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Federal HR Policies Affecting Schedule A Appointment

Schedule A (Federally Excepted) Appointment

Introduction

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has the authority and responsibility for issuing rules and regulations covering Schedule A appointments and resulting benefits. OPM has delegated to the U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) the responsibility for overseeing and managing Cooperative Extension Schedule A appointments and the accompanying Federal benefits, e.g., retirement and insurance plans. The USDA HRD/CES Team carries out this function for USDA.

Effective January 31, 2003, the authority to grant Schedule A Excepted Appointments to Cooperative Extension Service (CES) employees was terminated. Public Law 107-171, Farm Security and Rural Investment Act of 2002, dated May 13, 2002, Section 7220, terminated the Schedule A appointing authority used by USDA to grant a companion Federal appointment and Federal benefits to state/university employees of the Cooperative Extension Service. The law allowed the CES Federal appointees that were employed on the day before the date of the enactment of the Act, i.e., May 12, 2002, to: a) continue to accrue Federal creditable service for retirement; and b) participate in the following benefits as long as the employees continued their employment with the Cooperative Extension Service:

1) the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program (FEHB);
2) the Federal Employees' Group Life Insurance Program (FEGLI);
3) the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS);
4) the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS);
5) the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP); and
6) the Federal Long Term Care Insurance Program (FLTCIP).

The Federal Office of Workers Compensation Program (OWCP) is the only Federal program that will not continue as it is not a program that the dual appointee was vested in. Claims already on file with the Department of Labor (DOL) Office of Workers Compensation Office will continue to be processed by the DOL. Furthermore, the termination of the Federal appointments and the fact that they no longer are covered by the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) has impacted the FECA coverage provided to the Expanded Food and Nutrition Program (EFNEP) Aides. Since the CES organizations no longer have Federal employees, the EFNEP employees do not meet the criteria for FECA coverage because they will not be performing services similar to those performed by Federal employees, and they are not working under the control of Federal employees. Therefore, these employees are no longer eligible for FECA coverage either.

Changes and new features for the current Federal Benefits programs such as FEHB, FELGI, TSP and FLTCIP will be offered to the CES organizations and employees that are eligible to participate in the affected program(s). However, former Federal appointees cannot participate in new Federal benefit programs that were not in effect as of May 12, 2002.

Effective January 31, 2003, CES can no longer grant Schedule A Federal appointments to new employees because they no longer have a Federal appointment authority available to make new Federal appointments. Former CES Schedule A appointees may be reappointed to another CES organization and continue their benefits as long as they do not have a break in service.

Responsibilities

The Director/Administrator of Cooperative Extension is responsible for the development and delivery of Cooperative Extension programs and the management of former Schedule A appointees in the college/university Cooperative Extension organization. The CES Director/Administrator is also responsible for managing the Federal benefit programs and maintaining the records that pertain to the former CES Schedule A appointees. The Federal Personnel Benefit Program will continue to be carried out in conjunction with the Department of Agriculture agencies and organizations responsible for the Federal CES program and benefits.

Appointment Authority

The Schedule A 213.3113 (a) (1) appointment authority issued by OPM for USDA to appoint and employ individuals in the CES was a joint appointment arrangement between USDA and the Cooperative Extension organization in the land grant college or university. The joint appointment was dependent upon an appointment in the college/university Cooperative Extension organization. Therefore, the Schedule A appointment could not exist without the companion college/university Cooperative Extension appointment. The appointment had to be to a regular reoccurring position, with at least a 50% extension-related assignment under Cooperative Extension, must work and be paid over a 12 month period, and have responsibility for being an agent (representative) of the Federal system. The former Schedule A appointee continues to be a representative of the Federal CES program and the requirements for participating in the Federal benefits programs continue. State Extension Directors/Administrators, and/or their designee, have the delegated authority to fill most positions within their CES organizations. However, actions to fill the Director/Administrator positions must be recommended to and approved by USDA before individuals can be permanently appointed to CES Director/Administrator position. The procedures for appointing individuals to the positions of Directors/Administrators can be found in the Appointment of Directors/Administrators and the Appointment of Interim Directors/Administrators section of this Guidance. Former CES Federal appointees can be appointed to another CES organization and continue their Federal benefits as long as they do not have a break in service. Their benefits must be coordinated and, when appropriate, transferred from one CES organization to another. Care must be taken to allow employees that transfer from one CES organization to another to participate in benefit plans not offered by the losing CES organization.

