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Details & Transfers

Between federal agencies.

A career or career-conditional employee of one agency may transfer, without a break in service of a single workday, to a competitive service position in another agency without competing in a civil service examination open to the public. A transfer eligible may apply under vacancy announcements open to status candidates. An employee may transfer to a position at the same, higher, or lower grade level.

Who is eligible to transfer?

Present Federal employees who are serving in the competitive service under a career or career-conditional appointment have eligibility for transfer to a position in the competitive service.

To transfer, you must meet the qualification requirements for the position. Written tests are not common but if one is required, arrangements will be made for you to take it.

Employees must be found suitable for employment in competitive service positions. If your current appointment is subject to a suitability investigation, that condition continues after you transfer.

Generally with a transfer, a career employee remains a career employee, and a career-conditional employee remains a career-conditional employee.

How do I apply for transfer?

To apply for a transfer you must first conduct your own job search. Individuals usually apply to agencies in response to vacancies announced under the merit promotion program. Some agencies accept applications only when they have an appropriate open merit promotion announcement, while others accept applications at any time. If you are seeking a higher grade or a position with more promotion potential than you have previously held, generally you must apply under a merit promotion announcement and rank among the best-qualified applicants to be selected. Status applicants include individuals who are eligible for transfer.

Also, transfer eligibility does not guarantee you a job offer. Hiring agencies have the discretion to determine the sources of applicants they will consider.

How can I find out about agency merit promotion announcements?

The merit promotion announcements are posted on USAJOBS when jobs are announced outside of an agency's own workforce.

USAJOBS®, the government's official job web site provides access to more than 30,000 job listings daily as well as applications, forms, and employment fact sheets. Job postings are updated daily and are available to job seekers in a variety of formats to ensure accessibility for those with differing physical and technological capabilities. You can search for jobs by location, job category, and agency and you can complete and submit your application directly to the agency online.

The TDD line 978-461-8404 is available for our customers that are hearing impaired. Local telephone companies may charge for long distance service.

Applicants may also contact the agencies in which they are interested in working for specific application instructions.

The USAJOBS web site also has an Online Resume Builder feature. Using the resume builder, job seekers can create online resumes specifically designed for applying for Federal jobs. Resumes created on the USAJOBS resume builder can be printed from the system for faxing or mailing to employers; and saved and edited for future use. For many of the vacancies listed on the site, job seekers can submit resumes created through USAJOBS directly to hiring agencies through an electronic submission process. The official world-wide web site for jobs and employment information may be accessed at http://www.USAJOBS.Gov.

Probationary Period

A new probationary period is not required after transfer. However, you would continue to serve the remainder of any probationary period which you were serving at the time of transfer. In most cases, you must wait at least three months after your latest non-temporary competitive appointment before you may be considered for transfer to a position in a different line of work, at a higher grade, or to a different geographical area. OPM may waive the restriction against movement to a different geographical area when it is satisfied that the waiver is consistent with the principles of open competition.

Positions Restricted to Veterans

Some positions in the competitive service such as guard, messenger, elevator operator, and custodian have been restricted by law to persons entitled to preference under the veterans' preference laws. Generally, a non-veteran employee cannot be transferred to such positions if there are veterans available for appointment to them. This restriction does not apply to the filling of such positions by the transfer of a non-veteran already serving in a Federal agency in a position covered by the same generic title. For example, a non-veteran who is serving in the position of guard may be considered for transfer to the position of patrolman, guard, fireman, guard-laborer, etc.

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To International Locations

An agency may detail or transfer an employee to any organization that the Department of State has designated as an international organization . A detail or transfer may not exceed 5 years but may be extended 3 additional years upon the approval of the head of the agency. Employees who transfer are entitled to be reemployed (as provided in 5 CFR 352 Subpart C ) in his or her former position or; one of like status within 30 days of his or her application for reemployment.

Questions and Answers

The questions and answers below are not a substitute for reading the regulations. This information is intended to be helpful to agencies with questions regarding: temporary and term appointments, pay setting, performance management, promotions, reimbursements, and position changes.

