which they qualify, at any grade or salary level, including senior-level positions. We advise appointees interested in reinstatement to the competitive service to consult with their agency’s Human Resources Office to verify their reinstatement eligibility. [5 CFR 315.401 and 335.103(c)(3)(vii)]
NONCAREER AND LIMITED APPOINTMENTS
19. Are there any restrictions on making noncareer or limited SES appointments?
Yes. The agency must receive a noncareer appointment authority from OPM before making the appointment. When the individual leaves the position, the appointment authority reverts to OPM. The agency must get a new authority from OPM before making another noncareer appointment to the position. (Note that an agency must obtain OPM approval for an appointment authority to reassign a noncareer appointee to another SES position or to transfer a noncareer appointee from another agency.) The agency approves the qualifications of the appointee, and the appointment is made noncompetitively. The White House Office of Presidential Personnel must also approve each noncareer appointment before the agency makes that appointment, except that an appointment to or from any SES position within an independent regulatory commission is not subject to review or approval by any entity of the Executive Office of the President. [See 5 U.S.C. 3392(d).]
Agencies must obtain limited appointment authorities from OPM on a case-by-case basis, but OPM has provided a “pool” of authorities equal to 3 percent of each agency’s SES space allocation. An agency can use its pool without prior OPM approval for SES limited appointment of career or career-type non-SES employees to positions appropriate for the type of appointment. Such appointments are made to SES positions established within the agency’s existing number of SES spaces, unless the agency requests and OPM approves a new temporary SES space.
The law limits the total number of SES positions that can be filled by noncareer appointment to 10 percent of the Governmentwide SES space allocation and 25 percent of an individual agency’s allocation (unless the allocation is 3 or less). Additional limitations are imposed, administratively or by other statutes, on an agency-by-agency basis. The law also limits the number of SES positions that can be filled by limited appointment to 5 percent of the Governmentwide SES space allocation. [5 CFR part 317, subpart F]
20. What assistance is available from OPM to help agencies during transition?
OPM may make SES limited term appointment authorities available to agencies for positions related to a transition. These appointments normally are for no longer than 6 months. (If an SES authority would not be appropriate, e.g., the position is senior-level rather than SES, under conditions prescribed in regulation, agencies may establish temporary transitional Schedule C positions during the 1-year period immediately following a change in Presidential administration, the appointment of a new department or agency head, or the creation of a new department or agency to facilitate transition.) [See 5 CFR 213.3302 for Schedule C]
21. Can SES noncareer or limited appointments be used for individuals who are awaiting Senate confirmation?
Yes. OPM may authorize a noncareer or limited appointment authority for an individual who has been nominated by the President, but whose appointment is pending Senate confirmation. Such appointments may not be made to the position for which the individual has been nominated. Rather, the individual normally serves in an advisory capacity in another position until confirmed. (Instead of an SES appointment, agencies may use a consultant appointment under 5 U.S.C. 3109, provided the appointment is not to an SES position, the individual meets the definition of a consultant, and the work assigned requires consultant services. See also Questions 33 and 34; page 79, and 5 CFR part 304.)
22. Are individuals who receive SES limited emergency and limited term appointments eligible for health benefits, life insurance, and retirement coverage?
Yes, if the agency designates the appointment as provisional or the appointment is for more than 1 year. For example, an agency may designate an appointment of 1 year or less as provisional when it is expected that the individual will be converted to a nontemporary SES appointment (career or noncareer) or to a non-temporary Presidential appointment upon OPM approval, White House clearance, and/or confirmation by the Senate. The limited emergency or limited term appointment must be designated as a “provisional appointment” on the SF-50, Notification of Personnel Action. The appointee will then be eligible for health benefits, life insurance, and retirement coverage. [See 5 CFR 316.403; 5 CFR 317.602 for provisional appointments]
