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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

Corey V. Douglas
Legal Administrative Specialist,
GS-901-10
Public Contact Team
Baltimore Veterans Service Center
Baltimore Regional Office
Veterans Benefits Administration
U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs
Baltimore, Maryland
Contact Representative
GS-962-6
C-0962-06-01

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

11/30/2015


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a classification 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 5 CFR 511.605, 511.613, and 511.614, as cited 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, Code of Federal Regulations, must be followed in implementing this 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 (PD) 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 (OPM) office that adjudicated this appeal.

Introduction

On June 3, 2015, OPM’s Agency Compliance and Evaluation (ACE)-Philadelphia accepted a position classification appeal from Mr. Corey V. Douglas.  The appellant’s position is currently classified as Legal Administrative Specialist, GS-901-10, and is located on the Public Contact Team, Baltimore Veterans Service Center (BVSC), Baltimore Regional Office, Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA), U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), in Baltimore, Maryland.  The appellant believes his position should be classified as Congressional Analyst, GS-301-11.  We received the complete agency administrative report on July 14, 2015, and have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112(b) of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

General issues

The appellant raises concerns about the agency’s classification review process.  He alludes to classification inconsistency, stating he performs the same GS-11 duties as Congressional Analysts in another Veterans Service Center, and asks to be assigned to a Congressional Analyst position description (PD #02640A) in his appeal request.  The appellant also submitted a copy of the performance standards for a “Congressional Liaison GS-11.”  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.  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of his position.  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, the agency’s classification review process is not germane to this decision.

By law, the VA 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.  The VA has primary responsibility for ensuring classification consistency at its benefits centers.  If the appellant believes his position is classified inconsistently with another, 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 responsibilities 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.

Position information

The record shows the appellant receives inquiries made by or on behalf of veterans, their dependents, or their beneficiaries residing in the state of Maryland.  The inquiries concern such topics as non-rating claims, which cover all matters not dealing with disability ratings; rating claims, which cover filing for a service-connected disability rating; and appeals of decisions VBA made on non-rating and rating claims, etc.

The appellant is responsible for handling inquiries from four members of the Maryland congressional delegation, and responds by email to inquiries submitted by these offices through the congressional mailbox.  For example, if a veteran submits the required documentation to add dependents to a disability award, which is a dependency (non-rating) claim, and he or she is unable to find out the status of the claim, the veteran may request assistance from his/her congressional representative whose office staff will submit an inquiry through the congressional mailbox for response.  Each morning, the appellant accesses the congressional mailbox, saves the inquiries from his assigned congressional offices to his personal folder, and sends an interim e-mail to the responsible congressional aide stating the inquiry has been received.

Each day the appellant also receives an e-mail from his supervisor establishing the work focus of the day, e.g., working on the backlog of inquiries over 15 days old.  He writes letters for signature by the Baltimore Regional Office Director responding to letters, inquiries submitted through facsimile, and emails assigned to him that are submitted by a White House aide, VA headquarters staff, or VA Internet Quorum (VAIQ), i.e., inquiries sent electronically to VA headquarters and forwarded to the appropriate VBA Regional Office.  He responds by email to other inquiries submitted through e-mail. 

Veterans and VA national call center representatives submit inquiries to the VBA using the Inquiry Routing & Information System (IRIS).  The latter are VA employees who respond to veterans’ benefits questions.  They have electronic access to veterans’ information; e.g., financial, claims, appeals, and dependents, etc., so they can respond to questions from veterans throughout the country, and submit inquiries through IRIS when they cannot provide the requested information because it is incorrect or missing from their system.  In IRIS, the veteran determines how he or she will receive their response; i.e., telephone, letter, or e-mail.  All IRIS responses go directly to the veteran.  Beginning in April 2015, the appellant has responded to inquiries via e-mail for veterans serviced by the BVSC.    

For each inquiry, the appellant searches the Veterans Benefit Management System which contains veterans’ electronic claims files, and other VA electronic systems, to understand the veteran’s personal history.  He also looks for information specific to the inquiry in order to provide an appropriate response, such as providing the status of a claim/appeal or requesting the veteran submit required information.  If the inquiry is about a VA benefits program; e.g., burial, education, or healthcare, the appellant can provide basic eligibility information.  However, if an inquiry seeks an eligibility determination, the appellant forwards the inquiry to a point-of-contact for that specific program.

