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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 (Classification)
GS-201-12
[Appellant’s organization/location]
Veterans Health Administration
Department of Veterans Affairs
Human Resources Specialist (Classification)
GS-201-12
C-0201-12-05

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

05/06/2013


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, 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 mailing address]

[Address of appellant’s servicing human resources office]

 

Department of Veterans Affairs

Director, Compensation & Classification Service (055)                                

Office of Human Resources Management                                        

U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs

810 Vermont Avenue, NW, Room 240

Washington, DC 20420

Introduction

On June 27, 2012, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM) Atlanta Oversight accepted a classification appeal from [name of appellant].  On August 17, 2012, we received the complete agency administrative report (AAR).  On August 29, 2012, the appeal was transferred to San Francisco Oversight for adjudication.  The appellant’s position is classified as Human Resources Specialist (Classification), GS-201-12, but she believes her responsibilities warrant upgrading the position to the GS-13 level.  The appellant works for the [name of appellant’s organization/location], Veterans Health Administration (VHA), Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA).  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112(b) of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.). 

General issues

The appellant make various statements about her agency’s evaluation of her position.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of her position.  By law, we must make that decision solely by comparing her current duties and responsibilities to OPM standards and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Because our decision sets aside any previous agency decisions, the appellant’s statements regarding the classification practices used by her agency to classify her position are not germane to the classification appeal process.  

Position information

Both the appellant and her immediate supervisor certify to the accuracy of the appellant’s official position description (PD) [number].  The [appellant’s organization] is one of 21 Veterans Integrated Service Networks (VISN).  [Appellant’s organization] is comprised of eight VA Medical Centers and 27 associated community-based outpatient clinics (CBOC) spanning [names of three States].  The network has over 13,500 clinical and support staff and about 4,000 volunteers to serve greater than 320,000 veterans annually across the three-state service area.  [Appellant’s organization] plans to expand outpatient services to Veterans in the [names of cities] areas with the development of Health Care Centers (HCC) in those communities, and a large Primary Outpatient Clinic in [name of city and State].  The [appellant’s organization] supports activities that facilitate DVA’s classification program.

The appellant performs position classification and position management responsibilities for all geographic areas served by [appellant’s organization].  The work requires the appellant to review and classify PDs, write reports of findings, conduct desk audits and prepare evaluations.  Her work entails identifying, interpreting, analyzing and applying classification standards and guides to render technically correct classification determinations for assigned title 5 positions up to the GS-14 grade level.  Positions tentatively classified at the GS-14 level are sent to [appellant’s organization] management for coordination with VHA for review and approval.  The appellant provides technical advice, assistance and/or solutions to complex classification issues referred by HR staff at the medical centers, employees and operating officials.  The appellant also conducts position management assessments and makes recommendations on position and organizational design. 

In reaching our classification decision, we have carefully reviewed all information provided by the appellant and her agency including her official PD which we find sufficient for purposes of classification and incorporate by reference into this decision.  In addition, to help decide the appeal we conducted separate telephone interviews with the appellant and her supervisor.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has classified the appellant’s position in the Human Resources Management (HRM) Series, GS-0201, titling it Human Resources Specialist (Classification) and the appellant does not disagree.  We concur with the agency's title and series determination.  Positions in the GS-0201 series are evaluated by application of the grading criteria in the Job Family Position Classification Standard (JFS) for Administrative Work in the Human Resources Management Group, GS-0200.  We have applied the grading criteria of the GS-0200 JFS below to the appellant’s position. 

Grade determination

The 0200 JFS uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES), which employs nine factors.  Under the FES, each factor level description in a standard describes 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.  Each factor level has a corresponding point value.  The total points assigned are converted to a grade by the use of the grade conversion table in the JFS. 

The appellant disagrees with her agency’s assignment from the GS-0200 JFS of Factor Levels 1-7, 2-4, 3-4, 4-4 and 5-4. She concurs with the agency’s assignment of Levels of 6-3, 7-C, 8-1, and 9-1.  After careful review, we concur with her agency’s assignment of the undisputed levels and thus have not addressed them separately in the discussion below.  Our evaluation with respect to the five factors in dispute follows. 

Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position

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

At Level 1-7, the employee uses 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.  Employees at this level apply such knowledge sufficient to provide comprehensive HR management advisory and technical services on substantive organizational functions and work practices.  They apply analytical and diagnostic techniques and qualitative and quantitative techniques sufficient to identify, evaluate, and recommend to management appropriate human resources (HR) interventions to resolve complex interrelated HR problems and issues and techniques for developing new or modified HR work methods, approaches, or procedures for delivering effective HR services to clients.  At this level, employee apply consensus building, negotiating, coalition building, and conflict resolution techniques sufficient to interact appropriately in highly charged emotional situations.  They apply 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. 

A work illustration in the GS-0200 JFS of a Level 1-7 HR Specialist (Classification) describes a position applying knowledge and skill to the full range of position classification and position management principles, concepts, practices, and techniques sufficient to make fine distinctions in the proper crediting of factor levels and ultimate allocation of grade levels to positions; and, communicate grade distinctions to management with supporting criteria and justification. Skill and knowledge applied at this level is also sufficient to provide recommendations to management on organizational design with emphasis on career development principles and practices; and relate position classification to the management process and other HR programs. 

At Level 1-8, the employee uses mastery of advanced HRM principles, concepts, regulations, and practices, analytical methods and techniques, and seasoned consultative skill sufficient to resolve HRM problems not susceptible to treatment by standard methods.  At this level the employee thoroughly understands the relationships between subordinate and senior levels of HR management within the employing entity and/or between the organization and program of other Federal departments, bureaus, or equivalent organizations; and has knowledge of a wide range of qualitative and/or quantitative methods sufficient to design and conduct comprehensive HR studies characterized by boundaries that are extremely broad and difficult to determine in advance; and identify and propose solutions to HRM problems and issues that are characterized by their breadth, importance, and severity and for which previous studies and established techniques are frequently inadequate.  The work entails collaborating with and/or leading management in employing change process concepts and techniques by assessing organizational readiness for change, marketing organizational awareness and leading change initiatives.  The work also entails developing recommendations for legislation that would modify the way agencies conduct programs, evaluating new or modified legislation for projected impact upon existing agency programs, or translate complex legislation to meet agency needs; planning, organizing, and/or directing team efforts to persuade management officials to accept and implement recommendations, where the proposals involve substantial agency resources or require extensive changes in established procedures and methods.  Work at this level also covers evaluating and making recommendations concerning overall plans and proposals for complex agency projects; and developing, interpreting, and analyzing data extracts and reports from automated HR databases and/or developing the most efficient and effective automated systems approaches for presenting HR reports and graphics for management. 

A work illustration in the GS-0200 JFS of a Level 1-8 HR Specialist (Classification) describes a position having mastery of, and skill in applying, advanced HR principles, concepts, and practices, including position management and organizational design sufficient to serve as the agency’s focal point for technical guidance on implementing and administering position classification programs at assigned facilities; maintain and ensure headquarters-wide position classification accuracy and consistency in interpreting and applying position classification standards and in reviewing classification appeal packages for major program implications.  The employee advises facilities on the accepted principles and rules of judgment in analyzing contentious and complex individual position and organization structure issues (e.g., resolving borderline pay category issues affecting large numbers of positions, applying broadly written guides to rapidly evolving professional or equivalent occupations, and resolving highly contentious mixed series/mixed grade, interdisciplinary fields, impact of the person on the position, and equivalent issues with widespread internal and potentially external impact). 

