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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

Marshell E. Johnson
Passport and Visa Technician (OA)
GS-303-6
Customer Support Section
Military Personnel Flight
11th Force Support Squadron
11th Mission Support Group
11th Wing
Air Force District of Washington
Department of the Air Force
Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
Contact Representative
GS-962-4
C-0962-04-01

Linda Kazinetz
Classification Appeals and FLSA Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance

06/27/2017


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 core personnel document (CPD) reflecting the actual work assigned to and performed by the appellant as discussed in this decision 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 U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Introduction

The appellant’s position is currently classified as Passport and Visa Technician (OA), GS-303-6, but she believes it should be classified as Passport and Visa Specialist, GS-967-9.  The position is assigned to the Customer Support Section, Military Personnel Flight, 11th Force Support Squadron (FSS), 11th Mission Support Group, 11th Wing, Air Force District of Washington, Department of the Air Force, Department of Defense (DoD), at Joint Base (JB) Andrews, Maryland.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

General issues

The appellant raises concerns about the classification of her position (e.g., the occupational series and grade level assigned to her position are not accurate and the “factor points” are not equivalent to the duties she performs).  She also alludes to classification inconsistency by submitting part of a vacancy announcement for a Program Support Specialist, GS-301-7/9, position at another DoD component.  By law, we must classify positions solely by comparing their duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCS) and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  Since comparison to the PCSs and guidelines is the exclusive method for classifying positions, we cannot compare the appellant’s duties to those of other positions, which may or may not be classified properly, as the basis for deciding this appeal.

By law, the agency must classify positions consistently with published classification standards and in accordance with the principle of equal pay for substantially equal work.  Under 5 CFR 511.612, agencies must review their own classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with OPM certificates.  DoD has primary responsibility for ensuring classification consistency within its subordinate organizations.  If the appellant believes her position is classified inconsistently with another position at a different DoD component, then she may pursue this matter by writing to DoD’s human resources office.  She should specify the precise organizational location, series, title, grade, and responsibilities of the position in question.  DoD should explain to her the differences between her position and the others, or classify those positions in accordance with this appeal decision.

The appellant alludes to the amount of work she performs by stating she provides assistance to military members, civilians, and dependents in JB Andrews and the National Capital Region.  However, volume of work cannot be considered in determining the grade of a position (see The Classifier’s Handbook, chapter 5).

Position information

The appellant provides passport and visa assistance to military members and civilian employees assigned to JB Andrews, their dependents, and those within the National Capital Region who prefer to use the JB passport office.  She provides information on obtaining passports and visas, e.g., application instructions and the types of documentation required to prove U.S. citizenship.  She works closely with members of the 11th FSS Readiness Team and the Unit Deployment Managers (UDMs) to ensure military members receive timely passports and/or visas prior to deployment, and with members of the Career Development Office to ensure military members and their dependents receive timely passports and/or visas in connection with permanent change of station (PCS) orders.  On a monthly basis, the appellant receives a listing of JB military members stationed worldwide who have been issued reassignment orders, contacts the military members to find if they or any dependents need passports and/or visas, and provides assistance as needed.  Approximately every two weeks, she uses the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network  to access the Deliberate Contingency Automated Process System to determine where JB military members and civilian employees stationed worldwide are projected to be deployed, and provides assistance to those who require passports and/or visas.  On a quarterly basis, she briefs the UDMs for deploying units on passport and visa requirements.  She updates the passport information within the Military Personnel Data System for JB military members changing station, retiring, or separating from the military.  She also assists civilian employees who accept overseas positions in obtaining passports and visas. 

The Chief, Military Personnel Section, certified to the accuracy of the duties described in the appellant’s CPD of record.  However, the appellant provided a statement that she does not completely agree with the statement in her CPD that her work schedule could “be adjusted to meet short notices [sic] mission requirements for passport and/or visa support,” or with the factor level description for Factor 2, Supervisory Controls, which states the appellant’s supervisor assigns her work.  Regardless, classification appeal regulations permit OPM to investigate or audit a position and decide an appeal on the basis of the actual duties and responsibilities currently assigned by management and performed by the employee.  Therefore, this decision is based on the work currently assigned to and performed by the appellant.  The appellant’s work schedule is not germane to the classification of her position and is not addressed here.

