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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

[appellant's name]
Human Resources Specialist
(Employee Benefits)
Human Resources Management Service
Veterans Healthcare System
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
[city, state]
Human Resources Specialist
(Employee Benefits)

Robert D. Hendler
Classification and Pay Claims
Program Manager
Merit System Accountability and Compliance



As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a certificate which is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government.  The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision.  There is no right of further appeal.  This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, Section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

Decision sent to:

[appellant’s name and address]

[Agency HR addresses]


On April 23, 2013, the Dallas Agency Compliance and Evaluation of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) accepted a classification appeal from [appellant’s name].  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Human Resources (HR) Specialist (Employee Benefits), GS-201-9, but she believes it should be classified at the GS-11 grade level.  The position is assigned to the Human Resources Management Service (HRMS), [specific installation] Veterans Healthcare System (VHS), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in [city, state].  We received the complete agency’s administrative report on July 24, 2013.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

Background and general issues

The appellant’s position was previously classified as an HR Specialist (Employee Benefits), GS-201-11.  The Veterans Integrated Service Network 16’s Consolidated Classification Team (V16/CCT) subsequently evaluated the position and determined it was appropriately classified at the GS-9 grade level.  When notifying the appellant of its determination, the V16/CCT said the action was a result of the agency’s responsibility to ensure consistency with the OPM appeal decision of an HR specialist responsible for administering a medical center’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Program (OWCP).  The downgrade of the appellant’s position was effected in February 2010, while the major duties and responsibilities described in her official position description (PD) remained the same.

The appellant disagrees with the V16/CCT findings, stating in her appeal request:  “This OPM Appeal Decision was based on the PD of a GS-201 HR Specialist (Employee Benefits) specifically working in the OWCP.  My position is based on retirement and benefits – not OWCP.”  By law, we must classify positions solely by comparing their current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of her position.  Since our decision sets aside any previously issued agency decisions, the appellant’s concerns regarding the agency’s review and evaluation of her position are not germane to this decision.

Position information

The appellant’s position is assigned to one of the largest and busiest VA medical centers with two [name of state]-based hospitals in [city] and [city].  The large, complex VHS provides a wide range of inpatient and outpatient healthcare services, reaching out to veterans through [number] community-based outpatient clinics, a home-based primary care center, and a drop-in treatment center for homeless veterans.  The VHS employs approximately [number] title 5, title 38, and title 38 hybrid employees.

The HRMS provides the full range of HR services to the VHS and is staffed with approximately 50 employees.  The appellant is organizationally assigned to the labor/employee relations section, which is responsible for the retirement and benefits, performance management, labor and employee relations, OWCP, and award programs.  She is under the immediate supervision of the Section Chief, who occupies a Supervisory HR Specialist, GS-201-12, position.

The appellant’s position is responsible for managing the day-to-day activities of the VHS’s retirement, Thrift Savings Plan (TSP), Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB), and Federal Employees Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) programs, as well as death benefits and Spouse Equity Act matters.  Her work entails providing employees and family members with information on the voluntary, early, and disability retirement options under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS), both regular and offset.  She provides technical advice and guidance on CSRS and FERS, e.g., on the benefits of buying back military or nondeductible civilian service and its associated costs, retirement and Social Security estimates, and available alternatives if an application for disability retirement is denied.  The appellant completes all applications for voluntary, early, disability, and discontinued service retirement.  In 2012, she calculated 240 retirement estimates and completed 100 applications for voluntary retirement, seven for early retirement, and six for disability retirement.  The appellant also provides retirement, TSP, FEHB, FEGLI, and other benefits-related information at new employee orientation.

The appellant’s programmatic responsibilities for coordinating and managing the retirement, TSP, life and health insurance, and other benefit programs require staying abreast of Government-wide program administration changes, determining if and how they impact VHS staff and issuing notices regarding the changes when necessary.  She periodically updates the local Medical Center Memorandums related to her programs.  In addition, she plans and coordinates retirement fairs and seminars for employees of the VHS and other Federal agencies (e.g., non-VA tenants of the VHS and/or attendees of the Federal Employee Association fairs coordinated by the VHS).  The work entails determining logistics including location, date, and roster of speakers; gathering pertinent retirement literature and assembling packets of information; and coordinating with health insurance representatives to ensure their attendance at seminars.  The appellant also plans, conducts, and coordinates health insurance fairs and other open season activities.  Her work involves contacting and coordinating with health benefit plan representatives to ensure adequacy of representation, coordinating the presence of a wellness booth and blood drives, and ensuring distribution of the assembled information packets to VHS employees.