The appellant’s position meets Level 1-7.  Like this level, the appellant uses knowledge of, and skill in applying, a wide range of classification, position management, and job grading principles, practices, laws, regulations, policies, and precedents sufficient to provide comprehensive HR management advisory and technical services.  She applies this knowledge when she reviews and classifies positions, writes reports of findings, conducts desk audits, and prepares evaluations as required.  Like Level 1-7, she also uses knowledge of, and skill in applying analytical and diagnostics 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.  For instance, when performing position management assessments, the appellant analyzes quantitative data such as the number of employees within a service versus the actual number of approved positions for that service, in order to provide recommendations concerning the most effective organizational configurations and appropriate grade level distributions.  Similar to Level 1-7, in performing her assignments, the appellant modifies HR work methods and approaches when applying agency guidance(e.g., Advisories, Information Bulletins, Human Resources Management Letters-HRML, etc.) to provide advice on unique positions.  By applying this guidance, she is able to reconcile conflicting viewpoints and deliver effective HR services to her clients.  The appellant also modifies work procedures to accomplish tasks in a more effective manner.  For instance, for positions she originally classifies, she drafts statements of difference for career ladder positions to avoid subjecting subsequent placement actions to the entire classification process.  She also prepares standard instructions (e.g., supervisory checklist) for use by facility classification staff, and obtains relevant classification information necessary to make important position management and organizational decisions. 

Comparable to Level 1-7, the appellant applies consensus building, negotiation and conflict resolution techniques sufficient to interact appropriately in highly charged emotional situations.  This is particularly necessary because the [appellant’s unit] is regularly involved in conducting cyclical reviews for positions that have been vacant for two or more years but which management intends to fill.  The purpose of this process is to correct classification of positions due to organizational changes such as VISN consolidations, realignments, integrations of service lines and misclassifications.  There is potential for disagreements from interested parties when classification changes result in downgrades or removal of employees from erroneous PDs.  Thus, the appellant must address such conflicts as they arise with VA managers, supervisors and employees within [appellant’s organization] medical centers while maintaining effective working relationships with them.  Like Level 1-7, the appellant uses written and oral communication techniques sufficient to develop and deliver briefings, status/staff reports, and correspondence to managers to foster understanding and acceptance of findings and recommendations.  For instance, during weekly staff meetings the appellant engages in status/staff reports and presents controversial or contentious classification actions encountered.  In addition, when identifying misclassified positions she looks across the VISN for like positions with comparable complexities and provides written data to her supervisor on the number of positions potentially misclassified.  Furthermore, the appellant demonstrates understanding and acceptance of findings when she applies the underlying principles of an appeal decision to applicable classification actions.  Moreover, as stated in the appellant’s PD, she may present basic and refresher training in classification policies and procedures, developing training outlines and/or conducting classification and/or position management briefings for employees, supervisory and managerial personnel as assigned.

Like the work illustration at Level 1-7, the appellant makes fine distinctions in the proper crediting of factor levels and ultimate allocation of grade levels.  She communicates grade distinctions to management with supporting criteria and justification for all classification actions.  She performs position management assessments to provide recommendations to management on organizational design with emphasis on career development principles and practices for VHA occupations and relates position classification to the management process and other HR programs at the VISN level.  

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 1-8.  Unlike this level, the appellant works within a full range of accepted classification, position management and job grading laws, regulations, standards, precedents, policies, procedures and other guidance sufficient to classify positions and perform position management assessments.  Her assignments do not require applying a mastery of knowledge to design and conduct comprehensive HR studies with extremely broad boundaries difficult to determine in advance.  Unlike Level 1-8, the appellant does not develop recommendations for legislation that would modify the way agencies conduct programs or evaluate new or modified legislation for projected impact on existing programs.  Instead, the appellant participates in the local HR classification program of [appellant’s organization] and is not involved in the planning and execution of the human resources program at the agency-wide level.  While the appellant provides advice and technical assistance and works independently with the supervisors at the medical centers, unlike Level 1-8 she does not develop authoritative policy interpretations.  Significant difficult issues and matters requiring policy interpretation are forwarded to VHA for review and advisories.  In contrast to Level 1-8, she does not prepare recommendations to significantly change or modify one or more major programs, evaluate the content of new legislation for impact on agency programs and/or translate legislation into program goals.  These are functions reserved to higher levels in the agency.  The appellant’s work solely supports the [appellant’s organization] role in contributing its segment to the achievement of the goals of the national classification program, but she is not involved in changing or modifying that program.  Her work is not comparable to the knowledge and duties described in the Level 1-8 work illustration.