To help decide the appeal, we conducted telephone audits with the appellant on January 30 and 31, 2017, and with her immediate supervisor on February 10, 2017.  In reaching our classification decision, we carefully considered all of the information obtained from these interviews, as well as the written information furnished by the appellant and the agency.  However, there are some inaccuracies in the appellant’s CPD that should be corrected by the agency.  The CPD includes a statement that the appellant establishes who is eligible to apply for no-fee passports.  However, the Department of State establishes the criteria regarding who can and cannot apply for no-fee passports.  The CPD states the appellant “[d]etermines requirements for P[assports]/V[isas].”  However, the Department of State and foreign embassies determine the requirements an applicant must meet to be granted a passport or visa, respectively.  Further, the CPD states the appellant “[r]epresents the [S]tate [D]epartment on policy decisions.”  However, the appellant only implements the passport requirements developed by the Department of State and has no such representational responsibilities.  Also, the CPD states under Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position, that the appellant independently adjudicates passport application packages.  However, such adjudications are made by Department of State personnel.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has classified the appellant’s position in the Miscellaneous Clerk and Assistant Series, GS-303, but the appellant believes it should be classified in the Passport and Visa Examining Series, GS-967.  The GS-967 series covers two-grade interval administrative positions involved in supervising or performing work adjudicating applications for U.S. passports or visas, including related work involving determining citizenship or fitness of noncitizens for admission to the U.S.  The work requires knowledge of legal and regulatory provisions governing U.S. citizenship, nationality, and/or visas, and the principles, systems, and operations related to the issuance of passports or other citizenship registration, certificates, or visas.   The appellant’s position may not be assigned to the GS-967 series because she does not adjudicate passport applications but rather checks them for completeness before sending them to the Department of State for adjudication. 

The appellant’s position is properly assigned to the one-grade interval GS-962 Contact Representative Series.  An exclusion in the GS-967 position classification standard instructs that positions be classified in the Job Family Classification Standard for Assistance Work in the Legal and Kindred Group, GS-900, when they primarily involve reviewing applications for proper completion and presentation of documentary evidence of birth in the United States or naturalization and recording the evidence submitted for proof of identity, but when they do not include adjudication functions.  Correspondingly, the appellant’s work involves ensuring applicants provide required documentation based on well-established criteria, requesting missing documentation recording passport information,  and providing information about application requirements for passports and visas. 

Within the GS-900 occupational group, the appellant’s work corresponds to the GS-962 Contact Representative Series, which covers such work as dispersing information to the public on rights, benefits, or privileges under a body of law; explaining pertinent legal provisions; and assisting individuals in developing needed evidence and preparing required documents, or in resolving errors, delays, or other problems in obtaining benefits.  Although her work includes some elements of the GS-963 Legal Instruments Examining Series in that she examines applications and supporting documents submitted by passport/visa applicants for completeness, this function is performed within the broader context of providing assistance to applicants in obtaining passports and visas and expediting the process as needed.  The prescribed title for positions in the GS-962 series is Contact Representative.   

The parenthetical title “Office Automation” (OA) assigned by the agency in its classification of the position may be added to a title only when the position requires a “fully qualified typist” (per the Office Automation Grade Evaluation Guide) or “competitive level proficiency in typing” (per the Introduction) to perform word processing duties.  The appellant updates training slides as needed and inputs data into existing databases and letters, but does not perform duties requiring competitive level typing skills.  Therefore, the parenthetical (OA) may not be included in the title of her position.

We evaluated the appellant’s position by application of both the GS-900 Job Family Standard (JFS) for Assistance Work in the Legal and Kindred Group and the Grade Level Guide for Clerical and Assistance Work (Guide).

Grade determination

Evaluation using the GS-900 JFS

The GS-900 JFS uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES), which employs nine factors.  Under the FES, each factor-level description in a JFS describes the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  Therefore, if a position fails to meet the criteria in a factor-level description in any significant aspect, it must be credited at a lower level, unless 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.  Each factor level has a corresponding point value.  The total points assigned are converted to a grade by use of the grade conversion table in the JFS.

Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts that a worker must understand to do acceptable work and the extent of the skills needed to apply this knowledge.  To be used as a basis for selecting a level under this factor, knowledge must be required and applied.