The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) changed the regulations to eliminate th e"equalization allowance" paid to employees who transfer to an international organization upon return to the employing agency. In the past the equalization allowance guaranteed that the amount of payments for an employee who transferred to an IO were no less than the amount the employee would have received had the employee been detailed to the IO. For example: if the cumulative pay, allowances, or other monetary benefits paid by the IO to the transferred employee were less than what the agency would have paid to an employee on detail, the employing agency was required by law to make up the difference of those payments. Congress eliminated payment of this allowance in Section 2504 of Public Law 105-277.

The updated regulation also clarified the Department of State as being the agency responsible for designating an organization as an IO for the purposes of 5 CFR 352 subpart C. Agencies with questions regarding the designation of such organizations should contact the Department of State's Bureau of International Organizations or www.state.gov/p/io/empl/

Information on whether or not an organization qualifies as an international organization should be addressed to the Department of State, Bureau of International Affairs.

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Explore the Unknown by Going on a Detail Assignment

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I have worked in offices that have embraced the use of detail assignments. We made it a part of our human capital development plan and used it to support our operations at all levels. While I wish we could say it was part of some grand strategy, it was a knee-jerk response to sequestration, hiring freezes and continuing resolutions. Nonetheless, it impacted operations and career development in positive ways.

Why Temporary Detail Assignments are Great for Employees

Explore the unknown.  Use a detail as a low-risk way to orient your career and update your roadmap. Many of us have considered applying for a particular position, only to be frightened by the unknown. A detail assignment is a good way to test whether that position is right for you without the fear of losing your current job.

Learn multiple work styles and languages .  As I wrote in a previous GovLoop article , learning multiple work languages can help you in your career by exposing you to different points of view and helping you build coalitions. As an example, if you’re a IT project manager and want to learn more about the budget process, consider a detail to the CFO’s office. Both offices can benefit from each other’s experiences.

Practice new and existing skills in a new environment.   Want to learn new skills but can’t try it out in your current position? Flex those new skill muscles in a detail assignment. For example, if you recently earned a project management certification but can’t apply the knowledge effectively in your current position, then a detail may be right for you.

What about Managers? Yes, Managers Can Benefit, Too!

Detail assignments are not a one-way benefit for employees only. Managers stand to gain a lot by letting employees go on a detail assignment and hiring new team members on detail.

Add low-risk talent pool.  Detail assignments are a great and low-risk way to gain talent from the organization without additional hiring authorities. Know someone in the organization that would be a perfect fit for your project? “Hire” them on a detail! That person didn’t work out as well as you thought? No worries, since you can part ways amicably. Weave new detailees into your HR plans and use them to complement your permanent staff.

Inject fresh ideas and perspectives into your teams.  Whether by design or not, some offices only recruit from the same talent pool, essentially creating an echo chamber. Few new ideas are circulated, and therefore, the status quo remains intact. Pulling talent from other offices or other agencies will bring fresh ideas and perspectives to some of your existing challenges.

Embrace any hardships as a learning experience.   Losing your all-star and gaining a brand new person in their place doesn’t seem like a fair trade, but that’s the wrong way to look at it. Whether you’re gaining someone or losing your go-to employee for a few months, the questions are the same: Do you have a plan in place to handle team turnover? Are your standard operating procedures up to date? Will other team members step up and adapt? Use this change in your staff as an opportunity to improve your succession plans and take the team to the next level.

A Win/Win for Employees and Managers

Employees and managers both benefit from temporary detail assignments in these chaotic times of continuing resolutions and hiring freezes. While it will require some extra effort on everyone’s part, details are a rewarding experience that can boost an employee’s career and help managers achieve their agency’s goals.

Have you been on or hired someone for a detail assignment? Share your experiences and tips below!

Fredy Diaz    is part of the GovLoop Featured Contributor program, where we feature articles by government voices from all across the country (and world!). To see more Featured Contributor posts, click  here .

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This could be beneficial for any company. It would be great to see non-gov’t organizations incorporate detail assignments into the workplace as well. Thanks for sharing

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Hello Mr. Diaz,

Great topic! Thank you for sharing.