PAY AND OTHER COMPENSATION
23. Are there any restrictions on what a new SES appointee can be paid?
The agency determines the rate of pay within the SES rate range applicable to the agency, subject to the requirements in OPM regulations. The maximum for an agency with a certified performance appraisal system is a rate equivalent to Executive Level II; otherwise, the maximum is the rate for Executive Level III. In determining the initial rate of basic pay, agencies must consider the nature and quality of the individual’s experience, qualifications, and accomplishments as they relate to the requirements of the SES position, as well as the individual’s responsibilities in the job held immediately before the SES appointment. Rates of basic pay above the rate for Executive Level III generally are reserved for those executives who possess superior leadership or other competencies. However, a senior executive’s salary above EX-III may not be reduced due to transfer from an agency with a certified performance appraisal system to an agency that does not have one. Generally, an SES member may receive a pay adjustment only once during any 12-month period. The setting of the initial SES pay rate triggers the 12-month clock. However, an agency may provide additional pay increases under certain circumstances as provided in OPM regulations. [5 U.S.C. 5383; 5 CFR part 534] [Note: There is a pay freeze for certain senior political officials in 2016. See page 19 for more information about this pay freeze.]
24. What pay and other flexibilities are available to help recruit SES personnel?
Agencies may use several discretionary pay flexibilities to deal with documented staffing difficulties. Specific statutory and regulatory conditions govern the use of each of these flexibilities. Full documentation required by laws and regulations must be maintained, and pertinent information will be subject to public scrutiny and third-party review. We caution agencies to exercise these flexibilities judiciously, especially when hiring other than career employees, and use them only when necessary to address documented staffing problems.
Recruitment or relocation incentives of up to 25 percent of annual basic pay times the number of years in the service agreement (see pages 22-23 for higher limits available with OPM approval), when it would otherwise be difficult to fill a position and the action involves recruitment of a new appointee in the Federal Government or relocation of a current appointee to a different commuting area. In return, an employee must sign an agreement to serve for a specified period of time – at least 6 months in the case of a recruitment incentive. These incentives may not be paid to an employee in a position (1) to which the individual was appointed by the President, (2) in the Senior Executive Service as a noncareer appointee, (3) which has been excepted from the competitive service by reason of its confidential, policy-determining, policy-making, or policy-advocating character, (4) designated as the head of an agency, including an agency headed by a collegial body composed of two or more individual members, (5) in which the employee is expected to receive an appointment as an the head of an agency; or (6) in the SES as a limited term appointee or limited emergency appointee when the appointment must be cleared through the White House Office of Presidential Personnel.. [5 U.S.C. 5753; 5 CFR part 575, subparts A and B]
Retention incentives of up to 25 percent of basic pay (see pages 22-23 for higher limits available with OPM approval) for an employee with unusually high or unique qualifications or serving a special agency need when the employee would be likely to leave Federal service or, under certain limited conditions, likely to leave for a different position in the Federal service. (The employee coverage exclusions noted above for recruitment and relocation incentives also apply to retention incentives.) [5 U.S.C. 5754; 5 CFR part 575, subpart C]
Waiver of dual compensation restrictions for civilian retirees in certain situations. In general, approval must be obtained from OPM on a case-by-case basis, and the agency must have experienced exceptional difficulty in recruiting a qualified employee for the position. Agencies are cautioned that these waivers are intended to be rare exceptions, used only in the most unusual circumstances – a detailed justification that covers the criteria specified in the regulations must accompany the waiver request. (Agencies should send waiver requests for positions above GS-15 to the Deputy Associate Director for Executive Resources and Employee Development.) As noted in the paragraph on “Reemployed Annuitants” on page 24, there are exceptions under which agencies may grant waivers without OPM approval under limited circumstances. [5 U.S.C. 8344 and 8468; 5 CFR part 553]
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25. What leave benefits are available to SES employees?
SES employees are covered by the Federal leave system. They have access to the same leave benefits that are available to other covered employees, as described on pages 24 through 28.