The knowledge required by the appellant’s position is comparable to Level 1-3, where work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying standardized rules, processes, and procedures sufficient to perform the full range of legal support assignments, make simple determinations, assist others to acquire information, identify documentation and time requirements, and use personal computers and office software programs to retrieve and sort information.

The appellant performs standard procedures related to the passport and visa application processes.  As described above, she assists military members needing non-expedited and expedited passports, dependents accompanying military members on overseas assignments, and civilian employees accepting overseas positions in applying for passports and/or visas.

Level 1-4 is not met, where the work requires knowledge of, and skill in applying, an extensive body of rules and procedures gained through extended training or experience sufficient to perform interrelated and nonstandard legal support work.  Employees at this level examine documents where the information and facts are straightforward and readily verifiable, need little development, require limited searches of reference, file, or historical material, and entail comparisons with explicit criteria.  Work at this level also includes planning, coordinating, and/or resolving problems in support activities. 

Unlike Level 1-4, the appellant’s duties do not involve performing interrelated and nonstandard support work requiring knowledge of an extensive body of rules and procedures.  She documents an applicant’s proof of U.S. citizenship or naturalization but does not examine documents requiring limited searches of reference, file, or historical material.  Also, the appellant’s work does not include planning, coordinating, and/or resolving problems in support activities.  Her work is limited to assisting applicants obtain passports and visas, and is of a recurring nature.  Similar to Level 1-3, the appellant compares information provided by the appellant against established Department of State directives and instructions.

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

Supervisory controls

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

The supervisory controls over the appellant’s work match Level 2-2, where the supervisor or designated employee provide assignments indicating generally what is to be done, data and required information, limitations, deadlines, quantities, and priorities.  The supervisor provides specific instructions on new or unusual assignments that have clear precedents.  The employee uses initiative and works independently within the framework established by the supervisor in carrying out recurring assignments; follows limited or applicable instructions or procedures that specifically describe how the work is done, and the kind of adaptations or exceptions that can be made; and refers specific problems not covered by the supervisor’s instructions or standard operating procedures to a supervisor or designated employee.

Like this level, the appellant works in accordance with established procedures for recurring work, such as reviewing documentation for completeness.  Her supervisor does not assign her work, but he reviews and discusses with her returned passport/visa applications needing corrections.  He also provides assistance with difficult applicants and sends emails regarding changes to passport/visa requirements to members of the JB leadership.

Level 2-3 is not met, where the supervisor makes assignments by outlining or discussing issues and defining objectives, priorities, and deadlines.  The supervisor or designated employee provides advice or additional specific instructions on new or unusual situations that do not have clear precedents.  The employee independently plans the work; resolves problems; carries out successive steps of assignments; follows instructions, policies, previous training, or accepted practices; makes adjustments using accepted legal practices and procedures; handles problems and/or deviations that arise in accordance with instructions, policies, and guidelines; and refers controversial issues to the supervisor for direction.  The supervisor or designated employee reviews completed work for technical soundness, appropriateness, and conformity to policies and requirements.  The technical methods and procedures used in completing assignments seldom require detailed review.

Unlike Level 2-3, the appellant does not regularly perform assignments without clear precedents.  Although she works with considerable independence, she does not independently work on assignments comparable to those described at Level 2-3.  Rather, she works on assignments that are recurring in nature and involve established methods and thus do not require independent problem resolution or making adjustments using accepted legal practices.

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

Factor 3, Guidelines

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

The guidelines used by the appellant are comparable to Level 3-2.  At this level, the guidelines are readily available and in the form of agency policies and procedures clearly applicable to most transactions and consist of legal regulations, office manuals, office policies and procedures, directives, and agency guides.  The employee uses judgment to determine the most appropriate guidelines or procedures to follow based on the nature of specific assignments; adapt guidelines in specific cases and make minor deviations; and refer issues that do not readily fit instructions or are outside of existing guidelines to the supervisor or a designated employee for resolution.

Like Level 3-2, specific guidelines are available.  The appellant applies Department of State and DoD policies and guidelines, but she must use judgment in locating and selecting the most appropriate guidelines for application.

