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Chapter 2 - Merit Promotion Plan - only applies to non-bargaining unit employees

Part 7 - Human Resources Administration And Management

Title Section
Introduction 7-2.1
    Purpose 7-2.1A
    Scope 7-2.1B
    Policy 7-2.1C
Authorities/References 7-2.2
    5 U.S.C. 7-2.2A
    25 U.S.C. 7-2.2B
    42 U.S.C. 7-2.2C
    5 C.F.R. 7-2.2D
    29 & 42 C.F.R. 7-2.2E
    Executive Order 7-2.2F
    Office of Personnel Management (OPM) 7-2.2F
    Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) 7-2.2F
    IHM 7-2.2F
Applicability of Indian Preference in Filling Positions 7-2.3
Actions Requiring Competitive Procedures 7-2.4
    Permanent Promotion 7-2.4A
    Time-Limited Promotion of More Than 120 Days 7-2.4B
    Detail of More Than 120 Days 7-2.4C
    Reassignment, Transfer, and Demotion/Change to Lower Grade Term Actions 7-2.4D
    Training 7-2.4F
Actions Excluded From Competitive Procedures and Indian Preference 7-2.5
    Career Ladder Promotion 7-2.5A
    Classification Actions 7-2.5B
    Entry into the USPHS Commissioned Corps 7-2.5C
    Demotion of an Employee for Performance or Conduct 7-2.5D
    Demotion of a Supervisory Employee During Probation Period 7-2.5E
    Detail to Same or Lower Grade 7-2.5F
    Emergency Hire Authority 7-2.5G
    Pathways Conversion 7-2.5H
    Promotion of a Previously Downgraded Employee 7-2.5I
    Realignment/Transfer of Function 7-2.5J
    Reasonable Accommodation 7-2.5K
    Reduction-in-Force 7-2.5L
    Reemployment 7-2.5M
    Remedy 7-2.5N
    Reinstatement of Senior Executive Service (SES) Member into the Competitive Service 7-2.5O
    Restoration Rights 7-2.5P
    Return of an Employee from a Time-Limited Promotion or Detail 7-2.5Q
    Indian Health Scholarship Recipient 7-2.5R
    Temporary Promotion or Detail of 120 Days or Less 7-2.5S
    Veterans Recruitment Appointee 7-2.5T
Actions Excluded From Competitive Procedures But Not From the Application of Indian Preference 7-2.6
    Temporary Limited Appointment 7-2.6A
    Promotion, Reassignment, Demotion/Change to a Lower Grade, or Transfer 7-2.6B
    Reinstatement to a Higher Graded Position or a Position with Greater Promotion Potential 7-2.6C
    Priority Placement 7-2.6D
    Excepted Service Appointment 7-2.6E
Special Placement Actions 7-2.7
Records Management 7-2.8
    File Maintenance 7-2.8A
    File Contents 7-2.8B

  1. PURPOSE.  The purpose of this chapter is to publish the policies to be followed when filling positions in the Indian Health Service (IHS). The IHS Merit Promotion Plan (MPP) reflects the requirements issued in the Code of Federal Regulations (C.F.R.), 5 C.F.R. Part 335. The MPP must be used in conjunction with Indian Health Manual (IHM) Part 7, Chapter 3, “Indian Preference,” and Part 7, Chapter 1, “Excepted Service Examining Plan.” To the extent there are any conflicts, this later-enacted policy prevails unless prohibited by law.
  2. SCOPE.  This MPP applies to filling positions under the authority of Title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.), Chapter 33 and 5 C.F.R. Part 335 to include all positions in the General Schedule grades 15 and below, as well as wage grade equivalent positions in the IHS. The United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps Officers may apply and be considered for vacancies in a manner consistent with the MPP. The provisions of this MPP and the authority of 5 U.S.C. Chapter 33 apply to the selection of qualified candidates, including both Indian Preference candidates and non-Indian Preference candidates. Bargaining unit employees should review their respective Collective Bargaining Agreement and contact their local union representative regarding any questions on the MPP.
  3. POLICY.  It is IHS policy to adhere to merit system principles when filling positions by merit promotion procedures. These principles include:
    1. Recruit, select, and advance on merit after fair and open competition,
    2. Treat employees and applicants fairly and equitably,
    3. Provide equal pay for equal work and reward excellent performance,
    4. Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest,
    5. Manage employees efficiently and effectively,
    6. Retain or separate employees on the basis of their performance,
    7. Educate and train employees if it will result in better organizational or individual performance,
    8. Protect employees from improper political influence, and
    9. Protect employees against reprisal for the lawful disclosure of information in "whistleblower" situations.
    10. Management has the right to select or not to select from best qualified candidates.