This factor is evaluated at Level 1-7 and 1,250 points are assigned. 

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

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

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.  At Level 2-4, the employee 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. 

At Level 2-5, the supervisor provides administrative and policy direction in terms of broadly defined missions or functions of the organization.  The employee is responsible for a significant program or function; defines objectives; interprets policies promulgated by authorities senior to the immediate supervisor and determines their effect on program needs; independently plans, designs, and carries out the work to be done; and is a technical authority.  The supervisor reviews work for potential impact on broad agency policy objectives and program goals; normally accepts work as being technically authoritative; and normally accepts work without significant change. 

The appellant’s position meets Level 2-4.  Like this level, the appellant’s supervisor outlines overall objectives and available resources for assigned classification actions, and she and her supervisor consult on timeframes and the scope of assignments including stages and approaches.  For instance, in one case a medical center requested a medical technician position at the GS-4 grade level.  The appellant and her supervisor discussed the specific criteria (e.g., laboratory testing) critical to determining the grade level of the position.  The appellant focused on determining whether the incumbent of the position would be performing a variety of standardized tests and examinations versus simply drawing blood and sending to a local hospital or laboratory corporation for testing.  Like Level 2-4, the appellant determines the most appropriate classification and position management practices and technical approaches in all aspects of assignments including the degree of research necessary to locally implement agency-wide classification management advisories.  She independently interprets classification guidance and applies new methods to resolve complex issues such as classifying positions involving different kinds and levels of work which, when separately evaluated in terms of duties, responsibilities, and qualifications required, are at different grade levels, or when making series determinations for interdisciplinary professional positions.  Similar to Level 2-4, she keeps her supervisor apprised of work progress, barriers to progress and potentially controversial issues, e.g., possible employee grievances due to classification downgrades.  Like Level 2-4, the supervisor reviews the appellant’s work for soundness of overall approach, effectiveness in meeting VISN requirements and producing expected results.  The supervisor does not usually review the technical methods used by the appellant to complete assignments, although the supervisor may review an action if disputed by the client.  

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 2-5.  Unlike this level, when making assignments the supervisor does not solely provide administrative and policy direction in terms of broadly defined missions or functions of the organization.  The appellant is not responsible for a significant program nor does she define its objectives.  Instead, she maintains a continuing awareness in all matters concerning the mission, function, and management of her assigned organizations to determine possible effects on classification and position management.  Although the appellant works with considerable independence, unlike Level 2-5 she does not interpret policies from authorities senior to her immediate supervisor for application to the agency’s classification program.  Rather, she focuses on directly implementing guidance issued by DVA’s Office of Human Resources Management (OHRM) and functions within clearly established parameters.  Further, the nature of her work is not such that it impacts on broad agency policy objectives and program goals as envisioned at this level. 

The level of responsibility represented by Level 2-5 is predicated on the delegated authority for a broad program or function of such breadth that only policy and administrative direction could be reasonably applied.  It represents not merely a high degree of technical independence but also a corresponding management role that is well beyond the scope of authority and responsibility inherent in the appellant’s position.  It derives not only from an employee’s expertise in a given field and the corresponding technical latitude afforded, but also from the employee’s role in the organization and the authority delegated to define the basic content and operation of the program or function beyond just the technical aspects of individual project assignments.  Such authority is not present in the appellant’s position. 

This factor is evaluated at Level 2-4 and 450 points are assigned. 

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor covers the nature of guidelines and the judgment employees need to apply them.  Guidelines either provide reference data or impose certain constraints on applications.

At Level 3-4, the employee uses guidelines and precedents that are very general regarding agency policy statements and objectives.  Guidelines specific to assignments are often scarce, inapplicable or have gaps in specificity that require considerable interpretation and/or adaptation for application to issues and problems.  The employee uses judgment, initiative, and resourcefulness in deviating from established methods to:  modify, adapt, and/or refine broader guidelines to resolve specific complex and/or intricate issues and problems; treat specific issues or problems; research trends and patterns; develop new methods and criteria; and/or propose new policies and practices. 