If a veteran is in a special circumstances category; i.e., homeless, terminally ill, former prisoner of war, has a documented financial hardship, or is seriously injured, and the appellant finds the claim/appeal is held up somewhere in the process, he submits an e-mail to his supervisor requesting the inquiry be expedited by the team handling the issue.  For example, if a veteran who was seriously injured while serving in the military submits information needed to adjudicate his or her claim but the adjudicator was unaware of the submission, the appellant will forward an e-mail to his supervisor with the details of the case, including a synopsis of the inquiry, where the submitted information is located in the claims file, and which team handles the issue.  His supervisor reviews the e-mail before forwarding it to the supervisor of the team handling the issue and copies the appellant.  The appellant continues to track the inquiry until it is resolved.

The BVSC Manager signed a statement attesting to the accuracy of the appellant’s PD of record (PD #02108A).  However, the appellant’s statement said his PD does not fully describe his duties responding to congressional inquiries.  The appellant’s PD describes eight major duties, including such functions as acting as a veterans advocate, serving as an outreach coordinator and counseling veterans and their beneficiaries.  However, we find he performs only one of the major duties, i.e., the inquiries function. 

A PD is the official record of the major duties and responsibilities assigned to a position or job by an official with the authority to assign work.  Major duties are normally those occupying a significant portion of the employee’s time.  They should be only those duties currently assigned, observable, identified with the position’s purpose and organization, and expected to continue or recur on a regular basis over a period of time.  PDs must meet the minimum standard of adequacy as described in the Introduction.  Therefore, the appellant’s PD must be revised so there is a clear understanding of the duties and responsibilities representing the approved classification.  Regardless, an OPM decision classifies a real operating position and not simply the PD.  We have decided this appeal based on an assessment of the actual work assigned to and performed by the appellant.

To help us decide the appeal, we conducted telephone interviews with the appellant on July 27 and August 26, 2015, and his immediate supervisor on August 18 and September 3, 2015.  In reaching our classification decision, we have carefully considered all information obtained from the interviews, as well as all other information of record provided by the appellant and his agency.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has classified the appellant’s position in the General Legal and Kindred Miscellaneous Administration and Program Series, GS-901, but the appellant believes it should be classified in the Miscellaneous Administration and Program Series, GS-301.  The GS-301 series covers non-professional two-grade interval administrative positions involved in supervising or performing 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.  The GS-901 series covers two-grade interval administrative positions involved in supervising or performing work involving two or more series in the Legal and Kindred group, or positions that require legal and kindred administrative knowledge but are not covered by an existing administrative series within the group. 

To decide the proper series, we must first determine whether the work performed by the appellant is one-grade interval administrative support or two-grade interval administrative in nature.  Some tasks are common to both types of occupations.   Guidance on distinguishing between one-grade and two-grade interval work is available in The Classifier’s Handbook.

Administrative support work usually involves proficiency in one or more functional areas or in certain limited phases of a specific program.  Employees performing support work follow established methods and procedures.  They have specified boundaries narrowly restricting their work.  They use a limited variety of techniques, standards, or regulations.  Support work involves handling problems that are often recurring and have precedents, limiting the breadth and depth of knowledge required, complexity of problem solving, applicability of guidelines, and closeness of supervisory controls.

In contrast, administrative work primarily requires a high order of analytical ability 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 work also requires skill in applying problem-solving techniques and skill in communicating both orally and in writing.  Administrative positions do not require specialized education, but they do involve the types of skills (i.e., analysis, research, writing, and judgment) typically gained through college-level education or through progressively responsible experience.

The GS-901 General Legal and Kindred Miscellaneous Administration and Program Series was created to cover the two-grade interval work previously covered by the Contact Representative Series, GS-962, General Claims Examining Series, GS-990, and the claims examining work previously covered by the Federal Retirement Benefits Series, GS-270.  Consequently, the parenthetical titles Contact Representation, Claims Examining, and Federal Retirement Claims Examining were established.  The appellant’s position title includes the Contact Representation parenthetical title.  This type of administrative work includes helping individuals determine future plans which may require other services, determine what actions are necessary to establish eligibility for those services, and overcome apathy or negative attitudes toward using benefits and services, as well as applying seasoned judgment and perception in recommending and arranging for professional counseling or social services available within the agency.  Other examples of this work include meeting with business leaders, school officials, hospital administrators, and other community leaders to explain agency program requirements and assist organizations in meeting them as well as developing opportunities to spread information regarding the agency’s programs of benefits and services.  The employee establishes working relationships with representatives of other Federal, State, and local agencies providing services and benefits that supplement those of the agency to exchange current information on program coverage and specific benefits or services available from the respective agencies, and agree on methods to overcome problems of overlap, duplication, or conflict that occur in providing services to individuals served jointly by the programs.

