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In This Section

Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

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

Karen L. Robbins,
Eva D. Hamilton,
Melissa A. Hawthorne
Program Assistant (OA)
GS-344-6
Data Validation Unit
Health Administration Service
Veterans Administration Medical Center
Veterans Health Administration
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Lexington, Kentucky
Program Assistant (OA)
GS-344-5
C-0344-05-01

Carlos A. Torrico
Acting Classification Appeals and FLSA Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance

02/28/2018


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a certificate that 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).

Since this decision lowers the grade of the appealed position, it is to be effective no later than the beginning of the sixth pay period after the date of this decision, as permitted by 5 CFR 511.702.  The applicable provisions of parts 351, 432, 536, and 752 of title 5, CFR, must be followed in implementing the decision.  If the appellant is entitled to grade retention, the two-year retention period begins on the date this decision is implemented.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the corrected position description and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted within 30 days from the effective date of the personnel action to the OPM Agency Compliance and Evaluation (ACE) Washington, DC, office.
 
Introduction

The appellants’ position of record is currently classified as Program Assistant (OA), GS-344-6.  However, they believe their position should be classified as a Program Application Specialist/Analyst, GS-301-9.  The position is assigned to the Data Validation Unit (DVU), Health Administration Service (HAS), Veterans Administration Medical Center (VAMC), Veterans Health Administration (VHA), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, in Lexington, Kentucky.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code.

Background and general issues

On March 16, 2017, the agency reclassified the appellants’ position of record (i.e., PD# 30144A) from Program Assistant (OA), GS-344-6, to Program Assistant (OA), GS-344-5.  However, due to an agency Human Resources Management Letter (HRML 5-12-17), which instructs servicing human resources (HR) personnel not to process change-to-lower -grade (CLG) personnel actions resulting from position classification review downgrades, the agency did not perform required post-classification personnel actions detailing the disposition of each appellant, i.e., producing Standard Form 50’s (SF-50’s) assigning the appellants to the March 16, 2017, version of PD# 30144A, changing the grade of the appellants’ official position to GS-5, etc.  Nevertheless, based on our review of both the GS-344-6 and the GS-344-5 PDs we find, although format and organization vary somewhat between the two PDs, the work described in both PDs is substantively the same.  However, for purposes of this decision we have focused our discussion on duties described in the current PD of record as well as information gathered during our interviews.  

The appellants make various statements about their agency’s classification review of their position; assert their agency failed to fully consider the complexity and volume of work they perform; and compare their position to other higher-graded positions within their workgroup and agency.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of their position.  By law, we must make that decision solely by comparing the appellants’ current duties and responsibilities to Office of Personnel Management (OPM) position classification standards (PCS) and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Since comparison to standards is the exclusive method for classifying positions, we cannot compare the appellants’ position to others, which may or may not be classified correctly, as a basis for deciding their appeal.  Because our decision sets aside any previous agency decisions, the classification practices used by the appellants’ agency in classifying their position are not germane to the classification appeal process.  In addition, volume of work cannot be considered in determining the grade of a position (The Classifier’s Handbook, Chapter 5).

Like OPM, the appellants’ agency must classify positions based on comparison to OPM standards and guidelines.  The agency also has primary responsibility for ensuring that its positions are classified consistently with OPM appeal decisions.  If the appellants consider their position so similar to others that they all warrant the same classification, they may pursue the matter by writing to their agency headquarters human resources office.  In doing so, they should specify the precise organizational location, classification, duties, and responsibilities of the positions in question.  If the positions are found to be basically the same as theirs, the agency must correct their classification to be consistent with this appeal decision.  Otherwise, the agency should explain to them the differences between their position and the others.

Both the appellants and their supervisor certified to the accuracy of their official PD# 30144A in their original appeal request.  However, during our onsite visit and interviews, both the appellants and their supervisor acknowledged portions of the official PD were incorrect or overstated.  For example, the appellants’ PD states they are responsible for assisting with the preparation and implementation of the business contingency plans (BCP) for system failure, specifically addressing manual system backup plans on how day-to-day business will be conducted for long and short-term outages.  However, we find this responsibility rests with the supervisory program application specialist, or higher-level management within HAS.  The PD states they participate in the establishment of administrative qualitative standards.  Nevertheless, although the appellants provide information concerning DVU-related operational tasks and requirements when requested, establishment of administrative qualitative standards rests with higher-level management with the agency.