26. What effect does a change in Presidential administrations have on performance appraisals?
Agencies cannot appraise or rate career SES appointees’ performance for 120 days following the inauguration of a new President (i.e., from January 20 through May 19, 2017). This includes the supervisor’s initial appraisal, higher level official’s review, a Performance Review Board’s recommendations, and an appointing authority’s final rating. The length of the performance appraisal period is not extended by this moratorium – it just delays the appraisal and rating actions. However, this moratorium does not preclude an interim appraisal when an appointee changes positions or a supervisor leaves, nor does it preclude a progress review during the appraisal period. [5 U.S.C. 4314(b)(1)(C); 5 CFR 430.309(b)]
27. Are there restrictions on awards during the transition period?
Yes. There is a statutory prohibition on granting awards under 5 U.S.C. chapter 45 to senior politically-appointed officers during the Presidential election period, defined as the period from June 1, 2016, through January 20, 2017. This prohibition applies to Schedule C appointees and SES members who are not career appointees. There is also a statutory prohibition on granting cash awards under chapter 45 of title 5, United States Code, to Executive Schedule officials at any time. These restrictions do not preclude a Presidential Rank Award under 5 U.S.C. 4507 for a former career SES appointee who elected to retain eligibility for Presidential ranks under 5 U.S.C. 3392(c) upon appointment to an Executive Schedule position. Nor do they preclude an SES performance award under 5 U.S.C. 5384, which is granted under chapter 53 rather than chapter 45, for such an employee who elected to retain eligibility for performance awards. An agency may take a broad range of factors into account in exercising its discretion to determine whether to grant an award in individual cases, including budget limitations, restrictions on the size of the award pool, Congressional concerns, and Administration policy.
Note: Until further notice, agencies may not grant discretionary awards, bonuses, and similar payments to politically-appointed Federal employees. The President's August 3, 2010, memorandum freezing discretionary awards, bonuses, and similar payments for political appointees continues in effect until further notice. Agencies should continue to apply this freeze in accordance with OPM's guidance. (See CPM 2010-14 at https://www.chcoc.gov/content/guidance-freeze-discretionary-awards-bonuses-and-similar-payments-federal-employees-serving).
REMOVALS AND OTHER SEPARATIONS
28. What restrictions are there on the removal of career appointees from the SES?
Under 5 U.S.C. 3393(g), a career appointee may not be removed from the Senior Executive Service or civil service except in accordance with applicable provisions of sections 1215 (disciplinary action by the Merit Systems Protection Board based on a written complaint by the Special Counsel), 3592 (removal during the probationary period or removal at any time for less than fully successful executive performance), 3595 (removal by reduction in force), 7532 (removal in the interests of national security), or 7543 (adverse action removal).
A career SES appointee cannot be involuntarily removed for performance or during the probationary period within 120 days after the appointment (including a recess appointment) of a new agency head or the appointment of a new noncareer supervisor who has authority to remove the career appointee. This restriction does not apply to (1) any adverse action removal of a post-probationary career SES appointee under 5 U.S.C. 7543, (2) a removal under 5 U.S.C. 4314(b)(3) based on an unsatisfactory performance rating issued before the moratorium, or (3) a disciplinary removal of a probationer that was initiated before the moratorium. [5 U.S.C. 3592(b); 5 CFR 359.406 and 359.503]
29. What effect does the 120-day moratorium on removals from the SES have on completion of the 1-year SES probationary period by career appointees?
The 120-day moratorium on removals does not interrupt or affect the progress of an SES member’s 1-year probationary period. If the 120-day moratorium prevents an agency from carrying out a decision to remove a career appointee before the probationary year ends, the agency loses its opportunity to remove the individual under probationary procedures. There is one exception. The moratorium does not prevent a disciplinary removal of a probationer that was initiated before the moratorium began. [5 U.S.C. 3592(b); 5 CFR 359.406]
30. Can the resignation of an SES appointee during the change in Presidential administrations or a change in agency leadership be considered involuntary for the purpose of eligibility for discontinued service retirement (DSR)?
Yes, in certain circumstances. A resignation qualifies for DSR if the SES appointee (i.e., any noncareer appointee or a career appointee who reports to a Presidential appointee) resigns in response to a written request from an administration representative having the authority to request such resignation or from the new agency head. A copy of the request must accompany the retirement application. (Note that a career appointee is not obligated to comply with a request to resign, nor may the career appointee be removed for not submitting a resignation.)
The resignation of a Presidentially-appointed policy-making officer qualifies for DSR whenever the President accepts the individual’s resignation. When it is known that a Presidential appointee is leaving, OPM considers the resignation of a noncareer SES or Schedule C appointee who works for that person to be an involuntary separation for purposes of DSR. Agencies submitting retirement applications should document the President’s acceptance of the resignation or that the Presidential appointee for whom a separating Schedule C or noncareer SES works is leaving.
