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Physicians Comparability Allowances

Fact Sheet: Physicians' Comparability Allowances


An agency may pay a physicians' comparability allowance (PCA) to an eligible Government physician who enters into a service agreement with the agency in order to recruit and retain the physician.

Covered Physicians

A PCA may be paid to a Government physician who is paid under the General Schedule, Senior Executive Service, and certain other pay systems as defined in 5 U.S.C. 5948(g)(1). A "Government physician" includes an individual employed as a physician or a dentist.

Excluded Physicians

An agency may not pay PCAs to reemployed annuitants; physicians employed and paid under title 38, United States Code; Commissioned Corps Officers of the Public Health Service and other members of the uniformed services; and certain other physicians listed under 5 U.S.C. 5948(b).

Agency Plan

An agency may not enter into any service agreement until the agency's plan for implementing the PCA program has been submitted to and approved by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) in accordance with 5 CFR 595.107(b) and any other instructions OMB may prescribe.

Physician Categories

The head of each agency must determine categories of physician positions for which there is a significant recruitment and retention problem. A PCA may be paid only to physicians serving in positions in one of the categories. In determining the categories the agency must, as a minimum, establish as separate categories the following types of positions:

Clinical Positions: Positions primarily involving the practice of medicine or direct service to patients, involving the performance of diagnostic, preventive, or therapeutic services to patients in hospitals, clinics, public health programs, diagnostic centers, and similar settings.

Research Positions: Positions primarily involving the conduct of medical research and experimental work, including the conduct of medical work pertaining to food, drugs, cosmetics, and devices (or the review or evaluation of such medical research and experimental work), or the identification of causes or sources of disease or disease outbreaks.

Occupational Health: Positions primarily involving the evaluation of physical fitness, or the provision of initial treatment of on-the-job illness or injury, or the performance of preemployment examinations, preventive health screenings, or fitness-for-duty examinations.

Disability Evaluation and Administration of Health and Medical Programs: Positions involving disability evaluation and rating, the performance of medicolegal autopsies, training activities, or the administration of medical and health programs, including the administration of patient care or medical research and experimental programs.


The head of each agency may determine that a significant recruitment and retention problem exists for each category of physician position only if the following conditions are met with respect to the category:

  • Such evidence as vacant positions (reflecting the agency's inability to fill such positions), an unacceptably high turnover rate, or other positive evidence indicates that the agency is unable to recruit and retain physicians for the category;
  • The qualification requirements being used as a basis for considering candidates for the vacant positions in the category do not exceed the qualifications that are actually necessary for successful performance of the work of the positions in the category;
  • The agency has made efforts to recruit qualified candidates for any vacant positions in the category and to retain physicians presently employed in positions in the category; and
  • A sufficient number of qualified candidates is not available to fill the existing vacancies in the category at the rate of pay the agency may offer if no comparability allowance is paid.


Agencies may pay a PCA of up to $14,000 annually to a physician with 24 months or less of service as a Government physician. Agencies may pay a PCA of up to $30,000 annually to a physician with more than 24 months of service as a Government physician. PCAs are subject to the aggregate limitation on pay under 5 U.S.C. 5307 and 5 CFR part 530, subpart B.

Service Agreements

Any service agreement entered into by a physician must be for a period of 1 year of service in the agency involved unless the physician requests an agreement for a longer period of service. Each service agreement must prescribe the terms under which the agreement may be terminated and the amount of the PCA, if any, required to be refunded by the physician for each reason for termination. For a service agreement covering a period of service of more than 1 year, the service agreement must include a provision that, if the physician completes more than 1 year of service, but fails to complete the full period of service specified in the agreement either voluntarily or because of misconduct by the physician, the physician must refund the amount of allowance he or she has received under the agreement for the 26 weeks of service immediately preceding the termination (or for a longer period, if specified in the agreement).

Reporting Requirements

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) provides a report to Congress on the PCA program by June 30 each fiscal year. The reporting requirements are found in 5 U.S.C. 5948(j).


  • 5 U.S.C. 5948
  • 5 CFR part 595
  • 5 U.S.C. 8331(3)(H) - Retirement
  • Public Law 106-571 (December 28, 2000) - Retirement

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