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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]
Health System Specialist
Office of the Director
[name] Veterans Affairs
Medical Center
Department of Veterans Affairs
[city, state]
Health System Specialist

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



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

As discussed in the decision, the appellant’s position description (PD) of record must be revised to meet the PD standards of adequacy in the Introduction.  The revised PD must be submitted to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) office that adjudicated this appeal within 30 calendar days of the date of this decision.

Decision sent to:

 [appellant’s name and address]

 [Agency HR addresses]


On October 12, 2012, OPM’s Dallas Oversight office accepted a classification appeal submitted through the agency on behalf of [appellant’s name].  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Health System Specialist, GS-671-12, but he believes it should be classified at the GS-13 grade level.  The position is assigned to the Office of the Director, [name] Veterans Affairs Medical Center (VAMC), Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in [city, state].  We received the complete agency’s administrative report on November 27, 2012.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

 Background and general issues

The appellant’s position previously reported directly to the VAMC Director.  In February 2012, the VAMC reorganized into its current structure.  As a result, the appellant’s position reports directly to the Chief of Quality Management (a GS-671-14 Supervisory Health System Specialist position), who reports to the VAMC Director.

At the appellant’s request, the consolidated classification team of the Veterans Integrated Service Network (VISN) [number] completed a classification review of his position in May 2012.  The VISN concluded the work was appropriately classified as GS-671-12, but his position was assigned to a revised position description (PD), number [number].

In an October 17, 2012, email to OPM, the appellant states “…my co-worker, who is also a Systems Redesign Coordinator, is a Title 38, Registered Nurse… Our assignments are identical however, by virtue of her being a nurse, she receives a substantially higher rate of pay than I do and receives more benefits.”  He also states the content of his current PD originated from an existing GS-14 PD assigned to a different VAMC.  Implicit in his rationale is that his work is similar to duties performed by higher-graded VA positions.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of the appellant’s position.  By law, we must classify positions solely by comparing the work currently assigned by management and performed by the appellant to OPM’s 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 appellant’s position to title 38 positions which are not covered by OPM’s General Schedule (GS) classification system or to the duties performed by other GS positions that may or may not be classified correctly as a basis for deciding his appeal.  Therefore, we have considered the appellant’s statements only insofar as they are relevant to our comparison of his work to OPM’s PCSs and guidelines.

Like OPM, the appellant’s agency must classify positions based on comparison to OPM’s PCSs and guidelines. Under 5 CFR 511.612, agencies are required to review their own classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with OPM certificates.  Consequently, the VA has primary responsibility for ensuring its positions are classified consistently with OPM appeal decisions.  If the appellant believes his position is classified inconsistently with higher-graded positions at other VAMCs, then he may pursue this matter by writing to the human resources office of his agency’s headquarters.  He should specify the precise organizational location, series, title, grade, and responsibility of the positions in question.  The agency should explain to him the differences between his position and the others, or classify those positions in accordance with this appeal decision.

The appellant mentions his previous experience in the health care industry, certifications, and other personal qualifications.  Qualifications are considered in classifying a position to the extent the qualifications are required to perform the duties and responsibilities of the position.  Therefore, we will consider the appellant’s personal qualifications only insofar as they are required to perform his current duties and responsibilities.

Position information

The VAMC serves a veteran population of over [number] throughout [number] parishes in northwest [state], [number] counties in southwest [state], and [number] counties in northeast [state].  As a Level 1c hospital, the VAMC provides a full range of patient care services through primary and specialty care in the areas of medicine, surgery, psychiatry, physical medicine and rehabilitation, neurology, oncology, dentistry, and geriatrics.  Part of VISN [number], the tertiary care hospital maintains approximately [number] hospital beds.  Outpatient care is also provided at community based outpatient clinics (CBOC) located in [city, state]; [city, state]; and [city, state].