The appellant’s position also requires maintaining effective relationships across VHS organizations for the purpose of identifying the need for and providing retirement and benefits training tailored to the needs of the particular organization.  She also provides advice and training to the HR assistants responsible for coding and processing benefits-related actions to enhance understanding of the purpose and context of an assistant’s work.

The appellant’s PD and other material of record furnish much more information about her duties and responsibilities, and how they are performed.  The appellant and supervisor certified to the accuracy of the duties described in the official PD, number [number].  During the telephone audits, we determined the description of major duties and responsibilities accurately reflects the appellant’s assignments and we incorporate the PD by reference into this decision.

To help decide this appeal, we conducted telephone audits with the appellant on August 7 and 22, 2013, and a telephone interview with the supervisor on August 23, 2013.  In reaching our classification decision, we carefully considered all of the information gained from these interviews, as well as the written information furnished by the appellant and agency.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency assigned the appellant’s position to the GS-201 HR Specialist Series, titled it HR Specialist (Employee Benefits), and applied the grading criteria in the Job Family Standard (JFS) for Administrative Work in the HR Group, GS-200.  The appellant does not disagree and, after careful review of the record, we concur.

Grade determination

The GS-200 JFS is written in the Factor Evaluation System format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of the nine factors.  The total is converted to a grade level by use of the grade-conversion table provided in the JFS.  Under this system, each factor-level description demonstrates the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  Therefore, if a position fails to meet the criteria in a factor-level description in any significant aspect, it must be credited at a lower level unless the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.  Conversely, the position may exceed those criteria in some aspects and still not be credited at a higher level.

The JFS provides specialty-specific illustrations as a frame of reference for applying factor-level concepts.  The illustrations describe examples of work meeting or exceeding the threshold for a particular factor level while still falling within the coverage of the factor level.  Comparisons to illustrations may not be solely relied upon to exclude credit at a factor level, because they do not necessarily describe the minimum threshold of the factor level.  If the work being evaluated is fully comparable to an illustration at a particular factor level, that factor level may be assigned.  Each illustration is to be used in its entirety in conjunction with the factor-level description.

The appellant only disagrees with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 1, 2, 4, and 5.  We reviewed the agency’s determination for Factors 3, 6, 7, 8, and 9, concur, and have credited the position accordingly.  Our evaluation will focus on the remaining factors contested by the appellant.

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts the employee must understand to do acceptable work (e.g., steps, procedures, practices, rules, policies, regulations, and principles) and the nature and extent of the skills needed to apply the knowledge.

At Level 1-6, work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, fundamental HR management (HRM) laws, principles, systems, policies, methods, and practices; as well as interviewing, analytical, and research techniques sufficient to conduct fact-finding and recommend solutions to moderately difficult but well-precedented and/or recurring issues and problems.  The work also requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, fundamental HRM methods, principles, and practices of the specialization; and standardized analytical, and evaluative methods and techniques sufficient to advise on and/or resolve moderately complex, non-controversial, well-precedented factual, procedural, and/or recurring issues for which there are one or more readily apparent solutions.  The work involves making informed judgments on problems and issues, performing management advisory services for specific requests related to immediate problems of limited scope, and analyzing segments of broader HRM issues or problems.

At Level 1-7, work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, a wide range of HRM concepts, laws, policies, practices, analytical, and diagnostic methods and techniques sufficient to solve a wide range of complex, interrelated HRM problems and issues.  The work also requires knowledge of, and skill in applying a wide range of HR concepts, practices, laws, regulations, policies, and precedents sufficient to provide comprehensive HR management advisory and technical services on substantive organizational functions and work practices. At this level, work requires knowledge of analytical and diagnostic techniques and qualitative and quantitative techniques sufficient to identify, evaluate, and recommend to management appropriate HR interventions to resolve complex interrelated HR problems and issues and knowledge of techniques for delivering new or modified HR work methods, approaches, or procedures for delivering effective HR services to clients.  Work involves using consensus building, negotiating, coalition building, and conflict resolution techniques sufficient to interact appropriately in highly charged emotional situations; and written and oral communication techniques sufficient to develop and deliver briefings, project papers, status/staff reports, and correspondence to managers to foster understanding and acceptance of findings and recommendations.