The PD states the appellants conduct business process modeling, projects, and studies that will impact the overall functions of the service in such areas as policy development and implementation, work methodologies, processes, streaming, etc.  However, we find these responsibilities rest with higher-level management within the agency.  The PD states the appellants evaluate and provide authoritative recommendations to the supervisor regarding possible needs for revision of policies governing the scheduling, consulting, electronic wait list, and clinic profile management programs in order to tailor these programs for effective, efficient local use.  However, although the appellants may submit observations and recommendations regarding these agency programs, we find the aforementioned processes and programs directly and indirectly affect patient care and billing programs and are developed and closely controlled at the agency level for consistent implementation by all subordinate organizations, including the appellants’ facility.  

The PD states the appellants’ position requires knowledge of appropriate VA policies, directives, operating procedures, information flow, and prevailing automated practices in (other) Government agencies and the private sector sufficient to ensure applications are consistent with the current and planned infrastructure and data environments currently used at their facility.  However, we find the appellants’ position does not require them to possess knowledge of prevailing automated practices in other Government agencies, or in the private sector.  Under Factor 3, Guidelines, the PD states guidelines governing the appellants’ work are general and broad in meaning, which leaves much to be interpreted at the facility level.  However, we find DVU operating processes and procedures are associated with, and have an impact on, patient tracking, scheduling, and billing practices which are closely regulated at the program level to ensure consistent, agency-wide implementation.  Therefore, guidelines associated with DVU processes and procedures are specific, applicable, and not open to broad interpretation.

We also find the PD overstates the complexity of analytical processes performed by the appellants by making statements which imply the appellants perform substantive analysis (e.g., cost analysis, efficiency, effectiveness, productivity) of analytical and workload studies.  However, although they perform some basic analysis (e.g., side-by-side comparison, basic trend projections), we find they do not perform substantive analysis or analytical studies.  Based on the results of our review, we find the PD does not meet the standard of adequacy addressed on pages 10-11 of the Introduction and must be revised to reflect our findings.

Position information

The Lexington, Kentucky, VAMC is a fully accredited tertiary care medical center which provides a variety of inpatient and outpatient services (e.g., medical, surgical, and behavioral health) to a population of more than 92,000 veterans as of 2016.  HAS is an administrative service within the medical center responsible for managing several business-related programs and functions.  The DVU provides clerical, technical, and program support to HAS’s business programs, e.g., billing, scheduling.

The appellants provide support to program analysts and program managers within HAS and the medical center’s business office.  They closely follow all Federal and local guidance, and standard operating procedures (SOP) when performing their work in order to perpetuate uniformity of agency processes associated with patient scheduling, tracking, and billing, and ensure security of sensitive patient information.  Within established guidelines and operational parameters of various electronic data management system(s) (DMS) (e.g., veterans integrated system technology architecture (VISTA), computerized patient records system (CPRS), Electronic Wait List (EWL)), the appellants implement processes and computer functions of HAS’s business-related programs.  They develop, monitor, update, and submit reports related to clinic profiles (i.e., computer program used to create and populate patient appointment matrices) for their medical center and associated clinics.  They also coordinate with clerical and clinical personnel (e.g., service chief, clinic supervisor, group practice managers) to identify and adjust appointment slots experiencing low or no utilization in order to increase the efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity of each clinic.  They monitor DVU-related issues and processes associated with inpatient movement within their medical center and monitor inpatient information stored in electronic DMS (e.g., VISTA, CPRS) to ensure notations and codes associated with admissions, transfers, discharges, etc., are entered correctly.  They perform analysis (e.g., side-by-side comparisons, trend analysis) of patient information in VISTA and CPRS to identify discrepancies with patient coding and information and correct these mistakes, or notify the appropriate individual or workgroup in order to facilitate corrections.  They also analyze data associated with various billing issues (e.g., increase or decrease in clinic populations) and project trends and perform other similar analytical processes.  They monitor and track serious and/or recurrent errors committed by various operators responsible for inputting DVU-related data into various electronic DMS (e.g., inappropriate clinic scheduling, incorrect patient admission, transfer and discharge coding) and recommend additional training when serious or chronic errors occur.

They communicate with various clerical and clinical personnel within the agency, both inside and outside the medical center (e.g., Ward Clerks, Program Specialists, Business Office Managers, Administrative Officers, Nurses) to conduct business and gather, share, and confirm information in order to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of their clerical and technical program support processes.  They occasionally perform assigned projects, such as those designed to identify and correct administrative and operational issues associated with HAS program-related processes procedures.  They also produce a variety of reports (e.g., Gains and Losses (G&L)) from data and information obtained and stored in the various electronic DMS (e.g., VISTA, CPRS, PTF) and submit recommendations for improvements to current processes and procedures to their supervisor.