The appellant’s position serves as a Systems Redesign (SR) Coordinator and Improvement Specialist, performing a variety of analytical, planning, evaluative, and advisory work.  The SR program is based on the development and implementation of alternative methods for conducting business, including the administrative and operational processes for improving patient access, delivery of services, patient flow, and business applications.  The appellant directs, coordinates, and facilitates SR project teams.  The SR teams include multidisciplinary members representing all levels of clinical, administrative, and support professions from the VAMC and CBOCs; are convened for typically three to six months; and are established when circumstances, events, or operations present the opportunity (e.g., resulting from findings of the Joint Commission (JC) or other external regulatory agency) or when directed by VA, VISN, or the VAMC leadership to improve quality, safety, efficiency and effectiveness, or operational standards.

The SR teams follow the Team-Aim-Map-Measure-Change-Sustain (TAMMCS) framework, which guides the improvement process by establishing a common set of principles and expectations for establishing the team, setting goals, charting process, implementing changes, and supporting new improvements.  The appellant is involved in each TAMMCS stage and its associated tasks.  For example, depending on the SR project (its aim), he identifies team participants by pinpointing process owners responsible for the particular practice and the organizations likely to be impacted; determines whether project objectives are achievable by adopting the 100-day results, rapid-cycle process improvement, DeepDive, or another appropriate methodology-related process or approach; and considers the data required and appropriate collection methods in order to direct the SR team in creating a meaningful measurement system.  The appellant’s other duties involve working with SR team members to develop, evaluate, or gather program-required documents such as the charter, which declares the project’s goal, problem statement, timeframes, milestones, methodology, performance measures, and roles and responsibilities of team members.  He also develops flowchart diagrams of current and future processes and procedures, PowerPoint presentations, Excel spreadsheets, and other measurement and data reporting methods for various uses depending on the intended audience.

In addition, the appellant conducts return on investment (ROI) analyses after the implementation of improvements to substantiate associated costs.  His ROIs involve projecting the cost of continuing business as-is prior to the change versus the expenses from implementing improvements, drawing conclusions regarding real costs, returns, and projected payback from implementing changes.  He also conducts case studies summarizing the SR project team’s results and lessons learned.  The appellant presents, communicates, and defends SR team findings and recommendations to the VAMC’s Pentad:  the VAMC Director, Chief of Staff (Medical Service), Associate Medical Center Director (Administration and Business), Associate Patient Care (Chief Nurse), and Assistant Director (Non-Clinical).  He also provides consultative guidance to all functional elements at the VAMC and CBOCs regarding improvements to mission effectiveness, resource utilization, and cost savings.

Other duties involve providing training on Lean management, Six Sigma strategies, and other process improvement tools and concepts to SR team participants and others; participating on the Customer Service Council, Strategic Planning Committee, and other groups; and, when designated as grievance examiner, gathering information, conducting interviews, and drafting a report of findings when a formal complaint is filed with the VAMC’s human resources office.

The appellant and an interim supervisor certified to the accuracy of the appellant’s PD.  Subsequent to his filing a classification appeal with OPM, the current supervisor, effective October 21, 2012, reviewed his official PD and disputed the language used to describe the major duties and its evaluation; e.g., the PD states, “[t]he incumbent takes on a leadership role in improving the healthcare delivery process…”  The supervisor, however, characterizes the appellant’s position as a facilitator, not a leadership role.

We find the PD of record covers the major duties assigned to and performed by the appellant.  Regardless, the PD and evaluation include statements not supportable either by the duties described in the record or information obtained during the telephone interviews.  Likely due to it being a replica of an existing PD, the appellant’s PD includes statements that are inappropriate (references the [city] VAMC on page 6), unsubstantiated (describes work including setting performance standards, providing feedback on performance, and making recommendations for performance awards to individuals participating in SR activities on page 3), and overstated (describes the position as an expert consultant in SR principles and methodologies for the VA, VISN, and VAMC).  Because PDs must meet the minimum standard of adequacy as described in the Introduction, the appellant's PD must be updated so that there is a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities that represent the approved classification.  Regardless, an OPM decision classifies a real operating position and not simply a PD.  We have decided this appeal based on an assessment of the actual work assigned to and performed by the appellant.