The position does not meet Level 3-3.  At this level, guidelines have gaps in specificity and are not applicable to all work situations.  When completing a transaction, the employee may have to rely on experienced judgment rather than guides to fill in gaps, identify sources of information, and make working assumptions about what transpired.  The employee uses judgment to select the most appropriate guideline and decide how to complete various transactions such as reconstructing incomplete files; devising more efficient methods for procedural processing; gathering and organizing information for inquiries; and resolving problems referred by others.  In some situations, guidelines do not apply directly to assignments and require the employee to make adaptations to cover new and unusual work situations.

Unlike Level 3-3, the appellant’s work is circumscribed by established criteria and guidelines that do not require or permit interpretation and adaptation to fit a particular work situation.  She discusses interpretation and adaptation of passport/visa requirements with DoD’s Chief of Passports/Chief of Visas, and application packages are reviewed by the Department of State and foreign embassy personnel for accuracy and compliance.

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

Factor 4, Complexity

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

The complexity of the appellant’s work is comparable to Level 4-2.  At this level, work consists of related steps, processes, and standard explanations of methods or programs in the function.  The data in legal documents are factual in nature, usually designed to record specific items of routinely required information in a uniform manner, and used for only one primary purpose or action.  Supporting documents contain direct, firsthand evidence and are usually considered as conclusively establishing the point in question.  The employee checks and performs initial processing of legal documents received in the office; answers inquiries about applications, legal instruments, forms, and/or benefits; obtains missing or incomplete information as needed; compares information submitted with information previously recorded; and considers and evaluates sources of information, appropriateness of citations, and legal requirements of documents, legal instruments, or claims.  The employee recognizes different procedures required to process documentation and assist customers.  Choices are limited.  Difficulties encountered include meeting strict deadlines and keeping track of large quantities of facts, figures, information, and paperwork.

Similar to this level, the appellant’s work consists of carrying out related tasks associated with providing passport and visa assistance to applicants.  She provides standard, generalized information on obtaining passports and visas in response to inquiries.  She also reviews passport/visa packages for completeness and inputs relevant data into the DoD VPAS3 computer system.  Consistent with this level, the passport/visa applications are used for one primary purpose and the supporting documents required are considered as conclusive for purposes of the passport application. 

The position does not meet Level 4-3.  At this level, work consists of different and unrelated processes, methods, and sequences of tasks.  The employee analyzes facts and identifies issues; defines the problems; determines courses of action from many alternatives; searches, isolates, and determines the interrelationships among available information; and assesses a variety of situations that depend on the particulars of the case and/or the submitting party.  The employee selects appropriate resources and applies those resources to the problem at hand; evaluates records in relation to legal requirements; develops recommendations for problem resolution; and adjusts and authorizes settlements.  The employee determines what needs to be done including choosing the order of research necessary, the sequence of steps, and the manner in which findings are presented.  Actions may be complicated by situations where the facts are not clearly established.  Verification or development of information from external sources is frequently required.  The organization and presentation of information on documents can vary substantially.  The same document is used for different purposes or actions.  Successive submissions of the same type of document may involve different kinds of information.  Illustrative of Level 4-3 are assignments in which the employee provides information concerning alternative options and entitlements.  The employee provides information on alternative sources of care, medical feasibility of treatment options, billing claims processing and entitlement.  For a variety of benefits and/or services, the employee explains issues to customers that affect rates, payments, entitlements, waivers and reconsideration rights.  The employee determines the interrelationships of available information and data.

Unlike this level, the appellant’s duties do not involve different and unrelated steps, processes, or methods.  Her work is limited to assisting applicants obtain passports and/or visas on either an expedited or non-expedited basis.  Therefore, the appellant’s work does not require identifying issues and defining problems to determine the course of action from among many alternatives as described at Level 4-3.  Like Level 4-2, she compares information provided by the applicant against established Department of State directives and instructions.

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

Factor 5, Scope and effect

This factor covers the relationship between the nature of the work, and the effect of the work products or services both within and outside the organization.

The scope and effect of the appellant’s work is comparable to Level 5-2.  At this level, work involves specific rules, regulations, or procedures and is constrained by well-defined and precise conditions.  The work includes reviewing documents for missing information; searching records and files; verifying and maintaining records of transactions; and answering routine procedural questions.  The work affects the quality of services performed by the office and provides the basis for subsequent actions taken by the organization to provide services to the public.

