If you, like Executive Director Olivia Lu, are participating in the Workforce Recruitment Program, you may have recently received a reminder to prepare a Schedule A letter for potential employers. And, if you’re anything else like Olivia, you might have additional question about how to prepare a good Schedule A letter. Thankfully, NDLSA is here to assist.
The federal government has many attorney and JD advantage positions that individuals with disabilities can be appointed to through the Schedule A Excepted Service Appointing Authority. Unlike the normal hiring process, individuals with Schedule A letters and appointing authority can be chosen directly by the hiring manager for a position without having to be compared to individuals without Schedule A letters. The program is designed to appoint individuals with physical, psychiatric, and intellectual disabilities into the federal service. Most Schedule A appointments are made for two years but can be converted to permanent positions after two years of satisfactory performance as determined by your local supervisor. The Schedule A authority is codified in Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations subsection 213.3102(u).
How is Schedule A different than the Workforce Recruitment Program?
The Schedule A hiring authority differs from the Workforce Recruitment Program (WRP) in several ways. Unlike the WRP, you do not need to be enrolled or a recent graduate (defined typically as within two years from graduation, although there is a variance for military veterans) from school to qualify for Schedule A. This means eligible individuals can use Schedule A at any point in their career to gain access to federal employment. The process for Schedule A and WRP are also different – we include more details below about applying to both programs. Schedule A is a two-year appointment authority that can then be converted to a permanent position, unlike WRP, which is typically an initial 12- to 14-week appointment but can be renewed and converted to a permanent position.
How to apply to Schedule A?
The first step is to obtain a Schedule A letter from your physician, licensed medical professional, or any federal, state, DC, or US territory agency that issues or provides disability benefits. While some particular job announcements may have specific requirements for the letter, the majority of job announcements will accept a standard “Schedule A Letter.” The letter simply needs to state that you have a disability that makes you eligible for Schedule A. The letter doesn’t need to contain (and honestly, shouldn’t contain) details of your specific condition, medical history, or what accommodations you may need. The Office of Personnel Management has examples that can be copied and pasted onto the certifier’s letterhead and printed at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/disability-employment/getting-a-job/sampleschedaletters.pdf.
While you are waiting on your Schedule A letter, you should be sure to brush up your résumé. It is no longer necessary to have a formal federal résumé in a defined format. You can use whatever résumé you would like. However, an experienced federal recruiter has said that when résumés are reviewed, they are looking to match the experience you state you have on the questionnaire you submitted on USAJobs with your résumé. Since they are looking for this level of detail, you may wish to ensure that you can point to where in your résumé, you gained certain skills and experiences, if not readily apparent.
Once you have your résumé and your Schedule A letter, you can apply for positions directly with the federal agency’s Disability Program Manager or Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SSPC). These two positions are very similar, but different agencies have different names for them. You can find the SSPC either by location or by an agency at https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/disability-employment/selective-placement-program-coordinator-directory/. However, many Schedule A applicants have had more success applying directly through the official “Federal Government’s Employment Site” better known as USAJobs.gov. Once you have applied via USAJobs by uploading your résumé, Schedule A letter, and any other documentation listed in the job posting and answering the questionnaire about job skills, you should contact the SPPC for that agency. By applying for a job you are interested in and then identifying yourself as a Schedule A applicant to the SPPC, the SPPC will bring your application to the attention of the hiring official. This process ensures that your résumé doesn’t just end up in a pile to be reviewed later.
If the agency is interested in hiring you, you will likely receive an email or a phone call inviting you for an interview. The interview typically consists of a panel of individuals (usually two to three) who will have a set of prepared questions about you, your skills, and how you would fit in the job. This interview will not include a discussion about any reasonable accommodations unless you bring it up. You do not need to identify yourself in this meeting as a Schedule A candidate – in fact, it is advised that you do not, and they cannot ask you.
If you are selected, you will be notified by either the hiring manager (the person who you will work for) or human resources. The next steps will typically involve the normal human resources processes of getting you ready to onboard, including benefits information, any security documents, and payroll and tax information. If you need a reasonable accommodation, this is a good time to reach out to either the SPPC or ask the human resources specialist for the Reasonable Accommodations point of contact for the office. From there, the SPPC or the Reasonable Accommodations person will assist you in setting you up for success.
Good luck, and remember, NDLSA is always a resource! Also, be sure to check out all the NDLSA articles on employment, jobs, and hiring to learn more about opportunities available to you.