The appellant’s position meets Level 1-6.  Similar to this level, her work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, fundamental HRM laws, principles, systems, policies, methods, and practices concerning the Federal retirement programs, TSP, FEHB, FEGLI, Spouse Equity Act, etc.  We also found the appellant’s retirement and benefits duties and responsibilities match the specialty-specific illustration at Level 1-6, where an employee applies knowledge of, and skill in applying, basic laws, regulations, policies, and precedents of Federal employee retirement, group life insurance, health benefits, and TSP programs sufficient to:  counsel management, employees, and beneficiaries on program coverage, options, variances in coverage, and advantages and disadvantages of benefits; resolve problems in the administration of the program; and interpret and explain to employees the relationship of the Federal retirement and insurance programs to other retirement and insurance programs (Social Security, military provisions, worker’s compensation, and private insurance companies).  The work includes determining the appropriate treatment of matters as they apply to moderately complex retirement and insurance benefits issues relating to the validity of marriage, divorce, and descent and distribution of property; and interpreting, applying, and explaining retirement and insurance laws and regulations to employees.

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 1-7.  Her work requires applying knowledge of established laws, principles, systems, policies, methods, practices, procedures, and the interpretive guidance provided by OPM, the VA Central Office, and other Federal agencies responsible for benefits administration.  To manage the VHS’s retirement and benefits programs, the appellant’s duties include advising employees and others on completing a retirement application, calculating retirement estimates, reviewing official personnel folder documents and identifying errors in retirement system designations and other anomalies, and counseling retiring employees on the benefits expected to be received.  The appellant performs other retirement and benefits work, but the programs are well-established and most retirement applications and associated actions follow a similar set of steps without deviation.  This environment does not allow for the development of new or modified HR work methods, approaches, or procedures for delivering effective HR services as expected at Level 1-7.  The appellant provides monthly notices to the VHS’s Fiscal Chief on pending retirement actions, but this data is considered factual, not findings or recommendations requiring her to defend or justify as at Level 1-7.

A specialty-specific illustration at Level 1-7 describes an employee applying knowledge of, and skill in applying, Federal retirement laws, regulations, principles, practices, and procedures sufficient to:  make retirement determinations involving hard to prove medical impairments; decide similarly obscure special entitlement matters; and prepare sensitive correspondence on complex, delicate, or highly contested case matters and retirement determinations.  Another illustration at this level describes an employee applying knowledge of, and skill in applying, retirement, benefits entitlements, health and life insurance, and TSP laws, regulations, procedures, respective legislative changes; military service regulations, veterans’ benefits, and prior Government service; and counseling techniques sufficient to:  administer an agency retirement and benefits program; respond to complex benefits questions; provide information necessary to help employees obtain maximum gains from available benefits; provide individual employee counseling on retirement options, eligibility requirements, health and life insurance, and TSP issues; explain options to employees regarding military benefits, veterans’ preference, and prior Government service; and represent the agency in external matters both in the public and private sector on benefits programs, including making presentations at retirement and benefits seminars.  Another illustration at Level 1-7 describes an employee applying knowledge of, and skill in applying, a wide variety of retirement, benefits entitlements, health and life insurance, and TSP laws, regulations, procedures, and respective legislative changes sufficient to:  develop agency-wide guidance material on the implementation of methods and procedures for retirement program operations involving areas that require new or substantially modified work methods or procedures because of operational problems or deficiencies; analyze operational effects of changes in law or regulations; and identify and clarify problems and issues, and propose fully researched agency implementation actions.

In contrast, the appellant’s work is more reactive and driven largely by customer demands.  For example, she coordinates health insurance appeals, and she recently considered an appeal from a VHS employee who was denied health insurance coverage for a child.  The appellant researched OPM’s guidance, compared eligibility criteria to the immediate situation, and drafted the decision letter which was forwarded to her supervisor for review and to the HRMS Chief for final review and signature.  In comparison, the JFS illustrations at Level 1-7 describe positions requiring a more system-oriented, complete viewpoint to providing customers with HR advice, education, and planning services on complex and complicated retirement and benefits issues.  The appellant’s representational functions are substantially more circumscribed than those described at Level 1-7.  The appellant’s duties do not require the application of a wide variety of HRM concepts, laws, policies, practices, and analytical and diagnostic methods and techniques to solve a wide range of complex, interrelated problems and issues as described and illustrated by the JFS at Level 1-7.

Level 1-6 is credited for 950 points.

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the employee’s responsibility, and the review of completed work.