The appellant applies standard procedures when reviewing applicants’ passport and visa application packages for completeness.  Her work includes providing information on obtaining passports/ visas and ensuring applicants complete the correct application form and provide supporting documentation.  The completeness of the application packages and the additional forms the appellant completes affects the accuracy and reliability of further processes, e.g., Department of State passport adjudication and foreign embassy visa processing.  .

The position does not meet Level 5-3.  At this level, work involves treating a variety of routine problems, questions, or situations within the work environment.  The employee advises and assists applicants or other individuals requesting benefits or services with a variety of problems, questions, or situations in conformance with established criteria.  Work may involve subjective considerations, such as looking for misrepresentations, fraud, or other illegal activity.  Work affects the accurate and timely attainment of licenses, permits, or other legal documents, rights, or privileges; the accurate and timely resolution of claims; and the economic well-being of individuals requesting benefits, claims, and/or services. 

Unlike Level 5-3, the appellant’s work does not involve treating a variety of routine problems, questions, or situations nor is it subjective.  She also does not advise and assist applicants with a variety of problems or questions, nor is she expected to look for misrepresentation or fraud.  Her work does affect the timely attainment of passports and visas but not the economic well-being of the applicants.  Typical of Level 5-2, the appellant’s work involves the execution of specific rules, regulations, or procedures, and affects the accuracy and reliability of further processes or services rendered by others.

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 include face-to-face and telephone contacts with persons not in the supervisory chain.  Levels described under this factor are based on what is required to make the initial contact, the difficulty of communicating with those contacted, and the setting in which the contact takes place.  These factors are interdependent.  The same contacts selected for crediting Factor 6 must be used to evaluate Factor 7.  The appropriate level for personal contacts and the corresponding level for purpose of contacts are determined by applying the point assignment chart for Factors 6 and 7.

            Personal contacts

Level 2, the highest level in the JFS, is met but not exceeded.  Contacts are with employees in the same agency and/or with members of the general public in a moderately structured setting.

Comparable to this level, the appellant’s primary contacts are with military members and their dependents, civilian employees, JB staff, and Fort Belvoir staff in moderately structured settings.

            Purpose of contacts

Level A is met, where the purpose of contacts is to acquire or exchange information or facts needed to complete an assignment.  The purpose of the appellant’s contacts is to exchange information and resolve passport/visa application package issues.

Level B is not met, where the purpose of the contacts is to plan or arrange work efforts, coordinate and schedule activities, resolve problems relating to documents or procedures, explain why approval was not given, discuss measures that might be taken to obtain approval in the future, and explain alternative options available.  Unlike Level B, the appellant’s work involves sharing information rather than planning or arranging work efforts, coordinating activities, resolving problems, explaining alternatives, etc.

These factors are evaluated at Level 2A and 45 points are assigned.

Factor 8, Physical demands

This factor covers the requirements and physical demands placed on the employee by the work assignment. 

At Level 8-1, the work may require some walking, standing, bending, or driving an automobile.  The appellant’s position meets Level 8-1 as work is primarily performed while sitting, although there is some walking or standing required when performing her duties. 

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

Factor 9, Work environment

This factor considers the risks and discomforts in the employee’s physical surroundings, or the nature of the work assigned and the safety regulations required.

At Level 9-1, work is performed in an office setting with adequate lighting, heating, and ventilation.  Normal safety precautions are adequate.  The appellant’s position meets Level 9-1 as her work is performed in an office-type setting.

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

Summary

Factors

Level

          Points

1. Knowledge required by the position

1-3

               350

2. Supervisory controls

2-2

               125

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

               805

The total of 805 points falls within the GS-4 point range (655-850) on the grade conversion table in the GS-900 JFS.  Therefore, the appellant’s position is properly graded at the GS-4 level.