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Working for the Federal Government, What Every Employee Should Know

If you have never worked for the Federal Government, it is important that you take a few minutes and read this information. If you have worked for the Federal Government and have been away for a while or are a current Federal employee, you should also review this information because a number of rules and procedures have changed. A word of advice - there are many things you will learn throughout your employment in the Federal workforce. Pay close attention, save all your paperwork, learn where to go and get answers, and never assume anything is the same from day to day. Please keep this booklet as a handy reference. Should you have any questions or concerns, please call the Office of Human Resources Management (EXRM) on 301-504-7925.


Vacancy Announcements:


Notification of Personnel Action (SF-50):

Background Investigation:

Official Personnel Folder (OPF):

Employment of Relatives:

Resignation, Transfer or Termination:

Promotions and Reassignments:


Position Description:

Employee Relations:

Hours of Duty:

Compressed Work Schedule: An 80-hour per biweekly pay period completed in less than 10 days (5/4/9). You work 9 hours a day for 8 days and 8 hours on one day with one day off per pay period. Or, you work eight 10-hour workdays with two days off per pay period (4/10).

Flexitour: A 10 day, 8 hr. work schedule with a set start and finish time within the core hours approved in advance by the supervisor. The start and stop times may be modified with the approval of the supervisor.

Variable week: A flexible work schedule of 80 hrs per biweekly pay period. The number of hours worked on a given day may vary with approval of the supervisor.

Credit Hours: Any hours under a flexible or standard schedule which are in excess of your basic work requirement and which you elect to work to vary the length of a workweek or a workday. Must be approved in advance. They are a voluntary redistribution of your normal hours between pay periods. One credit hour is earned for each hour you work in excess of the 80-hour biweekly pay period. If you are on a compressed work schedule you may not earn credit hours.

Core Hours: Designated times and days during the biweekly pay period when you must be present for work other than a lunch period or approved leave. Core hours are normally 9:30am until 3:30pm, Monday through Friday.

Flexible Time Bands: Period during a workday in which you are on alternative work schedules. You may select and/or vary starting and quitting times with prior approval of your supervisor. The bands will normally be 6:00am to 9:30am and 3:30pm to 7:00pm.

Access to Work Areas: You will have access to your work area Monday through Friday between the hours of 6:00am and 7:00pm. Your supervisor must approve any change.

Annual Leave:

Sick Leave:

If you are a full time employee you are excused from work, with pay, for the legal holidays. If you are a part-time employee you are compensated only for the holidays that fall on a day you are scheduled to work (and only for the hours you are scheduled to work). The holidays are as follows:

If a legal holiday falls on a Saturday, the Commission will be closed on the preceding Friday. If it falls on a Sunday, the Commission will be closed the following Monday.

If you wish to observe religious holidays that are not legal holidays you should make arrangements with your supervisor. The supervisor may give approval for you to work compensatory time or earn credit hours before the holiday and give you compensatory time off to participate in the religious observance. You can also use your annual leave.

If you work on legal holidays you will receive holiday pay.

Overtime is work performed in excess of 8 hrs a day or 40 hrs in a week. A supervisor must approve it in advance. If you are at the GS-10 step 1 or below, compensation for overtime is at one and half times the basic rate of pay. If your rate of pay is above a GS-10 step 1 you will be paid at the basic rate of pay of a GS-10 step 1. You may request compensatory time off in lieu of paid overtime. If your salary exceeds the GS-10 step 10 rate; you are expected to earn compensatory time instead of receiving overtime pay.

Compensatory Time:

Compensatory time is time earned in place of overtime earned, if agreed to by the employer or required by regulation. A supervisor must approve in advance. Compensatory time off will be granted within a reasonable amount of time after the compensatory time is performed. The time limit for the use of compensatory time is the end of the leave year in which the time was earned, unless the failure to use it is due to important work, which had to be performed.

You will be paid every other Wednesday for a two-week period. Payroll checks are sent to your bank through direct deposit. Your bi-weekly pay statement is delivered to you in your office. Money deposited is available for use on the Friday or Saturday before the Wednesday payday, depending on your Financial Institution.