At Level 2-3, the supervisor outlines or discusses possible problem areas and defines objectives, plans, priorities, and deadlines.  Assignments have clear precedents requiring successive steps in planning and execution.  The employee independently plans and carries out the assignments in conformance with accepted policies and practices; adheres to instructions, policies, and guidelines in exercising judgment to resolve commonly encountered work problems and deviations; and brings controversial information or findings to the supervisor’s attention for direction.  The supervisor provides assistance on controversial or unusual situations that do not have clear precedents; reviews completed work for conformity with policy, the effectiveness of the employee’s approach to the problem, technical soundness, and adherence to deadlines; and does not usually review in detail the methods used to complete the assignment.

At Level 2-4, the supervisor outlines overall objectives and available resources.  The employee and supervisor, in consultation, discuss timeframes, scope of the assignment including possible stages, and possible approaches.  The employee determines the most appropriate principles, practices, and methods to apply in all phases of assignments, including the approach to be taken, degree of intensity, and depth of research in management advisories; frequently interprets regulations on his/her own initiative, applies new methods to resolve complex and/or intricate, controversial, or unprecedented issues and problems, and resolves most of the conflicts that arise; and keeps the supervisor informed of progress and of potentially controversial matters.  The supervisor reviews completed work for soundness of overall approach, effectiveness in meeting requirements or producing expected results, the feasibility of recommendations, and adherence to requirements.  The supervisor does not usually review methods used.

The appellant’s position meets Level 2-3.  Her retirement and benefits work has clear precedents involving successive steps in planning and execution, and is guided by well-established laws, regulations, policies, procedures, interpretive guidance, and timeframes.  For example, the appellant’s current performance plan describes the fully successful standard as:  90 percent of all retirement packages are timely submitted to the second-level reviewer, in situations when the retiring employee submits a completed application with appropriate lead time, at least two pay periods prior to the effective date of the retirement date.  In situations when the retiring employee submits a completed application with short notice (i.e., within 30 days of separation), 90 percent of all retirement packages must be delivered to the second-level reviewer within five business days of receipt of the application.  Like Level 2-3, the appellant’s work is evaluated for conformity to prescribed deadlines.  The supervisor, as the second-level reviewer, reviews her finished work products as a matter of procedure.  As at Level 2-3, how the appellant completes her work and the technical methods she uses (e.g., to calculate retirement estimates consistent with laws, regulations, policies, or procedures) are normally not reviewed.  The supervisor also evaluates the quality, timeliness, and effectiveness of her retirement and benefits work through feedback from VHS employees, supervisors, and managers.  Similar to Level 2-3, the appellant brings controversial information or findings to the supervisor’s attention for direction, e.g., when suspicious or potentially fraudulent claims are made in an application for disability retirement.

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 2-4.  It is not just the degree of independence from supervision that is evaluated but also the degree to which the nature of the work permits exercising judgment and making independent decisions and commitments.  Her work regularly requires judgment and decision-making in advising employees on all retirement and benefit matters; completing applications for optional, disability, early, and discontinued service retirement; preparing Social Security, TSP, and other retirement estimates; and planning, coordinating, and presenting at fairs, seminars, or training related to retirement and benefits.  However, this work does not require the level of judgment described at Level 2-4, where the work involves independently interpreting regulations and applying new methods to resolve complex and/or intricate, controversial, or unprecedented issues and problems.  Also unlike this level, the appellant’s work involves implementing well-established, comprehensive guidance to ensure retirement and benefit actions for all VHS personnel are carried out in compliance with established requirements.  This type of environment limits her need for or opportunity to negotiate with the supervisor on timeframes, assignment scope, and work approaches as expected at Level 2-4.

Level 2-3 is credited for 275 points.

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor covers the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of tasks, steps, processes, or methods in the work performed; the difficulty in identifying what needs to be done; and the difficulty and originality involved in performing the work.

At Level 4-3, work consists of applying established analytical techniques to problems and issues more of a technical rather than an advisory nature, and issues and problems of the same type.  At this level, the employee determines the most effective technical approaches to the problem requiring the application of established analytical techniques and methods and standard regulations and procedures.  In addition, or alternatively, the employee verifies and assesses relevant facts from several sources, examines documentation, ensures compliance with applicable regulations and procedures, analyzes and reconciles discrepancies or inconsistencies, and researches precedent studies.  The employee may be required to resolve a moderate range of problems or situations requiring the use of established analytical techniques to isolate and evaluate appropriate precedents, to examine and analyze documentation, to reconcile discrepancies or inconsistencies, and to develop supportable conclusions based on standardized research.  In performing the work, the employee may need to identify a variety of issues and their factual relationships, analyze relevant factors and conditions, and choose a course of action from many alternatives.  Alternatively, the employee may need to consider and integrate management’s request with the appropriateness and applicability of established HR policies, regulations, and procedures.  In performing the work, the employee may be required to recognize the need to modify established procedures in response to persistent problems; and/or analyze appropriate principles, laws, practices, and procedures to determine interrelationships between existing conditions and issues.