The appellants use agency and local guidelines and their knowledge of the capabilities and operating parameters of various HAS-related DMS to develop and present training to new and current employees responsible for inputting HAS-related data into these systems (e.g., VISTA, CPRS).  They provide the servicing HR office with course completion information for individual employees (e.g., employee name, course title, completion date) for inclusion in the employee’s official training record.  They use established computer software to generate a variety of letters used to inform patients of current and future developments associated with their clinics and/or appointments, e.g., rescheduling of clinic appointments, notice of clinic cancellation.  They also draft cyclical and non-cyclical reports associated with HAS-related programs and processes such as, equipment and supply usage, inpatient numbers, the disposition of inpatients (e.g., admitted, transferred, discharged), etc., and update electronic records associated with non-VA vendors and providers when appropriate.  They act as liaison between HAS employees and the medical center’s Office of Information Technology (OI&T) to identify computer hardware and software issues and submit work orders to resolve these issues.  They also coordinate with OI&T to install updates and patches to current programs directly affecting DVU and HAS-related programs.  They intermittently review and comment on new software directly affecting DVU and HAS processes and procedures and provide input and recommendations concerning their usefulness and applicability.

In reaching our classification decision, we carefully considered all information provided by the appellants and their agency including their official PD which, although not completely accurate, we have incorporated by reference into this decision.  In addition, to gain more information about their work we conducted an onsite audit with the appellants on October 20, 2017, and interviewed both their first and second-level supervisors.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency allocated the appellants’ work to the one-grade interval Management and Program Clerical and Assistance Series, GS-344, titling it Program Assistant.  However, the appellants believe their position should be classified to the two-grade interval Miscellaneous Administration and Program Series, GS-301, titling it Program Application Specialist.

The GS-344 series includes positions involved in supervising or performing one-grade interval clerical and technical work in support of management analysis and program analysis, the purposes of which are to evaluate and improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity of organizations and programs.  The work requires a practical knowledge of the purposes, methods, and techniques of management analysis and/or program analysis and the structures, functions, processes, objectives, products, services, resource requirements, and similar features of Government programs and organizations.  Employees in this series perform many different kinds and combinations of work at different organizational levels.  Some employees in this series work independently to control and maintain installed administrative or data management systems (such as forms, records, mail, directives, or publication management systems).  The work includes assisting operating personnel in understanding and using the systems; identifying problems or deviations in system use; and making operational changes or improvements within the policy or structural limitations of the systems.  In addition, most employees in this series use one or more automated systems to perform their duties.  This includes word processing, spreadsheet, data base, project management, graphic design, and management information systems.  Employees in this series also use their knowledge of automated systems to enter, search for, edit, and extract data and information and to create statistical diagrams, organizational and workflow charts, and other graphics.

The GS-301 series includes positions the duties of which are to perform, supervise, or manage nonprofessional, two-grade interval work for which no other series is appropriate.  The work requires analytical ability, judgment, discretion, and knowledge of a substantial body of administrative or program principles, concepts, policies, and objectives.  To be allocated to the GS-301 series the primary work of the position must; (1) be of an administrative, two-grade interval nature; and (2) not classifiable in any other series and involve specialized work for which no appropriate occupational series has been established.

Classification guidance in the Introduction and The Classifier's Handbook describes distinctions between positions properly classified in two-grade interval administrative series and positions classified in one-grade interval support series.  Administrative positions (two-grade interval) are involved in work primarily requiring a high order of analytical ability.  This ability is combined with a comprehensive knowledge of (1) the functions, processes, theories, and principles of management and (2) the methods used to gather, analyze, and evaluate information.  Administrative positions are involved with analyzing, evaluating, modifying, and developing the basic programs, policies, and procedures that facilitate the work of Federal agencies and programs.  In contrast, support positions (one-grade interval) perform work that follows established methods, procedures, and guidelines and may require a high degree of technical skill, care, and precision.  The work can be performed based on a practical knowledge of the purpose, operation, procedures, techniques, and guidelines of the specific program area or functional assignments.  Support personnel typically learn to do the work on-the-job and also may attend specific training courses related to their work.

We find the appellant's position does not involve work that is administrative, two-grade interval in nature.  Although they perform general administrative and program related functions, those duties do not require a high order of analytical ability, a comprehensive knowledge of the functions, processes, theories, or knowledge of the methods used to gather, analyze, and evaluate information concerning programs directly and indirectly affected by their work.  Instead, like one-grade interval support work, the appellants’ duties involve performing technical tasks which support the administration or operation of various programs within their organizational unit.  Also like one-grade interval work, their duties require a practical knowledge of the various work processes and procedures associated with the mission and operational requirements of their organizational unit.  Therefore, we find the appellants’ position does not meet the requirements for consideration as two-grade interval work and is appropriately classified as one-grade interval work.