To help decide this appeal, we conducted telephone audits with the appellant on January 9 and 10, 2013.  In addition, we conducted telephone interviews with his current supervisor on January 11, 2013; the interim Quality Management Chief, who served as the appellant’s supervisor for six months prior to the current supervisor, on January 12, 2013; and the VAMC Director on January 22, 2013.  In deciding this appeal, we fully considered the interview findings and all information of record provided.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency assigned the appellant’s position to the GS-671 Health System Specialist Series.  The appellant does not disagree and, after careful review of the record, we concur.  The authorized title for positions in the GS-671 series is Health System Specialist.

The GS-671 standard does not include grade-level criteria.  The GS-671 PCS instructs using grade-level criteria in the GS-343 Management and Program Analysis Series.  The grade-level criteria for the GS-343 PCS have been abolished; however, the current GS-343 PCS instructs using the grading criteria in the Administrative Analysis Grade Evaluation Guide (Guide) for nonsupervisory positions at GS-9 and above.

The agency applied the grading criteria in the Guide.  The appellant’s initial request states, “I do not believe that the appropriate position classification standards were applied and dispute the point values that were assigned.”  He does not suggest different grade-level criteria.  He provides his rationale for crediting his work at higher factor levels, identifying the grade-level criteria he used to make that comparison as “Appropriate Standard.”

The Guide is used to evaluate staff analytical, planning, and evaluative work concerned with the administrative and operational aspects of agency programs and management.  Typical positions covered by the Guide require knowledge, like the appellant’s, of (1) the overall missions, functions, and organization of the agency or component; (2) the principles, functions, and processes of management and the organization of work; (3) agency program operations, processes, goals, and objectives; and (4) evaluative, planning, and analytical processes and techniques (quantitative and qualitative).  Knowledge is applied, like the appellant’s position, in support of planning, development, and execution of agency programs, or the administrative management of agencies and their component organizations.  The appellant does not suggest different grade-level criteria, and since his work requires the type and application of knowledge similar to that covered by the Guide, we applied that PCS to determine the grade level of his position.

Grade determination

The Guide is written in the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of the nine factors.  The total is converted to a grade level by use of the grade conversion table provided in the Guide.  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 unless an equally important aspect that meets a higher level balances the deficiency.  Conversely, the position may exceed those criteria in some aspects and still not be credited at a higher level.

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

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

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

At Level 1-7, the position requires knowledge and skill in applying analytical and evaluative methods and techniques to issues or studies concerning the efficiency and effectiveness of program operations carried out by administrative or professional personnel, or by substantive administrative support functions (i.e., internal activities or functions such as supply, budget, procurement, or personnel which serve to facilitate line or program operations).  Level 1-7 includes knowledge of pertinent laws, regulations, policies, and precedents affecting the use of program and related support resource (people, money, or equipment) in the area studied.  Projects and studies typically require knowledge of the major issues, program goals and objectives, work processes, and administrative operations of the organization.  Knowledge is used to plan, schedule, and conduct projects and studies to evaluate and recommend ways to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of work operations in a program or support setting.  The assignments require knowledge and skill in adapting analytical techniques and/or organizational productivity.  Knowledge is applied in developing new or modified work methods, organizational structures, management processes, procedures for administering program services, guidelines and procedures, etc.

At Level 1-8, the employee operates as an expert analyst who has mastered the application of a wide range of qualitative and/or quantitative methods for the assessment and improvement of program effectiveness or the improvement of complex management processes and systems.  This level also requires comprehensive knowledge of the range of administrative laws, policies, regulations, and precedents applicable to the administration of one or more important public programs.  This typically includes knowledge of agency program goals and objectives, the sequence and timing of key program events and milestones, and methods of evaluating the worth of program accomplishments.  Work requires knowledge of relationships with other programs and key administrative support functions within the employing agency or in other agencies.  Study objectives are to identity and propose solutions to management problems which are characterized by their breadth, importance, and severity, and for which previous studies and established management techniques are frequently inadequate.  Also included at this level is skill to plan, organize and direct team study work and to negotiate effectively with management to accept and implement recommendations, where the proposals involve substantial agency resources, require extensive changes in established procedures, or may be in conflict with the desires of the activity studied.