At Level 3-5, the employee uses guidelines that are often ambiguous and express conflicting or incompatible goals and objectives, requiring extensive interpretation.  The employee uses judgment and ingenuity and exercises broad latitude to:  determine the intent of applicable guidelines; develop policy and guidelines for specific areas of work; and formulate interpretations that may take the form of policy statements and guidelines.  Top agency management officials and senior staff recognize the employee as a technical expert. 

The appellant’s position meets Level 3-4.  In addition to Federal laws, regulations, classification and job grading standards, VA classification reference manuals, OPM issuances such as the Digest of Significant Classification Decisions and Opinions, The Classifier’s Handbook, and published OPM appeal decisions, like Level 3-4 the appellant uses guidelines and precedents that are very general regarding agency policy statements and objectives.  Such guidelines contain gaps in specificity requiring the appellant to interpret and adapt them to problems and issues at hand.  Such guidelines include Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Circulars for issues such as Position Management and Employment Ceilings, VA Directives, VHA research position classification policies, general supplemental classification guidance issued by agency headquarters, pay administration policies, and other agency policies such as those governing reorganizations.  Comparable to Level 3-4, the appellant uses judgment, initiative, and resourcefulness to modify and adapt these general guidelines and policies to specific classification issues presented by VISN positions (e.g., Chief, Medical Administrations Service positions), and sometimes proposes new policies and practices.  For example, the appellant proposed that bargaining unit code determinations be the responsibility of Employee Labor Relations (ELR) specialists as opposed to that of the classification specialists.  The appellant’s supervisor forwarded this proposal to VA central office management responsible for policy changes.  These management discussions led to agreement that the process was indeed an ELR function.  Similar to Level 3-4, in carrying out her position management review responsibilities for a variety of assigned organizations and units throughout VISN 6, she researches trends and patterns for specific occupations, and proposes broader classification review practices when VISN wide classification issues and concerns occur. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 3-5.  Although guidelines used by the appellant have gaps in specificity in resolving particular classification and position management issues, unlike Level 3-5 they are not ambiguous or express conflicting or incompatible goals and objectives thus requiring extensive interpretation.  While the appellant uses judgment in applying and interpreting guidelines, she does not exercise broad latitude to the point of developing policy and guidelines for specific areas of her classification work, nor formulate interpretations of guidelines that would take the form of generating policy statements.  Such policy-making responsibilities are found at OHRM organizations above the appellant’s level, i.e., Department of Veterans Affairs, Classification and Compensation Service.  In addition, although the appellant is well versed in the technical aspects of her classification assignments, the record shows she is not recognized as a technical expert by top agency management and senior HR staff.    

This factor is evaluated at Level 3-4 and 450 points are assigned. 

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 4-4, 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. 

At Level 4-4, the employee conducts detailed planning to gather and interpret information and data for assessing complex problems, issues and unusual circumstances.  The employee determines the most effective and efficient approach to meet customer requirements; identifying to improve or enhance current HR services to ensure that services meet management’s business objectives.  At this level, the employee assess situations that are complicated by ambiguous, disputed, conflicting, and/or incomplete data requiring significant reconstruction to isolate issues and/or problems, and participates in analyzing the effects of changes in law and regulations.  The employee identifies and clarifies problems and issues to propose recommendations and reconciles conflicting or incomplete information identifying and extracting additional information as needed.  At Level 4-4, employees define problems in terms of compatibility with appropriate laws, policies, or regulations, and weigh pertinent facts in formulating a legal and/or factually supportable position.  At Level 4-4, 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. 