Pay Deductions:

Certain deductions are automatically taken from payroll checks. These include Federal and State taxes (at the exemption rate that you elect), retirement contributions, social security, FICA/Medicare, health insurance and life insurance.

Deductions may also be authorized for the Thrift Savings Plan, U.S. Savings Bonds, financial institutions (e.g. for a savings account or a loan payment), and charitable contributions.

You should carefully review every bi-weekly pay statement recieved to make sure that all deductions are correct. You may be held liable for any underpayment or overpayment or that you could have discovered by reviewing your pay statement.

Within-grade increases:

There are 10 pay steps for each grade and when you move up a step it is called a within-grade increase. Within-grade increases are based on performance ratings at the fully successful level or higher. Temporary and SES employees are not eligible for within-grade increases. Minimum waiting periods for within-grade increases are:

Annual Pay Raise:

Each year, the President may recommend an annual pay raise to Congress for Federal employees. The Congress may accept the President's recommendation or make its own proposal. After the Congress approves the pay raise, the President must then sign it into law. An annual pay raise usually takes effect in January of each year.

Special Pay Rates:

The Office of Personnel Management has approved "special pay rates" for certain types of positions in specified occupations and locations. The special rate increases the salary above the normal salary for that grade and step.

Miscellaneous Sources of Pay:

Injury Compensation:

The Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA), administered for all agencies by the U. S. Department of Labor, provides compensation benefits to federal employees who sustain job-related injuries or illnesses. You should report any on-the-job injury to your supervisor as soon as you can.

Health Insurance:

The Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program is designed to help protect you and eligible family members from the expenses of illness and accident. Unlike many private sector health benefit plans, it provides coverage without physical examination, places no restrictions on age or physical condition, offers a wide range of plans to choose from and cannot be canceled.

You and the government jointly share the cost of the FEHB program. On average, the government pays slightly more than 70 percent of the cost. You pay your share of the premium through a payroll deduction. You can use your FEHB benefits as soon as your coverage is effective. There are no waiting periods, required medical examinations or restrictions because of age or physical condition.

There are two types of enrollments in each FEHB plan: self only, which provides benefits only to you; and self and family, providing benefits to you and all eligible family members. A self and family enrollment covers you, your spouse and your unmarried dependent children under age 22.

You can choose from among fee for service (FFS) plans regardless of where you live; plans offering a point of service (POS); or health maintenance organizations (HMOs) if you live (or sometimes if you work) in the area serviced by the plan.

Each Fall the government holds an "open season" in which you may change plans, type of enrollment or change levels of coverage if you wish.

If you leave CPSC, or any other Federal agency, your health care coverage continues for 31 days following the last day of the pay period you worked for CPSC. This coverage is at NO cost to you.

If you leave the CPSC or any other Federal agency you are also eligible for Temporary Continuation of Coverage (TCC). Departing employees must apply for TCC in the Office of Human Resources Management prior to leaving CPSC. TCC entitles the employee to eighteen months of health insurance coverage. However, you are responsible for the full cost of the health insurance premium and a small administrative charge (TCC= Government's share + your regular share + 2% administrative cost or 102% of the health insurance cost.). In most cases, the monthly cost to you will be less than the cost of private sector health insurance.

Life Insurance:

The Federal Employee's Group Life Insurance (FEGLI) program, as the name implies, provides group term life insurance. In most cases, you are automatically covered by Basic life insurance. In addition to the Basic, there are three forms of Optional insurance that you can elect. You must have Basic insurance in order to elect any of the options. Unlike Basic, enrollment in Optional insurance is not automatic - you must take action to elect the options.

Unlike the Federal Health Benefits Program, which has annual opportunities to join or change coverage levels, FEGLI open seasons are rare; elections of coverage generally must be made when first offered.

The cost of Basic insurance is shared between you and the government. You pay 2/3 of the total cost and the government pays 1/3. Your age does not affect the cost of Basic insurance. You pay the full cost of Optional insurance. The cost of Optional insurance depends on your age. For insurance withholding purposes, the government assumes you reach an age in your first pay period that starts after your birthday.