The appellant’s position meets Level 1-7.  He analyzes and evaluates the effectiveness of operations and processes in meeting established goals and objectives, making recommendations to reduce costs, streamline methods and processes, make staffing changes, etc.  As at Level 1-7, the appellant’s work requires knowledge and skill in using various analytical and evaluative methods, techniques, and strategies such as Six Sigma, Lean management, regression analysis, and flow mapping to direct SR project activities.  Also as at Level 1-7, he applies knowledge of planning and directing SR projects, considering improvements to the VAMC’s health care operations and delivery, outpatient care, inpatient flow, administrative and business processes, and administrative support activities.  This work entails analyzing information; assembling qualitative and quantitative data and findings into PowerPoint slides, storyboards, flowchart diagrams, Excel spreadsheets, and other methods depending on the intended purpose and audience; and presenting findings and recommendations to the Pentad and other management.  The appellant’s work requires considerable interpersonal skills to negotiate agreements and compromises among individuals with competing interests including SR team members, VAMC Director, and other management officials.  Similar to Level 1-7, his work requires knowledge of the VAMC’s mission, organizations, and work processes; VA laws, regulations, policies, and precedents related to the health care industry; and potential issues and requirements related to professional and external regulatory agency standards.

The appellant directs, facilitates, and coordinates SR projects.  The SR team, assembled to consider issues of an oftentimes subjective nature, makes value judgments, weighs potential factors, and draws highly-subjective conclusions and recommendations.  For example, the appellant directed a project aimed at decreasing the number of veterans failing to show up for scheduled appointments.  The SR team developed recommendations to create an automated scheduling reminder system and provide negotiating skills training to scheduling staff.  The appellant also directed a project aimed at improving the VAMC’s telephone access and services, where his work included analyzing available data relating to current outcomes, expected outcomes, and lessons learned from previous studies.  Improvements to the VAMC’s telephone access, which resulted in reducing the average “speed of answer” in the primary care division from 68 seconds to less than 30, involved his drafting and establishing written guidelines and protocols.  This and other work examples are consistent with Level 1-7 where knowledge is applied to various areas of the VAMC’s operations to develop new or modified work methods, organizational structures, management processes, procedures for administering program services, guidelines and procedures, etc.

The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 1-8, stating his position requires mastery of a wide range of quantitative methods for assessing and improving program effectiveness or other complex management processes and systems; comprehensive knowledge of the range of administrative laws, policies, regulations, and precedents applicable to the administration of one or more public programs; and knowledge of relationships with other programs and key administrative support functions.  However, his position does not meet Level 1-8.  Although requiring knowledge of the VAMC’s administrative processes and procedures relating to scheduling, billing, etc., his position does not require comprehensive knowledge of the full range of administrative laws, policies, regulations, and precedents governing the facility’s health care programs as characterized by the appellant.  He directs and facilitates SR projects, providing guidance on analytical and evaluative methods and techniques, developing and implementing recommendations, and monitoring improvements to operations unique to a hospital and VA environment.  The Guide describes Level 1-8 as an expert analyst having mastered a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods for assessing and improving complex processes and systems; e.g., knowledge is applied to the design and conduct of comprehensive management studies where the boundaries of the projects are developed as the study proceeds.  Study objectives are to identify and propose solutions to management problems which are characterized by their breadth, importance, and severity, and for which previous studies and established management techniques are frequently inadequate.  In contrast, the appellant’s project work is controlled by the parameters of the charter, TAMMCS framework and other SR program requirements, expected outcomes, and instructions from the VAMC Director and others.  The subject matter of his SR projects also does not involve the breadth, importance, and severity typical of Level 1-8 projects.  In contrast to Level 1-8, the predefined and fixed framework and subject matter characteristic of the appellant’s SR projects also do not allow for the application of knowledge to design and conduct complete management studies where boundaries shift and are modified as the study proceeds.