In all cases, to be eligible for DSR, the appointee must meet all the other DSR requirements, e.g., must have 25 years of service (at any age), or be age 50 and have 20 years of service.
[CSRS and FERS Handbook for Personnel and Payroll Offices, Chapter 44 – see http://www.opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/hod.htm.]
31. Under what conditions are career SES appointees who are involuntarily separated entitled to severance pay?
To be eligible for severance pay, an employee must be serving under a qualifying appointment, must have completed at least 12 months of continuous service, and must be removed from Federal service involuntarily.
An employee is not eligible for severance pay if he or she is serving under a nonqualifying appointment, declines a reasonable offer, is serving under a qualifying appointment in an agency scheduled by law or Executive order to be terminated within 1 year after the date of the appointment, is receiving injury compensation payments under subchapter I of chapter 81 of title 5, United States Code (unless the compensation is being received concurrently with pay or is the result of someone else’s death), or is eligible upon separation for an immediate annuity from a Federal civilian retirement system or from the uniformed services. For additional information on severance pay, see 5 CFR part 550, subpart G.
See also Question 16; page 72 concerning former career SES appointees who are entitled to elect to continue severance pay benefits.
32. Are noncareer or limited SES appointees entitled to severance pay?
No, since they accept their appointments with a presumed understanding that their tenure is less than career and that they are subject to removal at any time. (Exception: if a full-time limited SES appointment begins within 3 days after separation from a qualifying appointment without a time limit, the limited appointment may convey severance pay eligibility -- see your agency’s Human Resources Office.) Presidential appointees are similarly not eligible for severance pay. [See 5 CFR 550.703 for definition of "nonqualifying appointment"]
EXPERTS AND CONSULTANTS
33. How do you define “experts and consultants”?
An “expert” has unique or superior education, skills, and accomplishments in a particular field and is regarded as an authority by others in the field. The expert performs unusually difficult work beyond the usual range of competent employees in the field.
A “consultant” provides advice, options, or recommendations on issues or problems and usually has a high degree of administrative, professional, or technical experience. The consultant may also be a person affected by a program who can provide public input based on personal experience. [5 U.S.C. 3109; 5 CFR part 304]
34. What are the limitations on expert and consultant appointments?
There are limitations on the length and type of appointment as well as on the nature of the work they can do. Experts and consultants serve under temporary appointments that are either temporary not to exceed 1 year or they are intermittent. An appointment is intermittent if the appointee does not have a regular work schedule.
Experts and consultants may not serve in Senior Executive Service positions or positions that require Presidential appointment and/or Senate confirmation (but they may serve in an advisory capacity pending confirmation). It is not appropriate to assign consultants to the policy-making or managerial work that characterizes the SES.
Experts and consultants may not do work performed by the agency’s regular employees or function in the agency’s chain of command. For example, they may not supervise agency employees, direct the preparation of a report or special study, or make decisions regarding agency policies or programs. Their work must be strictly advisory in nature (reviewing/recommending) or limited to a special project requiring an exceptional level of expertise. [5 U.S.C. 3109; 5 CFR part 304]
35. How are experts and consultants paid?
Each agency determines the pay for experts and consultants based on qualifications and the work to be performed. Experts and consultants appointed under 5 U.S.C. 3109 may not be paid more than the daily or biweekly rate for GS-15, step 10, excluding locality pay, unless authorized by some other law. They may also be appointed without compensation. Experts and consultants are not subject to the General Schedule classification provisions in chapter 51 of title 5. See 5 CFR part 304 for additional information on pay limitations. [5 U.S.C. 3109; 5 CFR part 304]
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36. Can agencies have an overlap in an SES position for continuity during a change in Presidential administrations or a change in agency leadership?