Most federal employees, including part-time employees, are eligible to enroll. Basic life insurance coverage is effective on the first day you enter a pay and duty status unless you waive this coverage before the end of your first pay period. You may waive Basic at any time. Optional insurance generally must be elected within 31 days of an appointment.


If you are a new employee, you are in the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). The FERS system covers everyone hired since January 1, 1984. However, if you had previous Federal employment under the "old" federal retirement program, the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), and were rehired, you may have been rehired under the FERS or CSRS-Offset, which is a mix of CSRS and Social Security coverage.

If you're unsure which retirement system applies to you, contact EXRM. The systems have fundamental differences in how benefits accumulate.

FERS is a three-part retirement system consisting of Social Security coverage, a civil service annuity and the Thrift Savings Plan. In general, FERS employees contribute 7.0 percent of pay to cover the cost of their benefits: .8 percent is paid to the civil service retirement fund and goes to cover their basic annuity benefit and 6.2 percent goes to pay for Social Security benefits.

In addition, they pay 1.45 percent for Medicare coverage, there is no cap on Medicare deductions.

FERS employees retiring with an unreduced annuity after 30 years will receive a basic benefit equal to 30 percent of their high-3 years of average salary as compared to 56.25 percent for CSRS and CSRS-Offset employees. FERS employees will be eligible for a Social Security benefit at age 62.

Survivor Benefits Upon Death of Employee:

Federal retirement systems protect your loved ones. Under FERS the surviving spouse of an employee who had at least 18 months of creditable civilian service may be eligible for a basic employee death benefit, as long as the spouse:

Was married to the deceased for an aggregate of at least nine months (the nine-month requirement does not apply if the death was accidental).

The deceased was the parent of a child born of the marriage (including one born posthumously, or out of wedlock if the parties later married). This benefit may be payable to a former spouse (in whole or in part) if a qualified court so orders. The rules are somewhat different for those under the CSRS retirement system.

Thrift Savings Plan:

The Thrift Savings Plan (TSP) is a valuable way to build up a nest egg for your retirement. It's the Federal government's version of the popular 401(k) plan. The TSP is a payroll withholding based plan. Investments are from pretax dollars and investment earnings are tax deferred until withdrawn.

FERS employees are allowed to invest up to 12 percent, to a threshold set annually by the IRS (in 2002, $11,000). Your agency will automatically contribute an amount equal to 1 percent of your basic pay each pay period. You make your own contribution by payroll deductions and your agency matches those contributions according to the following schedule:

The TSP holds biannual open seasons during which you can begin contributing or change the amount of your TSP contributions. You can also change the allocation of how much money you have going into each of the TSP’s investment funds on a daily basis or move your account balances among the funds whenever you choose through interfund transfers which are processed on a monthly basis. The TSP sends participants statements during the open seasons showing their account balances, loan status, vesting status and other information. New employees may sign up to begin contributions within 60 days after the appointment date. However, Agency matching contributions and the agency automatic 1 percent of salary contribution don’t start until the second open season after your appointment.

Investment Choices:

Currently, the TSP has five funds available:

The Government Securities Investment Fund (G Fund), special Treasury issues with an average maturity date of about 14 years.

The Common Stock Index Fund (C Fund), which tracks the Standard & Poor’s 500 index of large U.S. stocks.

The Fixed Income Index Investment Fund (F Fund), a combination of corporate and government bonds.

The Small Capitalization Stock Index Investment (S Fund), which tracks the Wilshire 4500 stock index.

The International Stock Index Fund (I Fund), which tracks the returns of the Morgan Stanley Capital International EAFE.

In-Service Loans and Withdrawals:

You may gain access to your money during your working career through loans (and in-service withdrawals). When you take a TSP loan, you are borrowing from yourself. Loans are repaid through payroll allotments over the payment period specified in the loan agreement. You can repay the loan in full, plus any unpaid interest before the end of your loan repayment schedule without penalty.