The appellant’s duties cannot be construed as two-grade interval administrative work comparable to the work described above.  Instead, consistent with one-grade interval support work, his duties involve carrying out established processes and procedures based on practical knowledge of the requirements associated with the discrete functional assignments.  Thus, while the appellant may know the documents a veteran is required to submit for the various claims, he is not required or permitted to make decisions or recommendations regarding the denial, settlement, or awarding of a veteran’s claim.  He states in the record that he processes claims, but our fact-finding disclosed this statement means he tries to expedite the claim for processing by the responsible adjudicative staff.  He needs to know the basic eligibility requirements for VA benefits programs, but he is not required to know how to apply the requirements to determine a veteran’s program eligibility.  His work neither requires nor permits the exercise of a high order of analytical ability, problem solving, or written communication, or comprehensive knowledge of management principles and processes.  These responsibilities are vested in other offices within the BVSC.  His work does not involve analyzing cases to ascertain facts and determine the actions required, conducting research and identifying options, or preparing written products with findings and conclusions.  Instead, his work involves the application of a limited set of methods and procedures that do not vary significantly from assignment to assignment, consistent with one-grade interval support work.  Because the appellant’s position does not perform two-grade interval administrative work in the GS-901 series, he clearly does not perform two-grade interval GS-301 series work.  Therefore, we will not discuss placement of the appellant’s position in the GS-301 series further.

The appellant’s position is properly assigned to the one-grade interval GS-962 Contact Representative Series which covers support and related work in connection with dispersing information to the public on rights, benefits, privileges, or obligations under a body of law; explaining pertinent legal provisions, regulations, and related administrative practices and their application to specific cases; and assisting individuals in developing needed evidence and preparing required documents, or in resolving errors, delays, or other problems in obtaining benefits or fulfilling obligations.  Correspondingly, the appellant’s work involves providing the status of a veteran’s claim or appeal, requesting missing documentation, and providing basic program eligibility information.  Consistent with our series determination, the proper title for the appellant’s position is Contact Representative and it is properly graded using the GS-900 Job Family Standard (JFS) for Assistance Work in the Legal and Kindred Group.

Grade determination

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.

At Level 1-4, 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.  Employees use a wide range of office software applications to prepare complex documents containing tables or graphs and use on-line legal resources to obtain information accessible over the Internet, as needed.  Illustrative of Level 1-4 are assignments where employees apply knowledge of an extensive body of rules and procedures concerning benefits processing sufficient to clarify benefit processes and procedures to customers.  Employees conduct personal or telephone interviews, search records or guidelines, provide full explanations in response to specific inquiries relating to the agency, and resolve problems and issues.  They evaluate the extent of customers’ knowledge of the options and choices open to them and explain the requirements placed on them by laws and regulations.  They review records and contact other offices to learn the status of pending actions, the reasons for delays or changes, and what action or additional information is required to resolve the case.

Level 1-4 is met.  Like this level, the appellant performs work involving a wide variety of non-rating and rating claims and appeals and responds to a broad range of questions relating to particular veteran, dependent, and beneficiary situations and issues.  He applies knowledge of an extensive body of statutes, regulations, policies, procedures and practices, and systems concerning veterans’ benefits and must be familiar with the responsibilities and interrelationships between non-rating and rating claims and appeals and other VA and non-VA programs to respond properly to inquiries.  He deals with all assigned inquiries, which may include unique, complex, and/or sensitive subject matter.  Similar to the illustration, the appellant responds to inquiries by reviewing the veteran’s electronic claims folder and other VA electronic systems; e.g., CAPRI, which contains medical information, and Virtual VA, which contains scanned non-VA information, to gather information needed to understand the nature of the problem or concern and decide how best to respond to the inquiry.  Like Level 1-4, he provides explanations to customers regarding their particular situation as they relate to established programs, processes and requirements, instructs them on the actions/forms necessary for processing the claim or appeal, and tracks the inquiry until it is resolved.  For example, if a veteran receives a denial for a rating claim and submits a request for an explanation, the appellant would review the veteran’s electronic information.  If the veteran is claiming hearing loss based on his military service performed in an office environment and the veteran’s personal physician is not an audiologist, the appellant would explain that established VA claims processes and regulations do not give as much weight to a hearing loss determination made by a non-specialist when the veteran held an office-type position.  If an inquiry is not handled by the BVSC, the appellant directs the customer to the correct organization for action.  For example, if a veteran submits a question relating to his or her rating of mental incompetence, the appellant would direct the inquiry to the appropriate VA fiduciary hub and notify the veteran of where the inquiry was sent.