As previously stated, the appellants believe their position should be classified to the two-grade interval GS-301 series and titled Program Application Specialist.  However, the appellants’ work does not meet the requirements for classification to the two-grade interval GS-301 series.  Unlike this series, their work does not require them to exercise judgment and discretion with regard to analyzing, evaluating, modifying, or developing basic programs, policies, and procedures that facilitate the VA’s work and programs.  In addition, they are not responsible for creating or modifying administrative and/or program principles, concepts, policies, and objectives for the VA.  Further, their work does not meet criterion (1) and (2) of the GS-301 series as the work is one-grade interval work and, as discussed later in this decision, is clearly classifiable to a specific series.  Consequently, the appellants’ work cannot be allocated to the two-grade interval GS-301 series.

The appellants’ work most closely matches the one-grade interval program support work described in the GS-344 Position Classification Standard (PCS).  Like this series, they follow established methods, procedures, and guidelines to perform work such as developing, modifying, monitoring, and correcting clinic profiles and tracking inpatient movements.  In addition, they use a practical knowledge of the purpose and application of electronic data storage, sorting, and presentation systems (e.g., Excel, VISTA, CPRS) to monitor, modify, correct, and analyze data and to produce cyclical reports. They also use their extensive knowledge of applicable processes, procedures, and computer program capabilities and functions to more quickly and accurately complete their duties.  Like this series, the appellants work independently to provide clerical, technical, and procedural support and assistance to their medical center’s inpatient tracking, coding, and billing, and its outpatient clinic scheduling programs.  The appellants’ work supports HAS’s efforts to monitor, analyze and improve the efficiency, effectiveness, and productivity of HAS-related business programs and associated processes.  Similar to the GS-344 series, they enter, verify, edit, search for, extract, analyze, and make recommendations based on data and information stored in established electronic DMS, e.g., VISTA, CPRS, locally-developed Excel spreadsheets.  Also like this series, their knowledge of specific computer programs and administrative support processes and procedures associated with their primary work (e.g., clinic profiles, patient tracking and billing) is based on a practical understanding of the purpose of their work and the required sequence of operations which they obtained through years of experience on-the-job.  Therefore, the appellants’ work is appropriately classified to the one-grade interval GS-344 series.

The prescribed title for work in support of program analysis in the GS-344 series, above the GS-4 level, is Program Assistant.  The parenthetical title Office Automation (OA) is added to the title of positions excluded from the Office Automation Clerical and Assistance Series, GS-326, when such positions require significant knowledge of office automation systems and a fully qualified typist to perform word processing duties.  Based on our fact-finding we agree with the agency’s conclusion that such skills are needed to perform the work.  Therefore, the appropriate title for the appellant’s position is Program Assistant (OA).  However, the office automation aspect of the appellant’s work is not grade controlling and, therefore, is not addressed further in our decision.  Our evaluation of the grade level of the position by application of the grading criteria in the GS-344 PCS follows.

Grade determination

GS-344 PCS uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of nine factors.  The total is then converted to a grade level by use of a grade-conversion table provided in the PCS.  Under the FES, each factor-level description demonstrates the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  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.  Conversely, if a factor is evaluated above the highest factor-level published in the PCS, the factor is evaluated by reference to the primary standard (PS) and other related FES standards.

Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position

At Level 1-3, work requires a practical knowledge of a body of established clerical or technical procedures and requirements related to the assigned management and/or program analysis duty or task.  It also requires a general knowledge of one or a few similar, established, and relatively stable management or program operations.  In addition, some of the work requires one or more of the following: (1) skill in compiling readily available data from prescribed sources and recognizing and correcting obvious discrepancies and data omissions; and/or (2) knowledge of the basic principles of arithmetic to use established formulas to make routine calculations such as standard production rates, staff hours, or funding use; and/or (3) familiarity with one or more established automated systems to enter, correct, and retrieve factual information, compile reports, produce charts and graphs, or monitor project or program status.  Employees use this knowledge to perform a full range of standard duties, tasks, or assignments and to resolve recurring problems.  