Employee Protections:

Anti-Discrimination Laws:

Federal employees are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and Section 501 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission enforces these laws. Generally speaking, under these laws it is illegal to discriminate in any aspect of employment including: hiring and firing, compensation, assignment, or classification of employees, transfer, promotion, layoff, or recall, recruitment and testing. Discriminatory practices under those laws also include: harassment on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age.

Title VII also prohibits discrimination because of participation in schools or places of worship associated with a particular racial, ethnic, or religious group. The law prohibits not only intentional discrimination, but also practices that have the effect of discriminating against individuals because of their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability or age.

Federal employees also are covered by the:

Age Discrimination in Employment Act, which protects individuals who are 40 years of age or older from employment discrimination based on age.

The Equal Pay Act, under which agencies may not discriminate on the basis of sex in the payment of wages or benefits, where men and women perform work of similar skill, effort, and responsibility for the same employer under similar working conditions.

The Rehabilitation Act, which protects people who have physical or mental impairments that substantially limit one or more major activities, have records of such impairments, or are regarded as having such impairments.

Appeal Rights:

Career employees may appeal many disciplinary actions and personnel decisions they believe are adverse to them to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

CPSC Headquarters and some Field employees are represented by an employee Union called the American Federation of Government Employees. All non-supervisory and non-managerial employees in Headquarters are part of what is called a Bargaining Unit. Members of a bargaining unit must use the negotiated grievance procedure.

If you are in a supervisory, managerial, confidential position or you work in a Field location that is not part of a bargaining unit, you must use the CPSC administrative grievance procedure.

Reductions-In-Force (RIF):

When an agency conducts a significant job reduction, it must use formal reduction-in-force procedures published by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management. These rules create four standards for determining which employees are released, and which are retained, either in their current positions or in another position:

An agency is required to use the RIF procedures when an employee is faced with separation or downgrading for a reason such as reorganization, lack of work, shortage of funds, insufficient personnel ceiling, or the exercise of certain reemployment or restoration rights. A furlough of more than 30 calendar days, or of more than 22 discontinuous workdays, also is a RIF action. (A furlough of 30 or fewer calendar days, or of 22 or fewer discontinuous workdays, is an adverse action.)

Union Representation:

More than half of the Federal government is covered by bargaining units, allowing unions to negotiate over various conditions of employment. They don’t generally negotiate compensation or other matters deemed to be in management’s sole prerogative.

You must be in a recognized bargaining unit to join the union. However, you do not need to be a dues-paying union member if you are in a bargaining unit.

CPSC Headquarters and some Field employees are represented by an employee Union called the American Federation of Government Employees. All non-supervisory and non- managerial employees in Headquarters and some Field locations are part of these bargaining units.

Employee Restrictions:

Ethical Conduct:

There are two core concepts underlying ethical principles for Federal employees:

Employees shall not use public office for private gain; and

Employees shall act impartially and not give preferential treatment to any private organization or individual.

In addition, employees must avoid any action that would create the appearance that they are violating the law or ethical standards.

Rules of ethical conduct govern subjects such as giving or accepting gifts, outside employment, abuse of position, required financial disclosures in certain situations and similar matters.

Political Activities:

Under the 1939 Hatch Act, Federal employees face restrictions on their ability to participate in political activities. Congress amended the Hatch Act in 1993 to permit more political activity although many restrictions still apply. Certain agencies and categories of employees, primarily in national security and law enforcement, are covered by the stricter rules that predate that amendment.

Generally speaking, federal employees covered by the 1993 amendments may:

They may not:

Employment Information

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Official websites use .gov A .gov website belongs to an official government organization in the United States.

Secure .gov websites use HTTPS A lock ( Lock A locked padlock ) or https:// means you've safely connected to the .gov website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

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An official website of the United States government

The .gov means it’s official. Federal government websites often end in .gov or .mil. Before sharing sensitive information, make sure you’re on a federal government site.

The site is secure. The https:// ensures that you are connecting to the official website and that any information you provide is encrypted and transmitted securely.