Evaluation using the Guide

The Guide provides general criteria for use in determining the grade level of nonsupervisory clerical and assistance work.  The Guide describes the general characteristics of each grade level from GS-1 through GS-7, and uses the following two criteria for grading purposes:  Nature of Assignment and Level of Responsibility.  The Guide provides separate evaluation criteria for clerical and assistance work.  The term “clerical” is defined as performing work such as preparing, receiving, reviewing, and verifying documents; maintaining office records; locating and compiling data or information from files; compiling information for reports; keeping a calendar and informing others of deadlines and other important dates; and similar clerical support work within an organization.  This work requires knowledge of the clerical requirements and processes involved in maintaining the functional programs of the unit.  “Assistance” is defined as performing technical work to support the administration or operation of the programs of an organizational unit.  This work requires working knowledge of the work processes and procedures of an administrative field (e.g., office administration, communications, and security) and the missions and operational requirements of the unit.

As the appellant’s work (1) is clerical in nature, involving reviewing the documentation provided by applicants for acceptability, updating electronic computer systems, requesting missing documentation from applicants, and providing passport and visa application instructions, and (2) does not involve performing the technical work of an administrative field to support the organization’s programs, we have applied the Guide’s evaluation criteria for clerical work.    

Nature of Assignment

At the GS-4 level, work involves performing a full range of standard clerical assignments and resolving recurring problems.  The work consists of related steps, processes, or methods requiring the employee to identify and recognize differences among a variety of recurring situations.  Actions taken or responses made differ in nature and sequence depending on the characteristics of each case or transaction.  GS-4 work requires some subject-matter knowledge of an organization’s programs and operations; a type of business practice such as maintaining inventory records and replenishing supplies; or a body of standardized rules, processes, or operations.  The knowledge is needed to determine what is being done, why the action is being taken, and how it must be accomplished.

The appellant’s work meets the GS-4 level as it involves performing the full range of standard clerical assignments and resolving recurring problems related to the passport and visa application processes.  For instance, the appellant instructs military members needing non-expedited passports to submit their official orders and provides them with a listing of the passport package requirements.  She meets with them after they have completed the required passport forms and gathered the supporting documentation to review the package for completeness, and inputs the relevant data into the DoD VPAS3 computer system.  She then sends the passport application package via Fed-Ex to the Department of State Passport Processing Center in Sterling, Virginia, for sorting and shipment to the appropriate personnel at the Department of State for adjudication.  After the passports are returned to the appellant, she ensures the passport information is accurate and all of the applicant’s supporting documentation was returned, and informs the military members the passports are ready for pickup. 

Like work at the GS-4 level, her actions or responses differ in nature and sequence because of differences in the particular characteristics of each case or transaction.  For example, when UDMs notify the appellant that a military member is deploying within 10 days to a country requiring a passport for entry, she notifies the appropriate personnel at Fort Belvoir of the need for an expedited passport and is given an appointment for the military member to hand-carry the application package there.  She then informs the military member of the requirement to submit official orders and provides a listing of the passport package requirements and an expedited passport template letter.  The personnel at Fort Belvoir review the package and hand-carry the application package to the Department of State for adjudication and processing.  The appellant otherwise follows the same process described above for non-expedited passports.  In cases where dependents accompany military members on overseas assignments, the appellant follows the same process described above, except that the military members must prepare application packages for all their dependents, who in turn must also be present when the appellant reviews the packages.

The appellant meets separately with military members and/or dependents requiring visas based on the country’s entry requirements.  The military member must complete the required visa forms and gather supporting documentation for each individual needing a visa.  The military member and each dependent needing a visa are required to be present during the appointment with the appellant when she reviews the visa packages.  If the application packages are complete, the appellant accesses the VPAS3 computer system, completes the required forms, and sends the visa application packages via FedEx to the Visa Processing Center in Fort Belvoir, Virginia.  The personnel at Fort Belvoir review the packages, complete any additional required forms, and an employee hand-carries the application packages to the appropriate foreign embassy for processing.  After the visa(s) is returned to the appellant, she ensures the visa information is accurate and all of the applicant’s supporting documentation was returned, and informs the military member the visa(s) is ready for pickup.

In cases where civilian employees accept overseas positions, the appellant follows the same process described above for dependents needing passports and/or visas, except that civilian employees must prepare their application package(s), gather supporting documentation, and are present when the appellant reviews the package(s).

