Federal agencies must provide career transition assistance to their employees who are affected by downsizing or restructuring to assist with reemployment and other moves.
Agency plans must consist of three parts:
• Career transition services. Each agency provides career transition services to its employees in order to give them the skills and resources necessary to find other employment. These services can include, but are not limited to skills assessment, resume preparation, counseling and job search assistance. Agencies also must have policies for retraining employees affected by downsizing.
• Special selection priority under the Career Transition Assistance Plan. Well-qualified surplus or displaced agency employees who apply for vacancies within their own agency components in the local commuting area must be selected before any other candidate from within or outside the agency. When agencies recruit to fill vacancies, they should notify their surplus or displaced employees of their opportunity to apply.
• Reemployment Priority Lists (RPL). Each agency is required to establish and maintain an RPL for each commuting area in which it separates eligible employees due to a reduction-in-force. RPL registration is available as soon as the employee receives a reduction-in-force (RIF) separation notice. When an agency fills a position with a candidate from outside its workforce, employees registered on the agency’s RPL must be selected before anyone from outside the agency can be hired.
RIFs and Out-of-Area Reassignments — Priority for Internal Agency Placement
You become eligible for selection priority within your agency when you receive either a reduction-in-force notice, a certificate of expected separation, or other official certification issued by your agency indicating that your position is surplus or you are likely to be separated through RIF. You are also eligible for selection priority if you receive a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside of the local commuting area.
With a few exceptions, when your agency recruits to fill a vacancy in the commuting area and it will last more than 120 days, it must post the position and give you the opportunity to apply. Agencies may use internal means of advertising vacancies to employees within the agency (such as e-mail, hotline recordings, bulletin boards, etc.). If you are interested in an advertised vacancy, you are responsible for applying within the time frames established by the agency, and attaching proof of eligibility as explained below.
If you are found well-qualified for the vacancy, you are entitled to be selected over any other candidate from within or outside of your agency. If you are among two or more eligible employees who are found well-qualified for the vacancy, the agency may select among you. Agencies may select internal agency candidates within their components only after all eligible surplus and displaced candidates within the component have been given selection priority. You should check with your agency to determine how they have defined “component” within the agency.
Note: This agency special selection priority does not apply to DoD employees. The DoD Priority Placement Program (PPP) remains in effect (see Special Defense Department Career Transition Services, below) and DoD employees are also eligible for RPL registration and for selection priority for positions in non-DoD agencies under the ICTAP.
To be considered an “eligible employee” for the special selection priority in your own agency, you must:
• be a surplus or displaced employee who is being (or may be) separated by reduction-in-force from an Executive branch agency which is required to follow OPM hiring procedures. Employees who have received a notice of proposed removal for declining a transfer of function or directed reassignment outside of the local commuting area are also eligible;
• have a current performance rating of record of at least fully successful or equivalent (Level III);
• occupy a position in the same commuting area of the vacancy;
• file an application for a specific vacancy that is at or below the grade level from which you are being (or may be) separated that does not have a higher career ladder within the time frames established by the agency; and
• be determined by the agency to be well-qualified for the specific vacancy.
A “surplus” employee is a current agency employee serving under an appointment in the competitive service, in tenure group I (career) or tenure group II (career-conditional), who has received an official notice from the agency stating that he or she is likely to be separated by reduction-in-force.
At the agency’s discretion, a “surplus” employee can also include an employee in the excepted service, serving under a Schedule A or B appointment without time limit, who has received one of the notices described above, a notice of separation through reduction-in-force, or a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another commuting area. Schedule A and B employees designated as “surplus” can only exercise selection priority for other permanent Schedule A or B positions within their agency, and within the same local commuting area. Excepted Service employees are not eligible for special selection priority under the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan.
A “displaced” employee is a current agency employee serving under an appointment in the competitive service, in tenure group I or II, who has received a specific reduction-in-force separation notice, or a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function outside of the local commuting area.
You are generally not eligible for selection priority if you are:
• in the excepted service, unless you have been given special selection priority within your agency under a separate and specific law, or under the agency’s policy;
• downgraded or reassigned due to reduction-in-force, but are not actually separated;
• located outside the commuting area where the vacancy is occurring;
• being (or may be) separated from a temporary or term position in the competitive service;
• being (or may be) separated from an agency other than an executive branch agency that is required to follow OPM hiring procedures; or
• being (or may be) separated from a Senior Executive Service (SES) position.