At Level 1-5, work requires knowledge and skill in applying comprehensive legal regulations, techniques, and procedures that are not readily understood to perform assistance work requiring extensive searches of records, reference, or historical material and comparisons with complex, voluminous, or broadly written criteria.  Employees at this level use specialized, complicated techniques to complete assignments, such as comparing options or identifying conflicts.  They develop, examine, adjust, reconsider, or authorize settlements, and assist higher-graded employees in planning strategies.  Illustrative of Level 1-5 are assignments where employees apply knowledge of comprehensive rules, regulations, techniques and procedures sufficient to review an individual’s circumstances and goals in order to apply the benefits, services or regulatory requirements that will best meet their needs over time.  Employees advise individuals on all aspects of benefits and services to consider in deciding the most advantageous choice or action, describe alternative ways of crediting some types of service such as military service, demonstrate alternative formulas for computing benefits with offsetting advantages and disadvantages, discuss the possibility of transferring credits from one program to another and the possibility of waiving certain benefits to meet income limitations, and explain optional elections of effective dates based on various age and service combinations, additional protection or survivor benefits, different payment plans, and similar matters.

Level 1-5 is not fully met.  Like this level, the appellant applies legal regulations, techniques, and procedures, some of which are broad in scope and not readily understood, and uses complicated techniques to complete assignments.  However, he does not develop, examine, adjust, reconsider, or authorize settlements or assist higher-graded employees in planning strategies.  These functions are vested in the BVSC claims adjudication components.  Like the illustration for Level 1-4, his assignments require the examination of a veteran’s electronic information within various VA systems to be able to respond to customer inquiries.  However, rather than the intensive advisory services found at Level 1-5, the appellant provides more limited guidance based on case status and basic benefit issues raised during the inquiry process as previously discussed in this decision.

This factor is evaluated at Level 1-4 and 550 points are credited.

Factor 2, Supervisory controls

At Level 2-3, the highest level in the JFS, 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.

Level 2-3 is met but not exceeded.  As at this level, the appellant functions independently and plans, coordinates, and carries out assignments according to accepted VBA and BVSC policy, precedent, and/or regulations.  He resolves problems encountered by application of established policies and precedents and contacts his supervisor for assistance as needed.  The appellant determines the priority of his work based on the deadlines and BVSC goals established for his assignments to include what his supervisor establishes as his work focus of the day.  He gathers information from the various electronic systems depending on the nature of the inquiry so he can provide an accurate response.  Most of the appellant’s work products are e-mail responses on which his supervisor is not copied but can access and review from a separate electronic folder.  She also reviews the letters the appellant prepares for the Baltimore Regional Office Director’s signature, and the e-mails expediting a customer’s claim or appeal for conformance with BVSC requirements.  As at Level 2-3, the appellant’s work products are reviewed for conformance to VBA and BVSC process requirements.

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

Factor 3, Guidelines

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

At Level 3-2, 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.

Level 3-2 is met.  The appellant’s guidelines include VA, VBA, BVSC, and Public Contact Team guidelines, regulations, directives, memoranda, bulletins, and policy statements.  Similar to this level, he uses judgment to identify and select the most appropriate guidelines to use and takes into consideration the veteran’s individual circumstances in performing his work; e.g., explaining why a veteran’s VA compensation is reduced once he or she begins receiving social security payments.

At Level 3-3, 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.