  1. 5 U.S.C.
    1. 5 U.S.C. § 2108 – Veteran; Disabled Veteran; Preference Eligible,
    2. 5 U.S.C. § 2301 – Merit System Principles,
    3. 5 U.S.C. § 2302 – Prohibited Personnel Practices,
    4. 5 U.S.C. Chapter 33 – Examination, Selection, and Placement,
    5. 5 U.S.C. Chapter 43 – Performance Appraisal,
    6. 5 U.S.C. Chapter 75 – Adverse Actions,
    7. 5 U.S.C. Chapter 81, Subchapter I – Compensation for Work Injuries,
    8. 5 U.S.C. § 8336 – Immediate Retirement,
    9. 5 U.S.C. § 8337 – Civil Service Retirement, Disability Retirement,
    10. 5 U.S.C. § 8451 – Disability Retirement, Disability Benefits, and
    11. 5 U.S.C. § 8456 – Disability Benefits, Military Reserve Technicians.
  2. 25 U.S.C.
    1. 25 U.S.C. Chapter 18, codification of the Indian Health Care Improvement Act (IHCIA),
    2. 25 U.S.C. Chapter 46, codification of the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act (ISDEAA),
    3. 25 U.S.C § 5116 – Standards for Indians appointed to Indian Office,
    4. 25 U.S.C. § 5117 – Indian preference laws applicable to Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service positions.
  3. 42 U.S.C.  

    42 U.S.C. § 12111 - Definitions
  4. 5 C.F.R.
    1. 5 C.F.R. Part 213 – Excepted Service,
    2. 5 C.F.R. Part 302 – Employment in the Excepted Service,
    3. 5 C.F.R. Part 315 – Career and Career-Conditional Employment,
    4. 5 C.F.R. Part 330 – Recruitment, Selection, and Placement (General),
    5. 5 C.F.R. Part 335 – Promotion and Internal Placement,
    6. 5 C.F.R. Part 351 – Reduction in Force,
    7. 5 C.F.R. Part 352 – Reemployment Rights, and
    8. 5 C.F.R. Part 410 – Training.
  5. 29 & 42 C.F.R.  
    1. 29 C.F.R. Part 1607 – Uniform Guidelines on Employee Selection Procedures,
    2. 29 C.F.R. Part 1614 – Federal Sector Equal Employment Opportunity, and
    3. 42 C.F.R. Part 136, Subpart E – Preference in Employment.
  6. EXECUTIVE ORDER.  Executive Order 11899 – Providing for the protection of certain civil service employment rights of Federal personnel who leave Federal employment to be employed by tribal organizations pursuant to the ISDEAA.
    1. OPM VetGuide, and
    2. OPM Operating Manual – Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions.
    1. HHS Personnel Instruction 511-1 – Position Classification,
    2. HHS Personnel Instruction 300-3 – Detail of Employees,
    3. HHS Personnel Instruction 302-1 – Employment in Excepted Service,
    4. HHS Personnel Instruction 330-2 – Priority Placement Programs,
    5. HHS Personnel Instruction 337 – Category Rating and Selection Procedures, and
    6. HHS Personnel Instruction 511-3 – Non-competitive Promotion Based Upon Reclassification (Accretion of Duties).
  9. IHM.  
    1. IHM, Part 7, Chapter 1 – Excepted Service Examining Plan,
    2. IHM, Part 7, Chapter 3 – Indian Preference, and
    3. IHM, Part 7, Chapter 5 – Administrative Grievance System.
    4. IHM, Part 5, Chapter 20 – Health Professions Support

7-2.3  APPLICABILITY OF INDIAN PREFERENCE IN FILLING POSITIONS. Preference in filling positions will be given to eligible and qualified American Indian and Alaska Native candidates that meet the job qualification standards established by OPM for all IHS positions. Except as otherwise set forth in Section 7-2.5, Indian Preference will be applied to appointment actions whether the action involves initial hiring, reinstatement, reemployment, transfer, reassignment, promotion, or any other action intended to fill a vacancy. See 42 C.F.R. § 136.42; IHM Part 7, Chapter 1 (Excepted Service Examining Plan) and Chapter 3 (Indian Preference) for filling positions under the excepted service. A non-Indian Preference candidate may not be considered at any grade level if there is an eligible and qualified Indian Preference candidate certified for consideration at any of the advertised grade levels.