You are eligible for the special selection priority in your own agency when you receive a reduction-in-force separation notice, a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another commuting area, a certificate of expected separation, or other agency certification identifying you as being in a surplus organization or occupation.
Your eligibility for special selection priority for vacancies in your own agency expires on the earliest of:
• the date you are separated by RIF;
• the date you resign, retire or otherwise separate from the agency;
• the date of your removal from the competitive service because of your declination of a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another commuting area;
• cancellation of the RIF separation notice, certificate of expected separation, or other agency certification identifying you as surplus or displaced (including cancellation of the notice because you have accepted another agency position, including a time-limited position);
• when you receive a career, career-conditional, or excepted service position without time limit in your own or any other agency;
• whenever you are no longer scheduled to be separated by RIF.
If you are an eligible employee, you may exercise your special selection priority by applying directly for a vacancy in your agency that is in the local commuting area from which you are being (or may be) separated and attaching proof of eligibility, examples of which are your RIF separation notice, certificate of expected separation, or notice of proposed removal for declining a transfer of function or directed reassignment to another commuting area.
The agency will then review your application against the qualification requirements, selective factors, and knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the position and determine if you are well-qualified for that particular job. The agency is required to include a definition of well-qualified on its vacancy announcements so that you will know the criteria against which you are being evaluated.
If you are not found well-qualified, then the agency must conduct a second review of your qualifications and advise you in writing of the results of the second review. If your agency finds that you are well-qualified for the vacancy, it must select you over any other employee who is not eligible for special selection priority from within or outside your agency.
If more than one eligible employee is determined to be well-qualified, the agency may select any one over another, or it may decide the order of selection among eligible employees (for example, select a displaced employee over a surplus employee). If no well-qualified eligible employees apply, the agency is free to fill the position with an employee who is not eligible for the special selection priority.
Reemployment Priority Lists
Agencies maintain Reemployment Priority Lists (RPL) to give rehiring priority to employees who have RIF separation notices and those who have been separated from competitive service positions by RIF. The RPL is a mechanism by which agencies give reemployment priority to their competitive service employees who are being or have been separated by RIF. Under OPM regulations, each agency must establish an RPL for each commuting area in which it separates competitive service employees by reduction-in-force.
The RPL gives you hiring preference in other components of your agency that are in the local commuting area of the position from which you were (or are being) separated. It does not give you consideration for jobs in any other agencies besides your former agency. The ICTAP (see below for details) is the program that lets you apply for jobs in other agencies.
If you are a career or career-conditional competitive service employee, you are eligible for registration on your agency’s RPL when you receive a specific reduction-in-force separation notice or an official certificate of expected separation.
You must register within 30 calendar days after the RIF separation date. If you are separated as a career employee, you will be given two years of rehiring priority by your agency, starting from the date when your name is added to the agency RPL. If you are separated as a career-conditional employee, your eligibility will last for one year.
Your eligibility also expires if you:
• request removal from the RPL;
• receive a career, career-conditional, or excepted service appointment without time limit in any agency;
• decline an offer of a career, career-conditional, or excepted service appointment without time limit;
• fail to respond to an agency’s inquiry of interest;
• separate for some other reason before the RIF separation takes effect (such as retirement or resignation); or
• decline an interview or fail to appear for a scheduled interview (if this condition is explained up front by the agency).
Your agency will provide you with an agency-developed application form. On this form you must specify the conditions under which you will accept employment including: grade(s), occupation(s), and minimum hours of work per week. You will probably also be asked if you want to be considered for temporary and/or term jobs, as well as permanent positions.
You can register for as many positions as you like. Your agency personnel specialist should be available to help you determine which positions you are qualified for and how to complete the RPL application.
You can only be considered for positions that are at or below the grade level of the position from which you are being (or may be) separated, and with no higher promotion potential. You may list any position for which you are interested, but you will not receive priority for selection unless you are qualified for the job. Before you register for lower-graded jobs, you might want to check with your agency on their pay-setting policies. You should not apply for a job you don’t think you would accept, because turning down a valid job offer for a permanent position could limit or terminate your future RPL consideration, depending on the grade level and type of offer.
Agencies must give RPL registrants priority consideration when filling competitive service vacancies from outside the agency, regardless of whether the agency plans to make a temporary, term, or permanent appointment. This means that if you indicate interest on your RPL application for a nonpermanent job, the agency must consider you for nonpermanent positions.
Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP)
Under ICTAP, displaced employees have the opportunity to apply for positions in the local commuting area and exercise special selection priority for these positions. This means that an employee who has a RIF notice of separation, for example, can apply for a competitive service vacancy announced by another agency in the local commuting area, and if found well-qualified, must be selected for the position over an applicant from outside the agency.
Note: The Department of Defense (DoD) is not required to provide selection priority through an internal CTAP because of its operation of the Priority Placement Program (see Special Defense Department Career Transition Services, below). This program continues to provide agency placement assistance to Defense workers affected by downsizing. In addition, displaced DoD workers can register for the DoD Reemployment Priority List (RPL), and are eligible for selection priority for jobs in non-DoD agencies through the ICTAP.
For further information regarding your agency’s specific services and programs, including CTAP and RPL, contact your personnel office.
To be considered an “eligible candidate” for the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP) and receive special selection priority, you must meet the following conditions:
• Be a career (tenure group I) or career-conditional (tenure group II) employee in the competitive service who:
— has been (or is being) separated from an Executive branch agency through reduction-in-force, or because of a declination of a transfer of function or directed reassignment to another commuting area;
— was separated because of a compensable injury, whose compensation has been terminated, and whose former agency is unable to place him or her;
— retired with a disability and has been notified that a disability annuity has been or will be terminated;
— is in receipt of a RIF separation notice and retired on the effective date of the RIF or under the discontinued service option; or
— is a former Military Reserve or National Guard Technician who is receiving a special OPM disability retirement annuity.
• Have a current (or last) performance rating of record of at least fully successful or equivalent (Level III) if under the first category above.
• Occupy or have been displaced from a position in the same commuting area of the vacancy.
• Apply for a vacancy that is at or below the grade level from which you are being (or may be) separated that does not have a higher career ladder within the time frame established by the agency.
• Be determined by the agency to be well-qualified for the specific vacancy.
You are not eligible for selection priority for vacancies in other agencies if you are an employee who is:
• downgraded or reassigned by a reduction-in-force, but not actually separated;
• being (or may be) separated from a temporary or term position in the competitive service or from an excepted service position;
• being (or may be) separated from an agency other than an executive branch agency that is required to follow OPM hiring procedures (this includes postal service, legislative and judicial branch agencies, etc.); or
• being (or may be) separated from a Senior Executive Service position.
If you retired or resigned with a buyout, you are not entitled to placement assistance because employees volunteer to leave the federal service with an incentive payment. Placement assistance is for employees who are involuntarily separated.
You are eligible for special selection priority in other agencies upon the date (whichever is earliest):
• the agency issues your RIF separation notice, or a notice of proposed removal for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another commuting area;
• OPM has notified you that your disability annuity has been or will be terminated;
• an agency certifies that it cannot place you after you were separated due to compensable injury; or
• the National Guard Bureau or military department certifies that you received a disability retirement and are receiving the special OPM annuity.
Your eligibility for special selection priority for vacancies in other agencies through ICTAP expires on the earliest of:
• one year after your involuntary separation;
• one year after your agency certifies that you cannot be placed after being separated because of a compensable injury;
• one year after you receive notification that your disability annuity has been or is being terminated (if you retired with a disability);
• when you receive a career, career-conditional, or excepted service appointment without time limit in any agency;
• when you no longer meet the eligibility requirements (for example, the RIF or another action is canceled; you are no longer being separated by RIF; you accept and are moved to another position-time-limited or permanent-prior to the RIF date; or you separated by resignation or non-discontinued service retirement prior to the RIF effective date); or
• with a specific agency, if you decline an official offer of a permanent position with that agency.
When an agency recruits to fill a vacancy with candidates from outside the agency, it must post the vacancy in OPM’s Federal Jobs Database. The posting will contain all qualification requirements, selective factors, and knowledge, skills, and abilities that candidates must possess to be considered well-qualified.
If you are an ICTAP eligible candidate, you may exercise your special selection priority by applying directly for a vacancy that is in the local commuting area from which you are being (or may be) separated and attaching proof of eligibility (for example, your RIF separation notice or notice of proposed separation for declining a directed reassignment or transfer of function to another commuting area). If you have already been separated, a copy of your SF-50, Notification of Personnel Action, documenting your separation from federal service, can serve as adequate documentation.
The agency will review your application material against the qualification requirements, selective factors, and knowledge, skills, and abilities required for the position and determine if you are well-qualified for that particular job.