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Why Accept a VA Detail or Short-Term Assignment? Benefits to Employees and the Service

In the Veterans Health Administration (VHA), there are frequent e-mails and requests for employees to accept a detail or short-term assignment across a wide range of positions from administrative to executive leadership. These opportunities afford an employee and the service line valuable benefits and growth opportunities; however, there are reasons why some may be reluctant to pursue these opportunities. In this article, we discuss the barriers to applying for and accepting detail positions and the benefits for the employee and the service lines during periods of standard operations as well as during emergencies requiring alternative staffing strategies.

Details are short-term assignments used to fill a vacant position while hiring for the permanent position or to fill a short-term need (eg, during a pandemic). Details usually last 30 to 120 days, though they may be extended, depending on the position, the number of people willing to serve in the detailed role, and the time to select a candidate for the permanent position. Details can be created for any skill level or type of position to meet an identified need, but they are most often needed for supervisory or leadership roles.

The COVID-19 pandemic has shed light on the importance of individuals’ flexibility and adaptability both within and between roles. Many US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) facilities stood up Incident Command structures to support the changes required to adapt to the needs created by the pandemic. Establishing an Incident Command means that people within the organization must take on new responsibilities, and in many cases, they are detailed to new positions that were not needed or prioritized before the pandemic.

An employee may be reluctant to apply for or accept a detail because he or she has little to no experience; feels uncomfortable stepping into an unfamiliar role; is concerned about making a leap from a clinical to administrative role; has uncertainty whether the job is a good professional fit; dislikes the lack of a pay increase during the detail period even if the new role has more responsibility; and has concern that serving in the detail may make them ineligible to apply for the permanent position due to a perception of being preselected. Additionally, the employee may recognize the added stress on colleagues because the same amount of work must be completed.

Although leaving a position for a period of months can be stressful, serving in a detail position provides significant opportunities for professional growth. An employee can gain knowledge and experience in an unfamiliar role before applying for or committing to a permanent position. Those serving in temporary details are often given more support as colleagues and supervisors understand that the role was accepted on short notice with little time to prepare. Other benefits include expanding professional contacts, gaining perspective on a different part of the VHA, and working on skills, such as flexibility, time management, and perseverance. By succeeding in a detail, employees build professional acumen. After taking on additional challenges they become more competitive for future jobs. The VHA Executive Candidate Development Program requires a 120-day detail, serving as either assistant or associate director, chief of staff, or associate director for patient care services/ nurse executive as part of the program. 1

Temporarily leaving a service line to detail in a different service line has an impact on the home service because of the restrictions imposed. These restrictions guarantee that the employee can return to the original position at the end of a detail, thus providing a sense of job security; however, the home service line is down an employee.

Given these considerations, the following are key points to establish before undertaking the detail: (1) length of assignment; (2) once started, potential for the assignment to be extended; (3) will the employee be doing any of their prior job or just the new job or a blend of both; (4) possible changes in hours and site of work of the employee; (5) who will supervise the employee; (6) who will write the employee’s review; (7) training or skills needed prior to starting; (8) necessary paperwork; (9) how will the new assignment be communicated to others; (10) what happens if the detail ends sooner than planned; and (11) approval and support of all involved parties.

The employee’s home service may need a temporary plan to cover the employee’s workload, especially if the employee will be detailed to a different service line. The temporary plan may require creativity and flexibility and can be a way to trial the contingency plans for staffing the home service. One benefit to the home service is that the employee will have additional skills on returning that may benefit the home service, and the service will gain a potential leader.

When an employee goes to a different service, that service gains an employee who may bring a new perspective to help solve existing conflicts or problems. This can serve as a time to reset expectations or set new goals prior to the arrival of new leadership. If the detail is a good fit, then there is the chance that the employee may return in the future or refer others to it as a professional opportunity.


A detail can benefit the employee and the home and host services if planned in advance, and all parties support the process. A short-term leadership or administrative assignment can help an employee gain valuable experience for the future.

Author disclosures

The authors report no actual or potential conflicts of interest with regard to this article.

The opinions expressed herein are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Federal Practitioner , Frontline Medical Communications Inc., the US Government, or any of its agencies.


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