No. Agencies cannot employ two individuals in the same position at the same time (“dual incumbency”). Nevertheless, there are options available to agencies to provide continuity in key positions and meet other transition needs. When an incumbent’s intention to leave has been documented, an agency may establish a different position to employ a designated successor for a brief period pending the incumbent’s departure. For example, when an office director is leaving, a temporary special assistant position could be established for a short period to facilitate orientation of the incoming director to the office’s operations. OPM may authorize the use of SES limited appointment authorities for short periods of time for temporary executive positions established under such circumstances. Agencies may also establish temporary transitional Schedule C positions for similar non-executive positions to assist with transitions, under circumstances described in Question 20. [See 5 U.S.C. 3132, 3134, and 3394; 5 CFR part 317, subpart F, for limited appointments; 5 CFR 213.3302 for transitional Schedule C appointments]
37. What special requirements are there for SES actions in independent regulatory commissions?
The appointment or removal of an SES appointee in an independent regulatory commission may not be subject, directly or indirectly, to review or approval by any officer or entity within the Executive Office of the President. [5 U.S.C. 3392(d)]
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QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS: FEDERAL BENEFITS FOR NEW POLITICAL APPOINTEES
This appendix answers some of the basic questions that new political appointees might ask about their eligibility for Federal health benefits, life insurance, and retirement coverage. It is intended primarily for first-time employees and employees (and annuitants) who are returning to Government service after a break in service of a year or more. This material supplements the information in other parts of the Transition Guide. For more detailed information, please contact your agency’s Human Resources Office.
1. Will I be eligible for Federal health benefits coverage?
Your eligibility for Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) coverage depends on the type of appointment you receive. Generally, full-time and part-time Federal employees, as well as temporary or intermittent Federal employees for whom the employing office expects the total hours in pay status (including overtime hours) plus qualifying leave without pay hours to be at least 130 hours per calendar month, are eligible to enroll in FEHB. Members of Congress and their staff should review the discussion at p. 28 above.
2. Will I be eligible for premium conversion if I enroll in a health benefits plan?
Premium conversion is a tax benefit, which allows you to allot a portion of your salary back to your employer, which your employer then uses to pay your contribution for FEHB coverage. The allotment is made on a pre-tax basis, which means that the money is not subject to Federal income, Medicare, or Social Security taxes. All employees in the executive branch of the Federal Government who are participating in the FEHB Program, and whose pay is issued by an executive branch agency, will have FEHB premiums paid under the premium conversion plan unless they affirmatively elect out of premium conversion. Also, if you are enrolled in the FEHB Program, employed outside the executive branch, or your pay is not issued by an agency of the executive branch, you may be eligible if your employer agrees to offer participation in the plan. See OPM’s website at www.opm.gov/insure for more information on premium conversion.
3. If I am eligible for Federal health benefits coverage, do I need to take any action, or is coverage automatic?
Coverage is not automatic. You must enroll within 60 days after you become eligible, and select the plan in which you want to be covered. You will be able to choose from among several fee-for-service plans and health maintenance organizations.
4. Am I able to elect an FEHB health plan option for a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP) and a Health Savings Account (HSA) account?
The FEHB Program offers HDHPs with HSAs and health reimbursement arrangements (HRAs) for those not eligible for HSAs. An HDHP with an HSA provides traditional medical coverage and a tax-free way to help you build savings for future medical expenses.
The HDHP features higher annual deductibles (e.g., a minimum of $1,300 for self only and $2, 600 for self-plus-one or for Self and Family coverage) than other traditional health plans. The maximum out-of-pocket limit for HDHPs participating in the FEHB Program in 2016 are $6,550 for self only and $13,100 for self-plus-one and Self and Family enrollment. The HSA and HRA associated with each HDHP will be funded from premiums. The contribution or credit amount will vary from plan to plan. Depending on the HDHP, you may have the choice of using in-network and out-of-network providers. Using in-network providers will save you money. With the exception of preventive care, you must meet the annual deductible before the plan pays benefits. A maximum dollar amount (up to $300, for instance) may apply.
When you enroll in an HDHP, the health plan determines if you are eligible for a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Health Reimbursement Arrangement (HRA). If you are enrolled in Medicare, you are not eligible for an HSA. Each month, the plan automatically credits a portion of the health plan premium into your HSA or HRA, based on your eligibility as of the first day of the month. You can pay your deductible with funds from your HSA or HRA. If you have an HSA, you can also choose to pay your deductible out-of-pocket, allowing your savings account to grow.