At Level 4-4, work consists of resolving problems and issues that often involve conflicting or incomplete information; applying analytical techniques that frequently require modification to accommodate a wide range of variables; and/or addressing substantive technical issues or problems characterized by complex, controversial, and/or sensitive matters that contain several interrelated issues.  To perform this work, the employee may need to conduct detailed planning to gather and interpret information and data for assessing complex problems, issues, and unusual circumstances.  Other work may require determining the most effective and efficient approach to meet customer requirements and/or identify ways to improve or enhance current HR services to ensure that services meet management’s business objectives.  Other work may entail assessing situations that are complicated by ambiguous, disputed, conflicting, and/or incomplete data requiring significant reconstruction to isolate issues and/or problems.  Other assignments may involve participating in analyzing the effects of changes in law and regulations; identifies and clarifies problems and issues to propose recommendations; reconciling conflicting or incomplete information; identifying and extracting additional information; defining the problem in terms compatible with appropriate laws, policies, or regulations; and/or weighing pertinent facts in formulating a legal and/or factually supportable position.  The employee exercises originality by analyzing and refining existing work methods and techniques; and/or analyzes specific legal issues and problems by refining existing analytical techniques.

The appellant’s position meets Level 4-3.  As at this level, her work consists of applying established analytical techniques to problems and issues more of a technical than an advisory nature.  The issues and problems she encounters are typically of the same or similar type.  The JFS’s illustration for Level 4-3 closely resembles the appellant’s duties and responsibilities.  For example, a specialty-specific illustration describes an employee serving as the employee benefits administrator for a facility.  The employee examines retirement applications filed by employees to compute employee annuity and survivor estimates pending final OPM adjudication; decides whether documentation is adequate to establish entitlement to an annuity, whether there is sufficient information to compute an interim annuity amount, and whether the conditions necessary to permit release of payment are satisfied; determines the amount of retirement contributions, refunds of contributions, payment and repayments needed for service credit and whether the requirements for payment of a survivor annuity or lump sum are satisfied.  The employee conducts health benefits open season for employees in an appropriate timeframe; and administers the FEGLI, Health Benefit, and TSP programs for the facility.  Within clear-cut parameters established for program implementation established at higher authority, the employee exercises judgment in performing individual duties; e.g., making decisions such as the need for additional information prior to establishing entitlement to an annuity.

Similar to Level 4-3, the appellant deals with problems or situations associated with local, day-to-day retirement and benefit program operations matters.  She provides guidance to employees, annuitants, family members, and others regarding retirement, TSP, FEGLI, FEHB, and other matters; determines creditable service for retirement purposes; completes retirement paperwork; and prepares complicated retirement estimates for employees under title 5 including firefighters, title 38, and title 38 hybrid employees.  Consistent with Level 4-3, this and her other work is accomplished by verifying and assessing relevant facts from several sources, examining documentation, ensuring compliance with applicable regulations and procedures, and analyzing and reconciling discrepancies or inconsistencies.

The complexity of the appellant’s work does not meet Level 4-4.  Unlike this level, her work does not involve resolving problems or issues with oftentimes conflicting or incomplete information.  To identify discrepancies and completeness of retirement applications, she will gather and review information from personnel records.  The appellant also reviews applications for disability retirement, identifying and weeding out those applications with false or potentially fraudulent claims for her supervisor’s review.  Examples of problems she typically handles include those involving erroneous retirement coverage; advising employees of the advantages and disadvantages of disability retirement; explaining to employees reasons for the denial of a disability retirement application and available options; and reconstructing service histories when Standard Form 50s are missing, incorrect, or incomplete.  Unlike Level 4-4, these program/case situations are straightforward and do not require her modifying analytical techniques to accommodate a wide range of variables or addressing substantive technical issues characterized by complex, controversial, and/or sensitive matters containing several interrelated issues.