Level 3-3 is only partially met.  Like this level, the appellant gathers and organizes information for inquiries and resolves problems referred by others.  However, his work is covered by procedures and guidelines which are developed and controlled at the VA and VBA levels.  These guidelines include standard reference materials and operating manuals that, like Level 3-2, go into detail on such topics as claims requiring priority processing; fact sheets on home loans and education and training for veterans; and information to explain veteran’s disability rating computations.  Although he is expected to make judgments and interpret guidelines, like Level 3-2 they are well established, usually relatively specific, readily available, and can be applied without substantial deviation.  Unlike Level 3-3, the appellant’s work does not lend itself to adapting procedures to fill in gaps in guidelines to resolve complex or non-standard situations. 

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.

At Level 4-3, the highest level in the JFS, 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.

Level 4-3 is met but not exceeded.  Typical of this level, the appellant’s work involves using accepted methods and techniques to provide accurate and timely responses to assigned inquiries which can cover a range of topics, each with its own requirements and procedures.  Similar to the illustration, he assesses the facts provided, searches the veteran’s electronic claims file and other VA electronic systems to understand the veteran’s personal circumstances, and identifies the issues before responding.  The appellant uses his program knowledge to determine the interrelationships of available information and data and, thus, which guideline or regulation to follow. 

This factor is evaluated at Level 4-3 and 150 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.

At Level 5-3, the highest level in the JFS, 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.  Illustrative of Level 5-3 is advising and assisting customers with a variety of problems, questions or situations; helping customers outline their situation and state the reasons for their inquiry; and explaining various benefit options, qualifying conditions, and reporting requirements that apply to the customer.  The work affects the operations within the office and the ability of individuals to receive benefits and/or services.

Level 5-3 is met but not exceeded.  The purpose of the appellant’s work is comparable to Level 5-3 in that he ensures the BVSC’s customers receive timely and accurate responses to their various problems, questions, or situations.  He applies established policies and procedures to the factual information provided in the inquiry and the veteran’s electronic VBA information to determine how to respond.  For example, he considers if the veteran meets one of the special circumstances to have a claim expedited or if the required documentation for the appeal has been provided unbeknownst to the assigned adjudicator, thus allowing the case to proceed to adjudication.  When responding to an inquiry about a reduction in VA benefits, he may need to explain why receiving social security payments can result in such a reduction.  Like Level 5-3 and the illustration, the appellant’s advice on what action the veteran needs to take to assist in moving the case forward, providing basic eligibility information about VA benefits programs, and submitting an e-mail to his supervisor to expedite the claim/appeal influences the BVSC’s ability to meet its goals of resolving claims and appeals accurately and in a timely manner and, subsequently, affecting the economic well-being of its customers.

This factor is evaluated at Level 5-3 and 150 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

At Level 2, the highest level in the JFS, contacts are with employees in the same agency and/or with members of the general public in a moderately structured setting such as applicants, retirees, beneficiaries, Federal Reserve representatives, bank employees, taxpayers, court personnel, or other individuals related to court processes.

Level 2 is met but not exceeded.  Comparable to this level, the appellant has contact with employees, supervisors and managers within the BVSC, as well as veterans, congressional office staff, and VA headquarters staff in a moderately structured setting during which the role and authority of the appellant may need to be clarified.

            Purpose of contacts

At Level B, the highest level in the JFS, 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.

Level B is met but not exceeded.  Comparable to this level, the record shows the appellant provides a synopsis of inquiries which need to be expedited to his contacts within the BVSC to help resolve case processing delays, and answers inquiries on various topics submitted by veterans, congressional office aides, the White House aide, and VA Headquarters staff through e-mail or letter.  Like this level, the appellant works with veterans, various aides, and other BVSC employees to coordinate efforts to obtain missing information to prevent further delays in adjudicating claims and appeals.  He also explains why a claim or appeal decision was unfavorable and what measures may produce a favorable outcome.

These factors are evaluated at Level 2-b and 75 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 his 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 his 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

1-4

               550

2. Supervisory controls

2-3

               275

3. Guidelines

3-2

               125

4. Complexity

4-3                150

5. Scope and effect

5-3

               150

6. & 7. Personal contacts & Purpose of contacts     

2-b

                 75

8. Physical demands

8-1

                   5

9. Work environment

9-1

                   5

Total

             1335

 

The total of 1335 points falls within the GS-6 point range (1105-1350) on the grade conversion table in the GS-900 JFS.  Therefore, the appellant’s position is properly graded at the GS-6 level.

Decision

The appellant’s position is properly classified as Contact Representative, GS-962-6.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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