Level 1-7 is credited for 1,250 points.

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the employee’s responsibility, and the degree to which the work is reviewed by the supervisor.

At Level 2-4, work is performed within a framework of priorities, funding, and overall project objectives (e.g., cost reduction, improvement effectiveness and efficiency, better workload distribution, or implementation of new work methods).  The employee and supervisor develop a mutually acceptable project plan that typically includes identification of the work to be done, the scope of the project, and deadlines for its completion.  Within the parameters of the approved project plan, the employee is responsible for planning and organizing the study, estimating costs, coordinating with staff and line management personnel, and conducting all phases of the project.  This frequently involves the definitive interpretation of regulations and study procedures, and the initial application of new methods.  The employee informs the supervisor of potentially controversial findings, issues, or problems with widespread impact.  Completed projects, evaluations, reports, or recommendations are reviewed by the supervisor for compatibility with organizational goals, guidelines, and effectiveness in achieving intended objectives.  Completed work is also reviewed critically outside the employee’s immediate office by staff and line management officials whose programs and employees would be affected by implementation of the recommendations.

At Level 2-5, the employee is recognized as an authority in the analysis and evaluation of programs and issues, and is subject only to administrative and policy direction concerning overall project priorities and objectives.  At this level, the employee is typically delegated complete responsibility and authority to plan, schedule, and carry out major projects concerned with the analysis and evaluation of programs or organizational effectiveness.  The employee typically exercises discretion and judgment in determining whether to broaden or narrow the scope of projects or studies.  Analyses, evaluations, and recommendations developed by the employee are normally reviewed by management officials only for potential influence on broad agency policy objectives and program goals.  Findings and recommendations are normally accepted without significant change.

The appellant’s position meets Level 2-4.  He collaborates with his supervisor and the VAMC Director to identify the facility’s areas of concern, and the scope and projected timeframes of SR and other improvement projects.  The VAMC Director approves all project charters prior to their start and all recommended improvements prior to their implementation.  The appellant independently plans and carries out his assignments within this context, resolving most conflicts which arise, coordinating work with the SR team and others, and interpreting policy on his own initiative as expected at Level 2-4.  Also consistent with this level, he operates within parameters established by the SR and improvement initiatives identified by the VA, VISN, and VAMC; project charter; and TAMMCS framework and other program-related requirements, tools, and methods.  The appellant provides monthly project status reports to the supervisor, also informing the supervisor when necessary of potentially controversial situations (e.g., difficulties with an individual team member) or findings, issues, or problems with widespread impact.  Similar to Level 2-4, the supervisor and VAMC Director review the appellant’s completed projects, evaluations, reports, and recommendations for compatibility with organizational goals of the VA, VISN, and facility and also effectiveness in achieving intended project objectives.

The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 2-5, stating his position receives only administrative and policy direction concerning overall project priorities and objectives.  He performs his work with a great deal of independence, but his position does not meet Level 2-5.  The appellant carries out SR project and improvement tasks, the content and boundaries of which are defined or guided by instructions from the supervisor or VAMC Director and agency processes and procedures.  Unlike Level 2-5, he does not exercise discretion and judgment in determining whether to broaden or narrow the scope of his projects or studies.  The scope, deadlines, and objectives of his SR projects are determined in coordination with the supervisor and VAMC Director, describing a collaborative environment in contrast to the complete and total project responsibility control described at Level 2-5.  Regardless of how independently the appellant works in completing assignments, the nature of his work is not such that it would permit exercising the level of responsibility and authority found at Level 2-5 where employees have complete authority to plan, schedule, and carry out major projects.  His finished products are reviewed; e.g., by VA and VISN SR program staff, process owners, and the Pentad and other management from the standpoint of their effectiveness in achieving intended project objectives. 

The appellant’s supervisor and VAMC Director review his work for its improved effectiveness and efficiency on program operations.  His work is not reviewed for its influence on agency policies and program goals as his position within the organization does not have that level of impact as intended at Level 2-5. 