A Level 4-4 illustration describes a position serving as benefits administrator for a bureau, service, or independent reporting facility.  The work involves operational responsibility for an employee benefits program entailing retirement, health and life insurance, and TSP programs.  The employee performs the following duties:  provides direct counseling to management, employees, retirees, and family members on benefit program entitlements/options and on interpretations of the law, regulations, and policies; interprets and prepares informative material for employees on new, changed, and pending policy, and outlines impact on existing benefits program entitlements; makes coverage determinations on entitlements for employees, dependent family members, and ex-spouses by court decree; counsels employees concerning making service credit payments and post-1956 military service deposits; assists employees with applications; verifies creditability of service; provides employees and survivors of deceased employees estimates of expected benefits; and acts as subject matter expert on the TSP and is aware of stock market fluctuations that affect interest rates payable by the investment funds of the TSP.  The employee exercises ingenuity in tactfully counseling employees to ensure they have all pertinent information before they make employee benefits-related decisions; and handling the most difficult and complex cases such as disability retirements involving sensitive and controversial problems.  In contrast, the appellant’s position does not involve the full range of the responsibilities described in the Level 4-4 illustration nor is her work performed within the context of providing retirement and benefits services to an organization the size and scale of a bureau or its equivalent.

Level 4-3 is credited for 150 points.

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor measures the relationship between the nature of the work, as measured by the purpose, breadth, and depth of the assignment, and the effect of work products or services both within and outside the organization.

At Level 5-3, work involves applying accepted criteria, principles, and standard methods to resolve a variety of conventional issues and problems; and/or portions of broader studies that require developing detailed procedures and guidelines to supplement existing guidance.  Work reports and recommendations influence the decisions made by managers and other employees, and affect customer perception of the overall quality and service of the HR program.

At Level 5-4, work involves resolving or advising on complex problems and issues that typically require analyzing and/or troubleshooting a wide range of unusual conditions.  Work ultimately affects the objectives and effectiveness of agency HR activities, missions, and programs.  The assessment, analysis, and ultimate resolution of problems promote the overall quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of program operations.

The appellant’s position meets Level 5-3, where work involves resolving a variety of conventional retirement and other benefits issues and problems requiring application of accepted criteria, principles, and standard methods.  The JFS’s illustration for Level 5-3 closely resembles her duties and responsibilities.  For example, the specialty-specific illustration describes work involving administering an employee benefits program throughout a local facility, including ensuring accurate and timely retirement calculations and providing accurate, timely, and customer-oriented advice.  Like that described by the Level 5-3 illustration, the problems she resolves affect the VHS’s benefits and salary costs and employee retirement, insurance, and benefit coverage options; quality of employees’ future retirement lives and/or the beneficiaries’ financial futures; and customer perceptions of the overall quality and services of the HRMS program operations.

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 5-4, where work involves resolving or advising on complex problems and issues requiring analyzing and/or troubleshooting a wide range of unusual conditions.  Her work affects the VHS’s estimated [number] employees, but this level of impact falls short of that expected at Level 5-4 where the broad impact of the work affects the objectives and effectiveness of agency HR activities, missions, and programs.  After employees notify her of their intent to retire, the appellant will review an employee’s official personnel folder documents to ensure the correctness of the service computation date; identify potential errors in retirement system designations; compute annuity benefits; explain health and life insurance options when retired; and present, coordinate, and forward retirement actions and correspondence to OPM and other relevant offices.  She deals with situations involving reemployed annuitants and various other problems and issues, but these matters would not be considered particularly complex or unusual as they are regularly found at installation-level organizations.

A Level 5-4 illustration describes a position involving work establishing criteria, assessing program effectiveness, or researching or analyzing a variety of unusual employee benefit conditions, problems, or questions.  Work products or services contribute to the effectiveness of the agency and influence decisions made by employees on retirement and benefit options.  Work impacts employee benefits administration throughout the facility.  Although important to program operations of the HRMS, the resolution of the appellant’s work problems and issues would not directly affect VA’s HR activities, mission, or programs as a whole.  Instead, her work directly impacts the efficiency and effectiveness of the local retirement and benefits programs but not the broad agency policy objectives and program goals described at Level 5-4.

Level 5-3 is credited for 150 points.

Factor Level Points
1.  Knowledge Required by the Position 1-6 950
2.  Supervisory Controls 2-3 275
3.  Guidelines 3-3 275
4.  Complexity 4-3 150
5.  Scope and Effect 5-3 150
6. & 7.  Personal Contacts and Purpose of Contacts 2-b 75
8.  Physical Demands 8-1 5
9.  Work Environment 9-1 5
Total 1,885


A total of 1,885 points falls within the GS-9 range (1,855 to 2,100) on the grade conversion table in the JFS.


The position is properly classified as HR Specialist (Employee Benefits), GS-201-9.




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