When filling a position, the agency must first select its own employees who are eligible for special selection priority under its Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP). If there are no eligibles under the agency’s CTAP, then the agency may fill the job from within its current workforce, or they may select an eligible employee from its Reemployment Priority List (RPL).
Once candidates have been afforded selection priority through the agency’s CTAP and/or the RPL, then if the agency recruits from outside its own workforce and you are deemed well-qualified for the vacancy, the agency must select you over any outside candidate who is not eligible for selection priority.
At any time during the recruitment process, the agency may choose not to fill the vacancy, or to select any of its own employees, after giving selection priority to its own employees under CTAP. In addition, if there is more than one well-qualified ICTAP candidate, then the agency may choose among them.
As an eligible candidate, you may apply for and exercise selection priority for vacancies that are in the local commuting area in any executive branch agency at or below the grade level with no higher promotion potential than the position from which you were (or are being) separated and those which the agency plans to fill from outside its own workforce.
Agencies must select a well-qualified ICTAP eligible candidate before selecting any other candidate from outside the agency when effecting the following actions: competitive appointments (for example from competitive examining and delegated examining); noncompetitive appointments; movement between agencies (for example, transfers); reinstatements (except for former agency displaced employees); and time-limited appointments of 120 days or more to the competitive service.
Career Transition Services
Career transition services are available to surplus or displaced employees. Employee use of these services can continue up to separation, but an agency may provide policies for use of the services after separation. Some examples of career transition services include: skills assessment, resume and cover letter preparation, networking and interviewing techniques, counseling, job search assistance, and more specific retraining (if necessary). Actual programs vary by agency.
Special Defense Department Career Transition Services
The Defense Department has various authorities to help affected employees including (also see Base Closings for special policies for employees affected by base closings or realignments):
Priority Placement Program—The Priority Placement Program (PPP) is an automated program that enables eligible displaced employees to receive mandatory placement rights for DoD jobs within their selected geographic area of availability.
If you’re serving on a permanent appointment, you may be eligible to register in the PPP if you’re being involuntarily separated or demoted through no fault of your own. Assuming you meet the basic eligibility requirements, you may register when you receive a specific written notice of separation or demotion. If you’re being affected by RIF, your commander or activity head has the authority to approve registration up to one year prior to the RIF effective date, provided that the circumstances allow for early registration. The commander or activity head may also obtain approval for up to one additional year of early registration, which is normally granted only for closing installations.
To be eligible for placement in a specific vacancy, you must be well qualified for that position. “Well qualified” means that you’re able to successfully perform all of the duties of the position after a reasonable orientation period and without any significant training.
There are three priority levels within the PPP, and each priority reflects the severity of the specific displacement action. The highest priority (Priority 1) is for employees being separated by RIF without a job offer. Other employees are registered with lower priorities. When you’re referred through the PPP, your priority will determine whether the recruiting agency can fill the job from non-PPP sources. Your priority will also determine the order in which offers are made if more than one PPP registrant is referred.
If you accept a PPP offer from a DoD installation outside of your commuting area, the department will reimburse your moving expenses based on the provisions of the DoD Joint Travel Regulations, Volume II. However, you can only register for jobs in other areas if you’re being separated due to RIF or as a result of declining relocation outside of your commuting area. If you decline relocation outside your commuting area, you can only register for areas that are closer than the area you declined.
Voluntary Reduction in Force (VRIF) allows Department of Defense employees who are unaffected by reduction in force to volunteer for separation so that employees who would otherwise be separated by RIF may be retained. Some employees who may desire to leave the federal service, but who are not impacted by RIF, can take advantage of VRIF to become eligible for entitlements such as severance pay or continued health benefits coverage.
To be eligible for VRIF, you must meet the definition of a competing employee in 5 CFR 351. In addition, you must be serving under an appointment without time limitation. Reemployed annuitants and employees who have filed an application for disability retirement are ineligible for VRIF.
VRIF volunteers are not eligible to register in the DoD Priority Placement Program (PPP) or to receive Voluntary Separation Incentive Pay (a buyout). If you separate under VRIF and receive severance pay in a lump sum, you may be required to repay a pro-rated amount of your severance pay if you’re later reemployed by the federal government.
Usually, employees occupying critical or hard-to-fill positions, or those who possess critical knowledge or skills, are not allowed to participate in VRIF unless an exception is granted by the installation commander or activity head.
Participation in the VRIF program is not an entitlement. Approval is subject to the discretion of your installation’s leadership.