5. Will I be eligible for FSAFEDS?
If you are an employee working for an executive branch agency or an agency that has adopted the Federal Flexible Benefits Plan (“FedFlex”), you can elect to participate in the Federal Flexible Spending Accounts Program (FSAFEDS). FSAFEDS offers two different flexible spending accounts (FSAs): a health care flexible spending account, and a dependent care flexible spending account.
New and newly-eligible employees have 60 days after their entry on duty to enroll in this program. However, there is also an open season each year at the same time as the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program open season during which you enroll in an FSA for the following year.
6. Will I be eligible for Federal life insurance coverage?
Life insurance coverage also depends on the type of appointment you receive. Generally, employees with permanent appointments are eligible for life insurance coverage, while employees with temporary appointments limited to 1 year or less are not eligible. However, if your appointment is designated as a “provisional appointment,” you will be eligible for life insurance coverage.
7. If I am eligible for Federal life insurance coverage, do I need to take any action or is there automatic coverage?
If you are eligible for Federal life insurance coverage, you will have Basic life insurance coverage automatically unless you waive it. If you want more than Basic coverage, you must act within 60 days to select one or more of three types of optional coverage.
8. I am an annuitant. How will my health benefits and life insurance coverage be affected when I become reemployed in the Federal service?
That depends on the kind of appointment you have when you become re-employed (see Question 15; page 85). If you are a re-employed annuitant, your coverage may be handled differently from other employees. You must consult with your Human Resources Office; in some instances, the OPM Retirement Office must be notified of your reemployment for FEGLI purposes.
9. Will I be eligible to apply for long term care insurance through the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program?
If you are employed in an eligible position, you may apply for this insurance as a new employee using abbreviated underwriting, within 60 days after you begin your Federal position. Your spouse is also eligible to apply with abbreviated underwriting during those 60 days. Either or both of you may choose to apply. There is no “self and family” option. Long Term Care Partners, the administrator of the program, will evaluate your application and let you know if you are eligible to enroll in the Program.
An “eligible” position means that you are in a position that conveys eligibility for the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program, even if you do not enroll in the FEHB Program. If you are unsure of your eligibility, please ask someone in your agency’s Human Resources Office.
10. Will I be eligible for coverage under the Federal Employee Dental and Vision Insurance Program (FEDVIP)?
Federal employees eligible to enroll in the FEHB Program are eligible to enroll in FEDVIP. As noted above, eligibility for FEHB coverage depends on the type of appointment you receive. Generally, employees with permanent appointments are eligible to enroll in FEHB. Also, if your appointment is designated as a “provisional appointment,” you will be eligible for FEHB coverage. (Provisional appointments are used to fill positions that are known to be permanent with the expectation that the appointee will be converted to permanent status.)
11. If I am not enrolled in FEHB, can I still enroll in FEDVIP?
Yes, while you need to be eligible for FEHB, you don’t have to be enrolled in FEHB to enroll in FEDVIP.
12. If I am eligible for FEDVIP coverage, do I need to take any action, or is coverage automatic?
Coverage is not automatic. You must enroll within 60 days after you become eligible and select the plan in which you want to be covered. You may enroll in either a dental plan or a vision plan, or both.
13. Are FEDVIP premiums paid pre-tax?
Premiums are paid on a pre-tax basis (premium conversion) for active employees. This is mandatory. Unlike the FEHB Program, employees may not opt out of premium conversion for FEDVIP.
14. Will I be eligible for retirement coverage?
That will depend on the type of appointment you receive. If you receive a permanent appointment, you will be eligible for retirement coverage. Also, a “provisional appointment” (see Question 1; page 82) will confer retirement coverage. Generally, if you receive a temporary appointment limited to 1 year or less, or if you are an intermittent employee, you will not be eligible for retirement coverage. Other less common appointments may also exclude you from coverage, so you should check with your employing agency.
15. If I am appointed to a position that does confer retirement coverage, what type of coverage will I have?
If this will be your first civilian Government service, you will be covered by the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), a three-tiered system consisting of Social Security benefits, a basic benefit plan, and the Thrift Savings Plan. Depending on your prior Federal service, you may be covered by FERS, FERS-RAE or FERS-FRAE. FERS-RAE and FERS-FRAE receive the same retirement benefit as FERS employees, but pay a higher retirement deduction.