At Level 1-4, work requires knowledge of an extensive body of management and/or program analysis technical rules, guidelines, regulations, and precedents.  It also requires knowledge of the basic objectives and policies governing various management or program operations.  Some work also requires skill in applying basic data gathering methods, such as standard interviewing or surveying techniques, to collect various types of factual information.  Some employees apply knowledge of the standardized processes and procedures for evaluating management or program operations to perform duties such as planning the steps to take to complete assignments, identifying problems from collected data, and selecting solutions from alternatives in guidelines and precedent cases.  In addition, some employees also use writing skills to prepare clear, concise reports that describe the data collection techniques and other processes and procedures used, conditions of management or program operations, and recommended improvements.

Level 1-3 is met.  Like this level, the appellants use a practical knowledge of the technical capabilities and limitations of commercial and agency electronic data management tools, (e.g., Excel, VISTA, CPRS) as well as the regulatory parameters and clerical procedures governing portions of HAS’s business programs (e.g., patient billing, clinic scheduling) directly supported by the DVU to perform the full range of standard duties, tasks, and assignments and to correct, or recommend correction to, recurring problems and issues.  Also like this level, the work requires a general knowledge of a few similar, established, and relatively stable program operations, such as patient coding and billing and clinic scheduling.  Similar to this level, they compile data from readily available sources such as Excel, VISTA, CPRS, etc., and recognize and correct, or recommend corrections, to obvious discrepancies and data omissions, e.g., incorrect inpatient codes, scheduling discrepancies.  Also like this level, the appellants use their familiarity with established automated electronic DMS (e.g., VISTA, CPRS, Excel) to enter, correct, and retrieve factual information, compile reports, and/or monitor the status of various projects.  For example, the appellants recently completed a project involving the reorganization of over 150 clinics into 76 new clinics.  During this project they retrieved factual information associated with current clinic appointments, coordinated with clinical and administrative support personnel from both the cancelled and newly created clinics, corrected any patient or profile program discrepancies, and monitored and reported on the status of the changes.  They also monitored operators using the new clinic scheduling parameters and corrected, or recommended corrections to, scheduling mistakes as they occurred.

Level 1-4 is not met.  Unlike this level, the appellants’ work does not require them to perform nonstandard technical assignments or to have knowledge of an extensive body of management and/or program analysis technical rules, guidelines, regulations, and precedents.  Instead, they perform standard clerical and technical program support work which requires a practical knowledge of the rules, guidelines, and regulations associated with HAS’s business program.  Their work requires a practical knowledge of the procedural and technical capabilities, and limitations of a few electronic DMS (e.g., VISTA, CPRS, Excel) which are used to perform work and a limited number of basic analytical processes (e.g., side-by-side comparisons, trend projection) which provide support for HAS’s business programs.  Unlike this level, the appellants do not conduct interviews or surveys or utilize other basic data gathering methods to collect various factual data.  Instead, most reports and analysis are either automatically produced by an electronic data management system, or by an established process which does not require the appellants to explain the techniques employed to obtain the data.  In addition, the appellants’ position does not typically require them to analyze or recommend improvements to objectives and policies associated with HAS’s business program.

This factor is evaluated at Level 1-3 and 350 points are credited.  

Factor 2, Supervisory controls

At Level 2-3, the highest level for this factor described in the PCS, the supervisor or higher level employee defines the objectives, priorities, and deadlines for projects or assignments and assists the employee with unusual situations, problems, or studies that do not have clear precedents.  The employee plans and carries out the successive steps of management or program analysis technical projects and assignments and handles problems and deviations in accordance with instructions, policies, previous training, or accepted practices.  The supervisor or higher level employee evaluates reports and other completed work for technical soundness, appropriateness of conclusions or recommendations, consistency, relevance of support material, and compliance with policies and requirements.  The methods used in arriving at the end results are not reviewed in detail.

The appellants’ position meets, but does not exceed Level 2-3.  Like this level, the supervisor or higher level manager typically define the objectives, priorities, and deadlines for DVU projects and/or assignments and assist the appellants with unusual situations, problems, or studies that do not have clear precedents.  Also like this level, the appellants plan and carry out successive steps associated with performing analyses and working on projects and assignments (e.g., clinic profile design, inpatient tracking and coding), and handle problems and deviations in accordance with established verbal and written instructions, policies, previous training, and accepted practices, e.g., Admissions/Discharges/Transfers (ADT) User Guide, VHA Directive 1230, Outpatient Scheduling Processes and Procedures.  Similar to this level, the supervisor reviews reports, completed work, and recommendations for technical soundness and compliance with established guidelines and requirements.  However, since the appellants follow clearly established guidance and protocols to perform most work, the supervisor does not typically perform detailed reviews of the methods they use to accomplish work.

This factor is evaluated at Level 2-3 and 275 points are credited.  

