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Hello!

Help for Disabled Applicants.

Dear Advisor:

The Federal application process can be tough. Can a disabled person find help in applying. I have “disabled” status, because I am legally blind. My disability has been certified by the Oklahoma Vocational Rehab Agency. I have worked as an administrator for 15 years and would like to work for the Federal Government because of the great benefits. Please tell me what kind of help is available for a blind person seeking Federal employment?

K.S.

Tulsa, OK

Dear K.S.:

Qualified disabled persons stand a good chance of being hired by the Federal Government, because it is by far the largest employer of disabled people in the country. More than 100,000 disabled persons are currently employed in Federal service. This achievement is the result of an active, ongoing recruitment effort. The Federal government offers excellent promotion potential for those with disabilities.

As required by law, each Federal Agency has an affirmative action plan to encourage the hiring, placement, and promotion of the disabled. Almost all Agencies also have human resource officers whose sole job is to promote equal opportunity in the Federal workforce. Each and every Agency, including the Postal Service, is required to establish:

1. Annual written affirmative action plans that list goals for the employment and advancement of handicapped applicants and employees.

2. An affirmative action plan for disabled veterans with documented 30 percent disabilities, and

3. Goals and timetables for making any Federal buildings not already converted accessible to the disabled.

To ensure that disabled employees are able to succeed, hiring agencies have the authority to appoint readers, interpreters, and personal assistants, and to buy any special equipment necessary of the disabled employee to function on the job.

Definition of Disability
For Federal employment purposes a disabled person is one who has a permanent, severe, physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of his/her major life activities and has a history of such impairment.

Disabilities may include mental retardation, psychiatric disorders, muscular or neurological limitations, and invisible (hidden) disabilities such as lupus, fibromyalgia, AIDS, diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, and asthma.

Agencies with more than 500 employees must establish numerical goals for hiring people with these targeted disabilities. The EEOC has recommended a goal of at least 6 percent.

Hiring Goals
The Office of Personnel Management has also established procedures for Agencies to follow in hiring the disabled. These provide for special testing for disabled applicants whenever a test is required, using such aids as readers for the blind, interpreters for the deaf, modified tests if necessary, and extra time to take them, including an optional meal break. Extra time is also provided for the completion and filing of applications, including extension of the closing date.

Contact The Coordinator Who Works with Disabled Job Candidates
All Agencies and many, if not most, human resource offices have a Selective Placement Coordinator (also called Special Emphasis Manager) to help disabled applicants. When contacting an Agency or responding to a Vacancy Announcement, you should direct your communication to the “Coordinator for Disabled Job Applicants”. This person’s job is to help you find a job in his or her Agency. Regardless of the type of position you seek or the Agency for which you want to work, help should be available.

Disabled Veterans
Affirmative Action Program
This is a special employment program for veterans who are entitled to compensation from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) or who have been discharged or released from active duty because of a service connected disability. DVAAP Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Program is specifically for disabled vets. Each Federal Agency has a national plan designed to attract such candidates. The program provides for a special Excepted Appointment Authority (that is, authority for appointment to the Excepted Service) for veterans certified as 30 percent or more disabled by either the VA or the military service that discharged or released them. Agencies are required to recruit such veterans actively and provide them with internal advancement opportunities.

Selective Placement Procedures for the Physically Disabled
A Federal Agency can hire a severely physically disabled applicant for any GS 1 15 or Wage Grade position as long as employment does not exceed 700 hours, or about four months, during 12 consecutive months. This trial appointment period gives disabled applicants a chance to demonstrate their abilities to the hiring agency.

To be eligible for consideration under this temporary appointing authority, present a VA or state vocational rehabilitation agency certificate (verification statement) specifying your disability and your ability to do the job in question. You can also qualify if the Agency applies OPM’s minimum qualification standards for the position and establishes that you have a severe physical impairment. By hiring you under this authority, the Agency is making no commitment for a permanent appointment; however, it is possible, at the end of your four month tenure, to have the position converted to an Excepted Service appointment.

Excepted Service Appointment
Persons with a severe physical impairment may be appointed to an Excepted Service position without the temporary trial appointment described above. To qualify you must provide a certificate from either the VA or a state vocational rehabilitation Agency verifying that you have a severe physical handicap meeting OPM’s qualification standards for either a temporary trial appointment or Schedule A (Excepted Service) appointment. Eligibility for this kind of appointment is based primarily on the severity of the physical impairment, “severe” being defined for these purposes as relatively permanent and not fully correctable, such as your blindness. Agencies are authorized to convert such noncompetitive excepted appointments to full competitive status after two years of successful performance in a permanent position. This conversion authority is used frequently and requires only the recommendation of one’s supervisor.

Competitive Appointment
Even though programs are available for them, many candidates with disabilities need no special help in successfully pursuing employment with the Federal government. Many physically disabled people find employment through normal competitive hiring procedures in the same manner as those who are not handicapped. Nevertheless, even under the competitive application process, the following assistance is available:

1. OPM Service Centers provide advisory services on job qualifications and appropriate Federal civil service exams. They may also have information about how to get additional training, if needed, and special examination arrangements for applicants whose handicaps prevent them from competing on equal footing. (OPM Service Center locations are listed on page 4 of FJD.)

2. Agency coordinators provide information about and help with placement, advancement retention, and job and work site modification, if needed.

3. Agencies may give disabled applicants extensions on application filing deadlines. Therefore, when a job in which you are interested is listed, be sure to study the vacancy announcement regardless of the specified closing date: The fine print will say whether the job closing date can be extended for disabled applicants. Note that this procedure does not apply to every Federal vacancy: It is up to the hiring Agency to determine which jobs should be kept open beyond their announced closing dates for this purpose. For additional information disabled job candidates can visit these pages: Disability
Disability Manager
 
To submit questions to the Federal Jobs Advisor, write to: Federal Jobs Advisor, Federal Jobs Digest, 1503 Radcliff Court, Newtown Square PA 19073. We regret that not all questions may be answered. •