Special General Memorandum 2009-02
Recruiting and retaining health care professionals is a critical challenge for the Indian Health Service (IHS). To reduce personnel shortages and to preserve patient safety, the Assistant Secretary for Health approved, in September 2008, Assignment Incentive Pay (AIP) for active duty officers in the Commissioned Corps of the United States Public Health Service (USPHS) in critical public health assignments (CPHA). Similar to the bonus program available to civil service health employees, the AIP pilot program provides incentive pay to dental or medical officers or to officers who accept or continue assignments that fulfill a critical need or are in isolated, hazardous, or hardship areas.
The IHS uses AIP to retain or recruit critical staff at the discretion of IHS Area Offices, IHS Service Units, Tribes or Tribal organizations. These local officials decide who receives how much incentive pay. Once an assignment is approved for AIP, program managers may negotiate an AIP contract with an employee or applicant and forward the contract to the Division of Commissioned Personnel Support (DCPS). The DCPS then issues the request for personnel orders to the Office of Commissioned Corps Operations, who authorizes the AIP payment. It is recommended that program managers use AIP to fill difficult-to-staff assignments, as the intent of the AIP is to target those individual cases where there is a hardship, and is not for use for everyone.
Based on assignments rather than on duty station or discipline, incentive pay may range from $1 to $3,000 monthly, as of January 1, 2008. Priority is given to the following depending on geographic pay disparities and staffing shortages: medical personnel, dental personnel, optometrists, pharmacists, nurses, therapists, all other health service officers. To date, the DCPS has solicited AIP approvals for all vacant and encumbered medical and dental assignments and is assisting management in preparing justifications for optometry officer assignments. The next targeted group will be all assignments at sites that meet isolated hardship (ISOHAR) criteria. A site does not have to be on the ISOHAR service award list to meet these criteria. Please also note that all sites on the ISOHAR service award list meet the CPHA standard.
Furthermore, not all officers stationed at the same duty station will receive AIP, despite their similar categories, disciplines, specialties, or billet descriptions. Likewise, officers do not receive AIP based on the fact other officers have the same education, training, grade, or experience. Consequently, married officers who are stationed together may find that their AIP rates may vary.
For questions about AIP, please contact your Commissioned Corps Liaison in DCPS, at (301) 443-3464, or a DCPS Regional Office Specialist, at: http://www.ihs.gov/NonMedicalPrograms/COLiaisonStaff/index.cfm?module=contactus.
For information about the progress and status of AIP in the IHS, please see http://www.ihs.gov/NonMedicalPrograms/COLiaisonStaff/index.cfm?module=aip.
Yvette Roubideaux, M.D., M.P.H.
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