Factor 3, Guidelines

At Level 3-2, a number of established instructions and procedures for doing the work are readily available and clearly applicable to most assignments.  Typical guidelines include organizational operating procedures; instructions and procedures for management or program analysis functions and processes; automated system procedures and requirements; forms, records, or other administrative or information management procedures and requirements; program audit reports; data on program resource use and productivity; staffing allowances; organization and workflow charts; mission and function statements; program goals and objectives; and similar information.  The number and similarity of guidelines and work situations require the employee to use judgment in locating, selecting, and applying the most appropriate instructions, references, or procedures to management or program analysis clerical or technical assignments.  The employee may make minor deviations in guidelines to adapt to specific tasks such as when questioning operating officials concerning errors or discrepancies in reports.  The employee refers situations involving significant deviations from established guidelines or issues and problems requiring significant judgment to the supervisor or higher level employee for guidance or resolution.

At Level 3-3, because of the unique or complicating characteristics of the assignments, guidelines lack specificity or are not completely applicable to the work requirements, circumstances, or problems.  For example, standard procedures for tracking program or project status require frequent modifications due to fluctuations in budgets, production goals, or workload and established records or forms management practices require adaptation for consistent use by organizations with different functions and administrative needs.  The employee uses judgment in interpreting and adapting guidelines to apply to specific situations, such as evaluating the appropriateness of justifications for changes in clerical staffing levels; determining the cause or extent of deviations from established production rates or resource use; or determining whether an organization's proposed directives, publications, or functional statements are within the scope of their established delegated authority or assigned function.  The employee analyzes the results of applying guidelines and recommends changes to them.

Level 3-2 is met.  Similar to this level, the appellants use a number of established instructions and procedures for performing daily work which are readily available to them, clearly applicable to most assignments and cover topics, e.g., ADT user manual, Bed Management Solutions Guide, G&L Manual, VHA Directive 1230, Scheduling and Enrolment Manual, VISTA User Guide, CPRS User Guide.  Also similar to this level, they may make minor deviations in established guidelines in order to adapt to specific tasks, such as when assisting clerical and clinical personnel in developing one-off clinic profiles in the VISTA electronic DMS.  Like this level, the appellants refer situations involving significant deviations from established guidelines, or issues and problems requiring significant judgment, to the supervisor or higher level employee for guidance or resolution.

Level 3-3 is not met.  Unlike this level, the guidelines used by the appellants are specific, detailed, and cover most circumstances or problems they encounter.  In addition, although they occasionally make minor deviations to non-critical guidance as needed based on their experience, they do not typically modify or deviate from established policies and guidelines to solve unusual problems.  Instead, they closely follow available guidance to perform most work and refer unusual problems to their supervisor or higher level employees for guidance and direction.  Also unlike this level, they do not analyze the results of applying guidelines nor do they typically recommend changes to them.

This factor is evaluated at Level 3-2 and 125 points are credited.  

Factor 4, Complexity

At Level 4-2, work consists of duties involving related procedures, processes, or methods to perform individual management or program analysis clerical or technical assignments or tasks.  For example, the employee may:  review established formats and defined requirements for creating single purpose forms, and design the forms in accordance with standard guidelines, and distribute the forms to prescribed offices; review directives, staffing reports, or organizational change requests for compliance with standard formats or schedules and inclusion of required information; verify clear discrepancies with originating offices and correct errors; search prescribed sources for data, and compile and arrange data in standard formats for projects or reports; or review routine program production reports and identify clear discrepancies, trends, or problems.  The employee decides what needs to be done by identifying easily recognizable differences in the basic characteristics and nature of one or a few similar, stable work units, program areas, and/or management or program operations.  The operations involve easily identifiable steps and procedures; standard plans, schedules, calculations, report formats, and requirements; or clear cut processes, structures, and workflow.  The employee identifies the basic instructions and procedures to follow from among a few established procedural alternatives related to the specific function or task.  The employee considers the nature of the task or duty, basic purposes and other characteristics of the work units and operations involved, or readily available sources of information to complete routine or standard assignments such as compiling and computing data, identifying trends or problems, and explaining procedures.