Competitive promotion procedures and Indian Preference apply when taking the following actions:

  1. Permanent Promotion.   A permanent promotion to a higher-graded position or to a position with a higher full performance level than previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service or the excepted service under 5 C.F.R. Part 335.
  2. Time-Limited Promotion of More Than 120 Days.  Qualified employees may be promoted competitively for more than 120 days. Temporary promotions made under competitive procedures may be extended for up to a total of five years. A temporary promotion of an employee affected under competitive procedures may be made permanent without further competition, provided that the temporary promotion was originally made under competitive procedures and the fact that it might lead to a permanent promotion was made known to all potential candidates.
  3. Detail of More Than 120 Days.  A detail of more than 120 days to a higher-grade position or to a position with higher promotion potential than previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service or in the excepted service under 5 C.F.R. § 335.103. There may be restrictions regarding the detail of Bargaining Unit Employees. Refer to your local Collective Bargaining Agreement.
  4. Reassignment, Transfer, and Demotion/Change to Lower Grade.  A reassignment, transfer, reinstatement, or demotion/change to a lower grade position with promotion potential higher than any position held on a permanent basis in the competitive service or in the excepted service under 5 C.F.R. § 335.103 [except as permitted by reduction-in-force (RIF) regulations]. However, Indian Preference does not apply to reassignments under three conditions which are set forth in 25 U.S.C. § 5117(b)(1).
  5. Term Actions.   Term appointments and term promotions to higher graded positions.
  6. Training.  Selection for training that is part of an authorized training agreement, part of a promotion program, or required before an employee may be considered for a promotion.


  1. Career Ladder Promotion.  Promotion without current competition because the employee previously competed and was selected for an assignment with stated promotion potential and the intent was a matter of record and made known to all potential candidates.
  2. Classification Actions.  
    1. New classification standard or correction of classification error. A promotion resulting from the upgrading of a position without significant changes in duties and responsibilities due to the issuance of a new classification standard or correction of an initial classification error.
    2. Re-description of Position. When an employee is reassigned because of the re-description of the employee’s position. A re-description occurs when the duties and responsibilities of an encumbered position are increased, decreased, or modified, the employee continues to perform the same basic functions, the employee’s former duties are absorbed into the re-described position, and no promotion or increased promotion potential results.
    3. Accretion of Duties. A promotion resulting from an employee’s position being reclassified at a higher grade (with no further promotion potential) because of additional duties and responsibilities.
      1. The employee must continue to perform the same basic function in the upgraded position, with the former duties being absorbed into the revised duties, and the current position is being abolished.
      2. The employee must meet the minimum qualification and eligibility requirements for the position.
      3. In no circumstance will an accretion be authorized for a supervisory position.
  3. Entry into the USPHS Commissioned Corps.  An IHS civil service employee who is commissioned into the USPHS Commissioned Corps and continues to perform the same job, i.e., carries out the same duties and/or responsibilities.
  4. Demotion of an Employee for Performance or Conduct.  Situations where an employee is demoted under 5 U.S.C. Chapter 43 (performance) or Chapter 75 (conduct).
  5. Demotion of a Supervisory Employee During Probation Period.  An employee in a supervisor position may be demoted or reassigned to a non-supervisory/non- managerial position because he/she did not satisfactorily complete a probationary period as a supervisor/manager.
  6. Detail to Same or Lower Grade.  A detail to a position of the same grade or a lower-graded position made in 120-day increments not-to-exceed 1 year.
  7. Emergency Hire Authority.   Temporary appointments to positions for which a critical need exists. Initial appointments under this authority may not exceed 30 days, with one extension of 30 days allowed if continued employment is essential to the agency’s operations (within a 12-month period) as provided by 5 C.F.R. § 213.3102(i)(2).
  8. Pathways Conversion.  Noncompetitive conversion of Pathways Program participants consistent with the applicable regulations of 5 C.F.R. Part 362.
  9. Promotion of a Previously Downgraded Employee.  Promotion to a grade previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service from which an employee was separated or demoted for other than performance or conduct reasons.
  10. Realignment/Transfer of Function.  When the function(s) and incumbent(s) are moved from one geographic and/or organizational location to another without change in duties or responsibilities.
  11. Reasonable Accommodation.  IHS employees may be reassigned or demoted into a position for which they qualify as a last resort under reasonable accommodation regulations. The HHS Assistant Secretary of Administration must approve a waiver of Indian Preference based on reasons of health and safety for employees who are not Indian Preference eligible.
  12. Reduction-in-Force.  Position change involving displacement affected under RIF regulations, except as Indian Preference applies under 25 U.S.C. § 5117(a).
  13. Reemployment.  The hiring of a former Excepted Service employee under 5 C.F.R. Part 352, Subpart G, 25 U.S.C. § 5323(i), and E.O. 11899, after service by the employee in an Indian Tribal organization under the ISDEAA.
  14. Remedy.  An action taken to provide proper consideration of a candidate not given proper consideration in a competitive promotion action.
  15. Reinstatement of Senior Executive Service (SES) Member into the Competitive Service.   Reinstatement following a SES career appointment when an employee had guaranteed placement rights.
  16. Restoration Rights.  An employee exercising restoration rights following military service as provided in 38 U.S.C. § 4312 and an employee exercising restoration rights to his or her former position following recovery from an on-the-job injury as provided in 5 U.S.C. § 8151(b) within one year may be placed in the original or equivalent position.
  17. Return of an Employee from a Time-Limited Promotion or Detail.  Return of an employee to his/her permanent position following a temporary promotion or detail.
  18. Indian Health Scholarship Recipient.   An Indian Health Scholarship recipient required to meet a service obligation may be placed into a position for which they are eligible and qualified without regard to any competitive personnel system, agency personnel limitation, or Indian Preference policy. If considered through application to a job opportunity announcement they receive the highest priority placement consideration. Bona fide employment consideration must be given to IHCIA scholarship recipients for positions for which they are trained and qualified. Any subsequent promotion action would require competitive procedures unless they initially applied to a job opportunity announcement and competed for the position, and it indicated promotion potential.
  19. Temporary Promotion or Detail of 120 Days or Less.  An employee may be promoted or detailed to a higher graded position or a position with known promotion potential for 120 days or less. An employee detailed to a position must meet licensure and education requirements but is not required to meet OPM qualification standards. An employee temporarily promoted to a position must meet OPM qualification standards as well as licensure/education requirements.
  20. Veterans Recruitment Appointee.  A career ladder promotion following the non- competitive conversion of a Veteran Recruitment appointee to a career or career- conditional appointment.