A work illustration in the GS-0200 JFS for a Level 4-4 HR Specialist (Classification) describes a position providing complete classification management advisory services at a facility that contains a variety of different types of positions, including numerous complex and dynamic professional positions.  The employee assesses and advises management on the impact of proposed reorganizations and recommends alternative position management structures; provides technical input as appropriate in resolving potential conflicts with classification principles and practices.  The employee conducts on-site or telephone audits and prepares written evaluation statements as required; interprets position classification and position management principles, practices and criteria for application to management’s requests; and plans and conducts classification studies to identify short-and long-range position classification and position management needs.  The illustration indicates that at Level 4-4 the employee interprets classification and position management principles as they apply to local situations. 

At Level 4-5, the work consists of addressing issues that significantly affect long-range implementation of substantive operational and/or policy program(s) throughout an agency, bureau, service, or major military command with numerous subordinate HR offices.  The work entails resolving different and unrelated problems and issues that affect long-range implementation and administration of substantive interrelated mission-oriented program(s); conducting studies to develop responses to management on new requirements in program operations, legislation, or agency regulations; analyzing disputed interrelated information that must be reconstructed from circumstantial evidence requiring substantial depth of analysis over a relatively short period.  Organizations that are affected by the situations under analysis vigorously support their interests at each stage by challenging facts and disputing methods, approaches, and principles that the employee uses; and/ or responding to unanticipated changes in judicial and/or administrative law and policy and the conflicting goals and objectives that may result from these changes. 

At Level 4-5, the employee understands and interprets interrelated program issues that affect long-range program planning, design, and execution; integrates the work of a team into authoritative report(s) outlining options, recommendations, and conclusions reached.  The employee researches statutory, regulatory, court and/or administrative precedents, and other legal opinions or documentary material; and/or interprets and evaluates questionable or discrepant information and synthesizes intricate information to arrive at legally supportable conclusions.  At Level 4-5, the employee develops new HR techniques and/or establishes new criteria or approaches and methods for program implementation and evaluation requiring a substantial depth of research and analysis which serve as precedents for others.  The employee performs analyses that are complicated by major areas of uncertainty in the appropriate approach, methodology, or interpretation because of continuing program changes, technological developments, or conflicting requirements; and/or works on cases that: involve matters that are contentious and/or susceptible to widely varying interpretations; and require creating new techniques, establishing criteria, or developing new information. 

A work illustration in the GS-0200 JFS for a Level 4-5 HR Specialist (Classification) describes a position serving as chief of position classification and position management for the agency, developing agency-wide position classification/position management policy.  Such a position provides authoritative advisory service to office, bureau, region, and field establishment personnel on position classification and position management issues.  The employee conducts extensive self-initiated or problem-driven studies to determine what guidance is necessary and feasible and adjudicates agency position classification appeals and works closely with appropriate program officials to determine the impact of the decision.  The employee coordinates input into OPM’s standards development process and develops and prepares for signature the collective agency response after considering all comments from field test applications, and participates as agency representative on various government-wide study groups as needed. 

The work illustration indicates that at Level 4-5 the employee exercises considerable originality and ingenuity to overcome a broad range of complexities brought about by:  the numerous types of different and dynamic occupations over which the employee exercises classification authority (e.g., scientific and engineering, other professional, IT, technical, and assistance occupations, and a variety of Federal Wage System occupations); unique job characteristics; a history of agency classification and job grading appeal activity requiring precision in reviewing agency trends and data involving controversial or precedent-setting cases. 

The appellant’s position meets Level 4-4.  Like this level, due to the multi-mission nature of the assigned medical centers with active affiliations, research programs, and a wide range of complex professional positions in scientific, research, and engineering occupations, the appellant resolves problems that often involve conflicting or incomplete information.  For example, the appellant was involved in classifying a unique newly established professional veterinary position for the medical center at [name of city and State], which has an extensive research and development function including animal research.  In order to learn more about the position’s professional animal care duties and responsibilities, the appellant performed extensive fact-finding about the prescribed work including contacting the Veterinary Medical Officer located at DVA headquarters who would technically supervise the proposed position.  After completing the necessary research, the appellant reconciled conflicting information by requesting removal of inaccurate information from the PD and classifying it accordingly.  Like Level 4-4, the appellant is responsible for addressing substantive technical issues or problems characterized by complex, controversial, and/or sensitive matters that contain several interrelated issues.  For instance, in her review of standard agency-wide PDs for [appellant’s organization] occupations she has had to address the reasons why similar positions are classified differently from one installation to another thus leading to controversy within OHRM (including downgrades) and impacting related HR issues, e.g., staffing and recruitment.    