At the GS-5 level, work consists of performing a full range of standard and non-standard clerical assignments and resolving a variety of non-recurring problems.  Work includes a variety of assignments involving different and unrelated steps, processes, or methods.  The employee must identify and understand the issues involved in each assignment and determine what steps and procedures are necessary and the order of their performance.  Completion of each transaction typically involves selecting a course of action from a number of possibilities.  The work requires extensive knowledge of an organization’s rules, procedures, operations, or business practices to perform the more complex, interrelated, or one-of-a-kind clerical processing procedures.

Unlike work at the GS-5 level, the appellant’s duties do not involve different and unrelated steps, processes, or methods.  Her work is limited to assisting applicants obtain passports and/or visas on either an expedited or non-expedited basis.  Her tasks are of a recurring nature, and the manner in which she completes them is based on established criteria.  Therefore, the appellant’s work does not reflect a need to understand the situation and issues in considering what steps to take as described at the GS-5 level.  Like the GS-4, the appellant compares information provided by the applicant against established Department of State directives and instructions.  Also, the Foreign Clearance Guide provides standard information on such issues as which countries U.S. military members, dependents, and civilians can enter, the documentation needed for entry, and which countries they cannot enter.  Unlike the GS-5 level, where completing transactions typically involves selecting a course of action from a number of possibilities, the appellant’s assignments involve problems or situations with established precedents or operating procedures with only one correct solution.

This factor is properly evaluated at the GS-4 level.

Level of Responsibility

At the GS-4 level, the supervisor provides little assistance with recurring assignments.  GS-4 employees use initiative in completing work according to accepted practices, but unusual situations may require assistance from the supervisor or a higher-level employee with completed work reviewed more closely.  Work procedures have been established and specific guidelines are available.  The number and similarity of guidelines and work situations require employees to use judgment in locating and selecting the most appropriate guidelines, references, and procedures.  The employee makes minor deviations in adapting guidelines to specific cases.  Contacts are with coworkers and individuals outside the organization to exchange information and, in some cases, resolve problems related to the immediate assignment.

The appellant’s level of responsibility meets the GS-4 level as she works in accordance with established procedures for recurring work, such as reviewing documentation for completeness and updating the electronic computer systems previously discussed.  As appropriate for this level, specific guidelines are available, but the number and similarity of Department of State and DoD policies and guidelines require the appellant to use judgment in locating and selecting the most appropriate guidelines for application.  The appellant’s supervisor does not assign her work, but he reviews and discusses with her returned passport/visa applications needing corrections.  He also provides assistance with difficult applicants and sends emails regarding changes to passport/visa requirements to members of the JB leadership.  Also typical of the GS-4 level, the appellant has direct contact with military members and their dependents, civilian employees, JB staff, Fort Belvoir staff, Department of State staff, etc., to exchange information and resolve passport/visa application package issues.

At the GS-5 level, the supervisor assigns work by defining objectives, priorities, and deadlines and provides guidance on assignments that do not have clear precedents.  The employee works in accordance with accepted practices, and completed work is evaluated for technical soundness, appropriateness, and effectiveness in meeting goals.  Extensive guides in the form of instructions, manuals, regulations, and precedents apply to the work.  The number and similarity of guidelines and work situations require the employee to use judgment in locating and selecting the most appropriate guidelines for application and adapting them according to circumstances of the specific case or transaction.  A number of procedural problems may arise which also require interpretation and adaptation of established guides.  Contacts are with a variety of persons within and outside the agency for the purpose of receiving or providing information relating to the work or resolving operating problems in connection with recurring responsibilities.

Unlike work at the GS-5 level, the appellant does not regularly perform assignments without clear precedents.  Her work is circumscribed by established criteria and guidelines that do not require or permit interpretation and adaptation to fit a particular work situation as described at the GS-5 level.  The appellant discusses interpretation and adaptation of passport/visa requirements with DoD’s Chief of Passports/Chief of Visas, and application packages are reviewed by the Department of State personnel for accuracy and compliance.  Unlike the GS-5 level, she does not use extensive guides requiring judgment in locating and selecting the most appropriate for application.  While she communicates with applicants and JB personnel, her work involves sharing information rather than resolving operating problems in connection with recurring responsibilities.

This factor is properly evaluated at the GS-4 level.

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as Contact Representative, GS-962-4.

 

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