Annual leave restoration
Normally, employees can’t carry forward more than 240 hours of annual leave from one year to the next. However, if your installation has been designated for realignment or closure through the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process, any excess leave that you forfeit may be restored so long as you continue to work at your current activity.
Annual leave restored under this special BRAC provision is placed in a separate leave account, and employees are not required to use their restored leave before other available annual leave. They’re also exempt from the standard requirement of having to previously schedule leave before it can be restored.
The annual leave restoration provision does not apply to employees assigned to organizations or functions that are located at closing installations but designated to continue operations after the activity’s closure, or when such organizations or functions relocate within the commuting area of the closing activity.
Your human resources office can tell you if you’re covered by this benefit.
If the restored leave is not used, it will be included in the lump sum payment of your annual leave when you’re separated, or it can be used with other annual leave to keep you on the rolls past your scheduled separation date in order to qualify for retirement or Federal Employees Health Benefits coverage. If you move to a non-DoD federal agency, or to a DoD installation that is not being closed or realigned, the restored leave is paid in a lump sum.
Extended employment for retirement and/or health benefits—In accordance with 5 CFR 351.606(b), certain employees who are being involuntarily separated through no fault of their own have the option to be carried on the agency’s employment rolls beyond the reduction in force effective date in order to reach initial eligibility for retirement; and/or continuance of Federal Employee Health Benefits into retirement.
You’re eligible for this benefit if you’re being separated by RIF or if you decline an offer to relocate outside of your commuting area. In order to be retained under this special provision, you must have sufficient annual leave to attain eligibility for immediate retirement and/or for continuation of FEHB into retirement.
If you elect to take advantage of this option, your installation is required to carry you in an annual leave status beyond the scheduled separation date. You can’t be retained past the date you first become eligible for immediate retirement or for continuation of health benefits into retirement, but you can be retained long enough to satisfy both retirement and health benefits requirements.
You may not use sick leave to extend your employment for this purpose.
Job Search Resources
The USAJobs site, www.usajobs.gov, is a central listing of federal job vacancies; individual agencies also typically post job listings on their own sites, which can be accessed through www.usa.gov. In addition, there are touch-screen kiosks in some federal office buildings listing current worldwide job vacancies and providing other services.
Separately, cross-government sites for cybersecurity jobs and for intelligence community jobs are at www.cybercareers.gov and www.intelligencecareers.gov, respectively. Also, many individual agencies post vacancies, especially for excepted service positions. Some accept applications through their own sites.
Strategies for Using Career Transition Services
Placement assistance programs require that the employee seeking help be pro-active; the system does not operate automatically. For example, the programs usually require an up-to-date and accurate employment application or resume. When preparing the application or resume, you should completely describe your knowledge, skills, and abilities, and make several copies so you can quickly register for placement programs or apply for available vacancies.
In addition to listing your current and past work assignments, include all information that describes your qualifications (licenses or certifications, education, specialized training, etc.). You may be asked to sign a release authorizing your supporting human resources office to provide your application or resume to your state employment security agency and potential public and private sector employers.
Prior to registering in placement assistance programs, carefully consider the lowest grade level you are willing to accept. If you are available for placement at lower grades, opportunities for continuing your federal career will be proportionately greater. (Note: If you enter a position at a lower grade without a break in service and are otherwise eligible under the applicable regulations, you may be eligible for retained grade or retained pay rules. Your new employer’s human resources office will be responsible for setting your pay in accordance with the applicable regulations.)
When registering for placement consideration outside your commuting area, you should gather as much information as possible on climate, cost-of-living (including state and local taxes), housing costs, schools, and other living conditions. You should consult with family members before indicating availability for other geographical areas, since relocation will require an adjustment on their part as well. Before accepting a job offer in another geographic area, you should always determine whether relocation expenses will be paid, and by whom. If you indicate availability for positions outside of your current commuting area, you should be ready to relocate on short notice.
It is important to keep your human resources office advised concerning your whereabouts so you can be reached quickly when job opportunities are available.
Do not rely solely on placement assistance programs. By personally seeking employment with both public and private organizations, you avoid relying solely on someone else to secure your future.
Regardless of the manner (involuntary separation, retirement, or resignation) by which you are leaving the employment rolls, you may be eligible for unemployment compensation.
In addition, some states offer benefits, including unemployment compensation, to individuals retiring because of downsizing actions. Your unemployment benefits, however, may be reduced based on the amount of your federal retirement annuity. The applicable state employment security agency will make any benefits eligibility determination.