Comparable to Level 4-4, the appellant conducts detailed planning to gather and interpret information and data for assessing complex problems, issues and unusual circumstances, particularly when applying agency appeal decisions or guidance, e.g., internal classification guides, HRMLs, Information Bulletins to supplement existing OPM standards.  Like level 4-4, the appellant is responsible for determining the most effective and efficient approach to meet customer requirements by applying appropriate HR management principles to resolve management problems such as supervisory layering and duplication of work.  She identifies ways to improve or enhance current HR services to ensure they meet management’s business objectives.  For instance, she prepares written fact-finding questions and supplemental checklists to obtain information that will aid her in understanding assigned organizations’ goals and assess the effects of organizational position assignments and structure.  Similar to Level 4-4, she participates in analyzing the effects of changes in law and regulations when providing comments on draft OPM classification standards including addressing their impact on applicable positions within [appellant’s organization].  She also identifies and clarifies issues involving reduction in supervisory positions, duplication of efforts and inappropriate division of responsibility, and proposes solutions to meet management needs.  Like Level 4-4, she identifies and extracts additional information from automated databases, e.g., WebHR, Personnel and Accounting Integrated Data (PAID) System, e-Classification, as well as from work products to analyze and support classification actions.  For example, in order to make a pay system and series determination between a FWS or GS position, the appellant collected a year’s worth of work orders and reconciled the information in a spreadsheet to analyze the primary type of work performed.  Furthermore, like Level 4-4 the appellant weighs pertinent facts such as those presented in classification digests and OPM appeal decisions when formulating a factually supportable position.  Comparable to Level 4-4, her work requires exercising originality by analyzing and refining existing work methods and techniques and addressing specific legal issues when faced with classifying hard-to-fill or one of a kind positions in the assigned medical centers.

The appellant’s duties favorably compare to the Level 4-4 work illustration in the GS-0200 JFS.  Like the illustration, she provides complete classification management advisory services to multiple facilities having a wide variety of different types of positions.  She advises managers in [appellant’s organization] on the classification impact of proposed reorganizations from the standpoint of position management, and regularly provides technical input on classification principles and practices.  She conducts position classification audits, prepares evaluation statements, and advises managers on difficult position classification and position management cases and issues, particularly as they apply to local situations. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 4-5.  Unlike this level, her assignments do not involve addressing issues that significantly affect long-range implementation of policy programs(s) throughout the agency, i.e., DVA.  Although some of her assignments involve gathering agency-wide HR data, they do not require analysis of broad DVA programs.  Furthermore, she does not conduct studies to develop responses to management on new requirements in program operations, legislation, or agency regulations.  Moreover, the appellant does not respond to unanticipated changes in judicial and/or administrative law and policy (e.g., title 38 hybrid extensions) and the conflicting goals and objectives that may result from these changes.  Such responsibilities are found at VA central office level.  Unlike Level 4-5, the appellant is not faced with performing analyses that are complicated by major areas of uncertainty in the appropriate approach, methodology, or interpretation because of continuing program changes, technological developments, or conflicting requirements.  Although the appellant’s work involves classifying diverse positions performed in a multi-mission environment, her role is to provide direct technical classification and position management advice and recommendations limited to [appellant’s organization].  Unlike Level 4-5, the appellant’s duties do not include developing new HR techniques or establishing new criteria for classification program implementation which serve as precedents for others.  The nature and difficulty of the assignments and responsibilities described at Level 4-5, particularly involving broad and intensive efforts affecting policy programs at the agency level, are not present in the appellant’s position.  In contrast to the Level 4-5 work illustration in the GS-0200 JFS, the appellant does not serve as chief of the agency’s position management and position classification programs at VA central office level, and performs none of the duties and responsibilities described in the illustration. 