If, on the other hand, you have had previous civilian service in the Government, you may be covered, depending on the circumstances addressed in Questions 16 and 17 below, either by FERS or a combination of the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Social Security coverage called CSRS-Offset. (Note: CSRS coverage without Social Security is available only to people who (1) had only CSRS coverage; (2) return to CSRS-covered employment after a break in service of less than 1 year; and (3) are not required by law to have Social Security coverage in the new position.)
16. What factors will determine the specific retirement plan by which I am covered?
If your previous Federal service was covered by FERS, your new appointment will automatically be covered by FERS. You will also be covered automatically by FERS if your previous civilian service totaled less than 5 years. Generally, FERS coverage also applies if none of your prior service was covered by CSRS (or the Foreign Service Retirement System).
If you are not automatically covered by FERS and your appointment is not excluded from retirement coverage, you will be covered under the CSRS-Offset and have an opportunity to elect FERS coverage within 6 months.
17. I took a refund of my retirement contributions after my previous service. What effect will that have on my retirement coverage now?
None, but the amount of your future retirement benefits may be affected.
18. I am currently an annuitant. What will my retirement coverage be if I am reemployed as a senior official?
Generally, if you are a FERS annuitant, you will remain subject to FERS coverage upon re-employment.
Re-employed CSRS annuitants have differing rules, depending on the type of appointment they receive when reemployed and their prior service history. Your Human Resources Office can provide you with specific information regarding your retirement coverage. If you are covered under CSRS or CSRS-Offset, you will have a 6-month window to elect FERS.
If you are employed by the Department of Defense, you will be excluded from FERS and CSRS and will be covered only by Social Security (unless your retirement was an involuntary retirement and you elect to be covered under FERS or CSRS).
19. I am an annuitant. What happens to my annuity if I accept a position with the new administration?
In most cases, you will continue to receive your annuity, but the amount of your annuity will be offset from your salary. However, your annuity would be terminated upon reemployment if:
You retired under CSRS, your annuity is based on an involuntary separation, and reemployment is to an appointment that provides retirement coverage (see Question 10; page 84);
If you are employed by the Department of Defense, generally your annuity will continue and you will receive the full salary for your position. Under these circumstances, you will earn no additional retirement benefits. If your retirement was an involuntary retirement, however, and you elect to be covered under CSRS or FERS (based on the retirement coverage you had at retirement), the rules described in the first paragraph will apply.
20. I am a former Member of Congress. What will my retirement status be in my new appointment?
Because of the special rules that apply to the reemployment of Members of Congress, your agency benefits officer should request assistance from OPM’s Benefits Officers Resource Center (202-606-0788).
MERIT SYSTEM PRINCIPLES
(5 U.S.C. 2301(b))
1. Recruitment should be from qualified individuals from appropriate sources in an endeavor to achieve a work force from all segments of society, and selection and advancement should be determined solely on the basis of relative ability, knowledge, and skills, after fair and open competition which assures that all receive equal opportunity.
2. All employees and applicants for employment should receive fair and equitable treatment in all aspects of personnel management without regard to political affiliation, race, color, religion, national origin, sex, marital status, age, or handicapping condition, and with proper regard for their privacy and constitutional rights.
3. Equal pay should be provided for work of equal value, with appropriate consideration of both national and local rates paid by employers in the private sector, and appropriate incentives and recognition should be provided for excellence in performance.
4. All employees should maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest.
5. The Federal work force should be used efficiently and effectively.
6. Employees should be retained on the basis of adequacy of their performance, inadequate performance should be corrected, and employees should be separated who cannot or will not improve their performance to meet required standards.
7. Employees should be provided effective education and training in cases in which such education and training would result in better organizational and individual performance.
8. Employees should be:
protected against arbitrary action, personal favoritism, or coercion for partisan political purposes, and
9. Employees should be protected against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information which the employees reasonably believe evidences:
mismanagement, a gross waste of funds, an abuse of authority, or a substantial and specific danger to public health or safety.
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