Level 2-4 is credited for 450 points.

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor considers the nature of guidelines and the judgment needed to apply them.

At Level 3-4, guidelines consist of general administrative policies and management and organizational theories which require considerable adaptation and/or interpretation for application to issues and problems studied.  At this level, administrative policies and precedent studies provide a basic outline of the results desired but do not go into detail as to the methods used to accomplish the project.  Administrative guidelines usually cover program goals and objectives of the employing organization, such as agency controls on size of workforce, productivity targets, and similar objectives.  Within the context of broad regulatory guidelines, the employee may refine or develop more specific guidelines such as implementing regulations or methods for the measurement and improvement of effectiveness and productivity in the administration of operating programs.

At Level 3-5, guidelines consists of basic administrative policy statements concerning the issue or problem being studied, and may include reference to pertinent legislative history, related court decisions, State and local laws, or policy initiatives of agency management.  The employee uses judgment and discretion in determining intent, and in interpreting and revising existing policy and regulatory guidance for use by others within or outside the employing organization (e.g., other analysts, line managers, or contractors).  Some employees review proposed legislation or regulations which would significantly change the basic character of agency programs, the way the agency conducts its business with the public or with private industry, or which modify important interagency relationships.  Other employees develop study formats for use by others on a project team or at subordinate echelons in the organization.  At this level, the employees are recognized as experts in the development and/or interpretation of guidance on program planning and evaluation in their specialty area (e.g., workforce management, contingency/emergency planning, position management, work measurement, or productivity management).

The appellant’s guidelines meet Level 3-4.  Similar to this level, he applies broad guidelines to specific problems and issues, choosing applicable tools, methods, and techniques to deal with various SR project situations.  The appellant applies instructions and guidelines including SR program-related policies, directives, and requirements issued by the VA, Veterans Health Administration, and VISN; analytical tools, decision charts, matrixes, and other program tools and methods available on an internal SR program website; and guidelines from the JC and other external agencies and from the American Nursing Association and other professional standards.  Similar to Level 3-4, his guidelines provide a basic outline of expected results but do not go into detail as to the process and methods used to accomplish project objectives.  The appellant uses judgment in choosing the appropriate methodology and other decisions leading to the development and implementation of improvements.  He tailors existing operational guidelines to be used by participants of the VAMC’s SR projects as described at Level 3-4.  For example, using SR program-related guidelines issued by VA and others, he developed the VAMC’s SR Team Handbook to serve as a general guide to all team members by describing roles and responsibilities, methodologies, data collection, etc.

The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 3-5, stating the guidelines of his position are limited to basic administrative policy statements and nonspecific, broadly stated guides.  We found his position does not meet Level 3-5 where guidelines consist of basic administrative policy statements concerning issues and may include only references to pertinent legislative history, related court decisions, State and local laws, or policy initiatives of agency management.  Employees at Level 3-5 review proposed legislation or regulations that would significantly change the basic character of agency programs, or develop study formats for use by others on a project team or at subordinate echelons in the organization.  In contrast, the appellant’s position does not involve such work to the extent described and the guidelines available to him are more specific, as described previously, than the basic policy statements described at Level 3-5.

Level 3-4 is credited for 450 points.

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

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

At Level 5-4, the purpose of the work is to assess the productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency of program operations or to analyze and resolve problems in the staffing, effectiveness, and efficiency of administrative support and staff activities.  Work involves establishing criteria to measure and/or predict the attainment of program or organizational goals and objectives.  Work at this level may also include developing related administrative regulations such as those governing the allocation and distribution of personnel, supplies, equipment, and other resources, or promulgating program guidance for application across organizational lines or in varied geographic locations.  Work involving the evaluation of program effectiveness usually focuses on the delivery of program benefits or services at the operating level.  Work contributes to the improvement of productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency in program operations and/or administrative support activities at different echelons and/or geographical locations within the organization.  Work affects the plans, goals, and effectiveness of missions and programs at these various echelons or locations.