This factor is evaluated at Level 4-4 and 225 points are assigned. 

Factor 5, Scope and effect

This factor covers the relationship between the nature of work (i.e., the purpose, breadth, and depth of the assignment) and the effects of work products or services both within and outside the organization. 

At Level 5-4, the 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. 

At Level 5-5, the work involves analyzing, evaluating, and developing major aspects of agency-wide HR programs that require isolating and defining unknown conditions, resolving critical problems, or developing new concepts and methodologies; and include issues of sensitivity and potential controversy that when resolved may promote advances in principal HR program plans, goals, objectives, and milestones.  Work at Level 5-5 establishes precedents for other technical experts to follow.  Findings and recommendations are typically of major significance to agency management officials, and often serve as the basis for new legislation, regulations, or programs.  Work may also influence and persuade top management officials to change major HR policies or procedures. 

The appellant’s position meets Level 5-4.  Due to the complexity and variety of services provided by the medical centers in [appellant’s organization], like Level 5-4 the appellant resolves or advises on complex classification and position management issues requiring extensive review and analysis of numerous unusual positions, particularly those related to medical research and development of new medical treatments and practices.  Most medical centers in [appellant’s organization] offer research services including Cooperative Studies with other VA medical centers, Geriatric Research, Education and Clinical Centers, Health Services Research & Development (HSR&D), and Medical Research Service that support basic and clinical investigations on the prevention, diagnosis, and treatment of diseases and mental illness (i.e., post deployment), rehabilitation and biomedical research.  Consequently, her assignments involve adjudicating classification actions and conducting position management assessments for complex positions and organizations performing unusual functions.  Furthermore, atypical organizations resulting from organizational consolidations, realignments and service integrations require the appellant to analyze unusual organizational configurations and divisions of responsibility.  Like Level 5-4, the appellant’s assignments ultimately affect the objectives and effectiveness of [appellant’s organization] HR activities, missions and functions.  In addition, her classification and position management evaluations, organizational analyses and proposed resolutions, promote the overall quality, effectiveness, and efficiency of [appellant’s organization] classification program operations. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 5-5.  While she is involved in resolving complex and unusual classification and position management issues and problems at the VISN level, unlike Level 5-5 she does not analyze and develop major aspects of the agency-wide (DVA) position classification management program requiring defining unknown conditions or developing new concepts and methodologies.  Furthermore, at the appellant’s organizational level she is not faced with sensitive and potentially controversial issues that when resolved promote advances in the agency’s principal HR classification program plans, objectives, and milestones.  Responsibility for dealing with such issues is found at higher levels within OHRM, Classification and Compensation Services.  Unlike Level 5-5, the appellant’s work neither establishes precedents for other technical experts to follow, nor do her findings and recommendations serve as the basis for new legislation, regulations, or programs.  As previously addressed, her work promotes the overall quality and efficiency of a classification segment of the VHA/DVA.  While the appellant influences and persuades local managers, supervisors and employees to accept and implement classification findings and recommendations, she is not involved in persuading top agency management officials to change major HR classification policies or procedures.  Such management advisory and consultative services are provided by HR management officials at the agency headquarters level. 

The factor is evaluated at Level 5-4 and 225 points are assigned. 

 Summary of FES factors

Factor Level Points
1.  Knowledge Required by the Position 1-7 1,250
2.  Supervisory Controls 2-4 450
3.  Guidelines 3-4 450
4.  Complexity 4-4 225
5.  Scope and Effect 5-4 225
6. & 7.  Personal Contacts and Purpose of Contacts 3C 180
8.  Physical Demands 8-1 5
9.  Work Environment 9-1 5
Total 2,790

 

The total of 2,790 points falls within the GS-12 range (2,755–3150) on the Grade Conversion Table in the GS-0200 JFS.  Therefore, the appellant’s position is graded at the GS-12 level. 

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as Human Resources Specialist (Classification), GS-201-12. 

 

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