At Level 4-3, work consists of various duties, projects, or assignments involving different and unrelated management or program analysis technical processes and procedures.  Assignments or projects involve various actions or steps that are not completely standardized or prescribed in instructions, guidelines, or precedent cases; adaptation or modification of established procedures and methods; various types and sources of information; non-recurring problems, trends, or issues; management or program operations with varying or changing conditions (e.g., work units or program areas with different functions or requirements or with periodic changes in workloads, budgets, staff levels, work processes, or program objectives); or similar features.  At this level, the employee decides what needs to be done by considering the characteristics, practices, objectives, and interrelationships of various work units, program areas, and/or management or program operations.  They study and analyze issues such as the nature of the assignments; the various sources of information; the nature and requirements of the work units, program areas, or operations; the objectives of management or program analysis processes and techniques; and the applicability of precedent cases, rules, and regulations.  They also select, adapt, and apply the most suitable practices, procedures, methods, and precedents to collect and analyze various types of information, formulate conclusions, define needs, and/or make recommendations for resolving problems to higher level employees.

Level 4-2 is met.  Like this level, the appellants’ work consists of duties involving related procedures, processes, or methods used to perform a variety of clerical and technical assignments and tasks in support of HAS’s business programs, e.g., clinic scheduling, review of electronic data associated with patient coding, tracking, and billing.  Similar to this level, they use established formats and defined requirements (e.g., VHA Directive 1230, Outpatient Scheduling Processes and Procedures) to develop clinic profiles in accordance with standard guidelines.  They also provide support and guidance to schedulers and other staff regarding appropriate use of the new profiles, identify clear scheduling discrepancies with specific clinics, and correct, or recommend corrections, to scheduling errors.  They also search prescribed data sources (e.g., CPRS, VISTA, Excel spread sheets), and compile and arrange data in standard formats for projects or reports and use this data to identify a variety of clear discrepancies, trends, and/or problems associated with the technical parameters and capabilities of their electronic DMS and/or the clerical processes and procedures used to perform work in support of various HAS programs.

Like Level 4-2, the appellants identify easily recognizable differences in the basic characteristics and nature of one or a few similar, stable program operations, such as ensuring DVU-related data stored in CPRS and VISTA are accurate, and provide training for each employee capable of uploading, altering, or deleting DVU-related data from established electronic DMS.  Like this level, the appellants’ work supports various agency programs (e.g., outpatient clinic scheduling, inpatient coding, tracking, and billing) which requires the appellants to follow clear-cut, easily identifiable and understandable steps, processes, procedures in order to maintain consistent agency-wide implementation.  Similar to this level, the appellants identify the basic instructions and procedures to follow from among a few established procedural alternatives related to the specific DVU functions or tasks, such as the proper procedure for developing, modifying, and deleting clinic profiles.  They also consider the nature of the task or duty and readily available sources of information (e.g., VHA Directive 1230, VISTA and CPRS user manuals, G&L Manual, ADT User Manual) to complete routine or standard assignments, e.g., compiling, processing, and analyzing inpatient data; developing and managing clinic profiles; scheduling outpatients for specific clinics; identifying and tracking inpatient coding and billing errors.

Level 4-3 is not met.  Unlike this level, the duties, assignments, and technical analytical processes and procedures performed by the appellants are typically recurrent and/or cyclical.  In addition, the parameters, actions, and steps needed to perform work are typically standardized and clearly prescribed in established oral and written instructions, guidance, and precedent cases.  Also unlike this level, the appellants are not typically required to adapt or modify established procedures and methods to accomplish daily work nor do they need to search outside readily available guidance to obtain clarification and direction regarding tasks and assignments.  Instead, they typically rely on a few key sources for all the data they need to perform daily work, e.g., VISTA, CPRS, Excel.  Unlike this level, most problems, issues, and program operations encountered by the appellants are recurrent and/or cyclical in nature, e.g., incorrect inpatient coding, ineffective clinic profiles.  In contrast to Level 4-3, although they consider the interrelationships of various clinics and support services when performing work such as developing and managing clinic profiles, they do not consider the characteristics, practices, and objectives of various program areas and/or program operations when deciding how to perform daily work.  Unlike this level, they typically do not analyze the function, purpose, or impact of programs, processes, procedures, rules, and regulations.  Also unlike this level, the appellants do not select, adapt, and apply the most suitable practices, procedures, methods, and precedents to collect and analyze various types of information, formulate conclusions, and define needs.  Instead, they use clearly defined methods and processes to gather information from a few commonly used data sources to perform routine, prescribed, and/or cyclical analytical processes.

This factor is evaluated at Level 4-2 and 75 points are credited.

Factor 5, Scope and effect

At Level 5-2, the purpose of the work is to apply specific rules, regulations, or procedures to perform a full range of clerical or technical tasks, duties, and assignments.  These assignments typically comprise a complete segment of a broad management or program analysis project, study, or process.  The work affects the accuracy, reliability, quality, and timeliness of management or program analysis products, recommendations, studies, projects, and processes.  Some of the work affects the consistent use and control of publications, forms, records, directives, and other systems in local offices and organizations with similar administrative or information management needs.