At Level 5-5, the purpose of the work is to analyze and evaluate major administrative aspects of substantive, mission-oriented programs.  This may involve, e.g., the development of long-range program plans, goals, objectives, and milestones, or to evaluate the effectiveness of programs conducted throughout a bureau or service of an independent agency, a regional structure of equivalent scope, or a large complex multi-mission field activity.  The work involves identifying and developing ways to resolve problems or cope with issues which directly affect the accomplishment of principal program goals and objectives (e.g., delivery of program benefits or services).  Some employees develop new ways to resolve major administrative problems or programs, while some employees at this level develop administrative regulations or guidelines for the conduct of program operations.  Others develop new criteria for measuring program accomplishments (e.g., the level, costs, or intrinsic value of benefits and services provided) and the extent to which program goals and objectives are attained.  Study reports typically contain findings and recommendations of major significance to top management of the agency, and often serve as the basis for new administrative systems, legislation, regulations, or programs.  Typical of work products prepared by employees at this level are complete decision packages, staff studies, and recommendations which upon implementation would significantly change major administrative aspects of missions and programs, or substantially affect the quality and quantity of benefits and services provided to the agency’s clients.

The appellant’s position meets Level 5-4.  As at this level, his work directly contributes to improving the productivity and effectiveness of the administrative, business, and other related support operations relating to the VAMC’s mission-oriented programs.  His work involves analyzing current processes and operations to develop improvements to the accuracy, adequacy, and timeliness of the work of others.  The SR recommendations are used to establish VAMC-wide policies and procedures.  Similar to the Level 5-4 description involving the evaluation of program effectiveness in delivering services at the operating level, the appellant’s work involves tasks, such as conducting ROI analyses to justify costs of implementing recommendations and case analyses summarizing the team’s effectiveness in achieving results and lessons learned, aimed at improving the SR program and other organizational processes.  For example, he coordinated a business office project to identify deficiencies in the billing process stemming from an inadequate enrollment process for health care providers.  The SR team’s recommendations included, in part, hiring additional staff.  The appellant conducted a cost benefit analysis justifying the additional funding needed to staff the streamlining of the enrollment process.  This and other work examples demonstrate his position’s contributions to improving productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency in the program operations at different echelons within the VAMC as described at Level 5-4.

The appellant seeks to credit his position at Level 5-5, stating his position is responsible for developing new ways of resolving major administrative problems affecting the accomplishment of principal program goals and objectives such as the delivery of program benefits or services.  His position is not responsible for evaluating the effectiveness of programs throughout an organization equivalent in size to a bureau, regional structure, or large complex multi-mission field activity to the depth and extent expected at Level 5-5.  The appellant’s position involves directing SR team participants to identify potential issues, modify noncompliant processes, and implement changes.  He also monitors and assesses impact of changes to the VAMC and its program operations.  For example, the appellant directed a project involving patient registration and intake process improvements.  Due to inadequate or missing information on patient registration forms, the SR team proposed recommendations including hiring additional staff, improving training of intake staff, and conducting quarterly audits to ensure accuracy and adequacy of intake data.  The end result was an improved completion rate on patient registration forms, thus providing more accurate information to the billing and collections department.  However, his work does not have the same impact as described at Level 5-5, where findings and recommendations are of major significance to top management of the agency and often serve as the basis for new administrative systems, legislation, regulations, or programs.

Level 5-4 is credited for 225 points.

Factor Level Points
1.  Knowledge Required by the Position 1-7 1250
2.  Supervisory Controls 2-4 450
3.  Guidelines 3-4 450
4.  Complexity 4-5 325
5.  Scope and Effect 5-4 225
6. & 7.  Personal Contacts and Purpose of Contacts 3-c 180
8.  Physical Demands 8-1 5
9.  Work Environment 9-1 5
Total 2,890


The total of 2,890 points falls within the GS-12 range (2,755 to 3,150) on the grade conversion table in the Guide.


The position is properly classified as Health System Specialist, GS-671-12.




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