Qualifications for Continuing Appointment Benefits

The CES Director/Administrator must assure that all former Federal appointees continue to meet the criteria necessary to remain eligible to participate in their Federal benefits. Former Federal appointees selected to fill CES positions must have the adequate qualifications to perform the work and they must continue to spend at least 50% of their time on CES functions in order to continue to participate in the Federal benefit programs. In addition, all former Federal appointees must work 12 months a year, be paid over a 12 month period and make full-time (2080/2087 hours) annual contributions to the Federal retirement fund.

Employment Process

All Cooperative Extension employees with Federal benefits must have their CES employment actions that affect their benefits and Federal benefit changes processed in accordance with the USDA CES Personnel Action System Nature of Actions approved by USDA and OPM. Employment with CES without the proper documentation and personnel forms for the companion Federal benefits may seriously jeopardize an employees Federal benefits and crediting of employment for Federal retirement.

Prior to the termination of the Schedule A appointing authority, effective January 31, 2003, the Cooperative Extension Service used the CES 436 (formerly the ES 436), Notification of Personnel Action form, to document the Federal appointments and other personnel actions for all CES employees with the dual appointments. The procedures for processing CES personnel actions are, and continue to be, unique to CES and all CES 436's had to be signed/approved by a Federal Official. Note: The Termination of Federal Appointment actions, terminating the Schedule A appointments documented the employees continued benefits, were signed by USDA officials. Employment with CES not documented on a ES- 436 or CES 436 personnel action form must be reviewed and approved by USDA before it can be considered creditable service for Federal retirement.

As of February 1, 2003, the Individual Retirement Records (IRR's) will be used to document changes in employment that impact on the former Federal appointees' creditable service for Federal retirement and their Federal benefits. The IRR's, along with the other Federal benefit forms, records, and reports, must be maintained, completed, and approved, by someone knowledgeable of the benefits procedures and processes. The CES Director/Administrator can delegate the authority to sign the forms and records to another individual.

Position Title and Pay Rates

Agents in the Cooperative Extension program are not classified under the General Schedule (GS) classification system or any other Federal pay system, e.g., Wage Grade (WG), Foreign Service (FS), approved by the Federal government. The positions are classified by the employing college or university and the pay is set in accordance with the policies and procedures of the employing CES organization. For Federal pay purposes all CES employees with the companion Federal benefits are considered to be paid Without Compensation (WOC) and all CES former Federal appointees are considered to be Agents under the USDA CES program.

The official title of former Schedule A appointees included the title Agent (e.g. agent/Cooperative Extension Director; agent/Cooperative Extension Educator) as by law only agents with a Schedule A appointment are eligible to participate in the Federal benefit plan(s). Some agents may have working titles descriptive of their assigned duties and responsibilities, e.g., Nutritionist and Educator.

Benefits

The regulations issued by OPM allowed a Cooperative Extension employee on a Schedule A appointment to participate in the Federal Retirement System and, depending on the cooperative agreements between the college/university and USDA, an agent may be eligible to participate in other select benefits. To assure full participation in the Federal benefit plan(s), the appointment must be paid over 12 months. Additional information on Federal benefits can be found in the Federal Benefits Matrix section of this guidance.

Question and Answers (Q&As)

The Q&As listed below are meant to address issues associated with the termination of the Schedule A appointments.

Contact:

For more information regarding Schedule A appointments and former Schedule A appointees contact the employing CES HRD Office and/or the USDA HRD/CES Team.

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