At Level 5-3, the purpose of the work is to plan and carry out assignments or projects to improve the efficiency and productivity of organizations or program operations.  Employees use established methods, practices, and criteria to identify, study, and recommend solutions for resolving conventional problems or questions.  The work affects the design of organizational structures and workflow; the evaluation and improvement of operating program efficiency and effectiveness; the use and management of staff, funding, equipment, and other resources; and the design or use of similar management or program operations.  Some of the work also affects the management of administrative or information systems throughout a wide range of offices or organizations with different administrative or information management needs.

Level 5-2 is met.  Like this level, the appellants’ apply specific rules, regulations, and procedures (e.g., Admission/Discharge/Transfer (ADT) user manual, G&L Manual, VISTA User Manual, VHA Directive 1230) in order to provide clerical and technical support for HAS’s portion of agency-wide patient billing and scheduling programs.  Their work affects the accuracy and reliability of data stored in various electronic DMS (e.g., VISTA, CPRS), which in turn affects HAS’s ability to analyze data and develop projects, studies, recommendations and reports associated with these programs.

Level 5-3 is not met.  Unlike this level, the appellants’ work does not improve the efficiency and productivity of VA program operations nor does it typically involve the solution of problems or questions relating to organizational performance.  Also unlike this level, their work does not affect the design of programs and policies associated with organizational structures and workflow; the evaluation and improvement of operating program efficiency and effectiveness; the use and management of staff, funding, equipment, and other resources; and the design or use of similar program operations.  In addition, their work does not affect the management of information systems throughout a wide range of offices or organizations with different administrative or information management needs.

This factor is evaluated at Level 5-2 and 75 points are assigned.  

Factors 6 and 7, Personal Contacts and Purpose of Contacts
    
              Personal Contacts

At Level 2, the highest level for this factor described in the PCS, contacts are with employees in the same agency, but outside the immediate organization and/or with members of the general public, as individuals or groups, in moderately structured settings.  Persons contacted are managers, employees, and other representatives of the programs involved or organizations served.

The appellants’ position meets Level 2.  Like this level, the appellants’ contacts include clerical and clinical personnel representing their programs or organizations within the medical center, peers and senior DVU employees from other facilities within the VA, e.g., VHA Program Application Specialist (PAS) workgroup.  

             Purpose of Contacts
    
At Level a, the purpose of the contacts is to obtain, clarify, or provide facts or information.

At Level b, the purpose of contacts is to plan, coordinate, or advise on work efforts; discuss significant findings; or resolve operating problems by influencing or motivating individuals or groups who are working toward mutual goals.

Level a, is met.  Like this level, the purpose of the appellants’ contacts is to obtain, clarify, and provide facts and information associated with DVU-related duties and responsibilities.

Level b, is not met.  Unlike this level, the purpose of the appellants’ contacts is not to plan, coordinate, or advise on work efforts; discuss significant findings; or resolve operating problems by influencing or motivating individuals or groups who are working toward mutual goals

By application of the point assignment chart in the PCS for these factors, a combination of Level 2-a results in assigning 45 points.  

Factor 8, Physical Demands

At level 8-1, the highest level for this factor described in the PCS, the work requires no special physical demands.  It may involve some walking, standing, bending, or carrying of light items.

Level 8-1 is met.  Like this level, the appellants’ work requires no special physical demands, but does involve some walking, standing, bending, or carrying of light items.

This factor is evaluated at Level 8-1 and 5 points are credited.

Factor 9, Work Environment

At Level 9-1, the highest level for this factor described in the PCS, the work is performed in an office or similar setting requiring normal safety precautions against everyday risks or discomforts.

Level 9-1 is met.  Like this level, the appellants’ work is performed in an office setting and requires normal safety precautions against everyday risks or discomforts.

This factor is evaluated at Level 9-1 and 5 points are credited.

Summary

Factors

Level

          Points

1. Knowledge required by the position

1-3

               350

2. Supervisory controls

2-3

               275

3. Guidelines

3-2

               125

4. Complexity

4-2

                 75

5. Scope and effect

5-2

                 75

6/7. Personal contacts/Purpose of contacts     

2a

                 45

8. Physical demands

8-1

                   5

9. Work environment

9-1

                   5

    Total

               955


The total of 955 points falls within the GS-5 point-range (855 - 1100 points) on the grade conversion table provided in the GS-344 PCS.

Decision

The appellants’ position is properly classified as Program Assistant (OA), GS-344-5. 

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