7-2.6  ACTIONS EXCLUDED FROM COMPETITIVE PROCEDURES BUT NOT FROM THE APPLICATION OF INDIAN PREFERENCE.   Although the following actions are exceptions to competitive procedures, Indian Preference applies and must be followed in exercising these procedures.

  1. Temporary Limited Appointment.    A temporary limited appointment not-to- exceed 1 year, provided the appointment is made in accordance with 5 C.F.R. Part 316.
  2. Promotion, Reassignment, Demotion/Change to Lower Grade, or Transfer.   Promotion, reassignment, demotion/change to lower grade, or transfer to a position having promotion potential no greater than the potential of a position an employee currently holds or previously held on a permanent basis in the competitive service (or in another merit system with which OPM has an interchange agreement) and did not lose because of performance or conduct reasons. Further, pursuant to 25 U.S.C. § 5117(b), Indian Preference does not apply to certain reassignments as approved by the HHS Assistant Secretary for Administration.
  3. Reinstatement to a Higher Graded Position or a Position with Greater Promotion Potential.  Reinstatement in accordance with 5 CFR part 315 to any position in the competitive service for which the individual is qualified at a higher grade level or with more promotion potential than a career or career-conditional position previously held by the individual, provided the individual has been separated for at least one year before applying for reinstatement and the individual must have received a rating of record for his or her most recent career or career-conditional position of at least Fully Successful (or equivalent).
  4. Priority Placement.   Selection of a candidate from the reemployment priority list as defined in 5 C.F.R. § 330.201, or under the Career Transition Assistance Plan (CTAP) as defined in 5 C.F.R. Part 330, Subpart F, or the Interagency Career Transition Assistance Plan (ICTAP) as defined in 5 C.F.R. Part 330, Subpart G.
  5. Excepted Service Appointment.  Appointment of a candidate under excepted service appointment authorities in accordance with 5 C.F.R. Parts 213 and 302 and HHS Instruction 302-1.


  1. Contact the Office of the General Counsel for advice, assistance, and any questions on any legal matters, including actions initiated by OPM, the Merit Systems Protection Board, the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, any judicial body, or court, or other third parties and including any issues regarding settlements or settlement terms.


  1. File Maintenance.   Records associated with merit promotion actions must be retained in individual recruitment case files for two full years regardless of whether the recruitment resulted in a selection. Records may be destroyed after OPM has done a formal evaluation of the IHS merit promotion program as well. Records associated with personnel actions, including all documentation sufficient for third party reconstruction must be retained according to the record deposition schedule. Records involved in a grievance or litigation may be destroyed only after the official notification is received from OPM, the Office of the General Counsel, or the Department of Justice, etc. that the matter has been fully litigated, or resolved, and closed.
  2. File Contents.   At a minimum, the file must contain the following:
    1. Job opportunity announcement.
    2. Reference to qualification standard used.
    3. Signed job analysis.
    4. Applications (and attachments) for all applicants. This must include the qualification determinations (qualified or not qualified) for each applicant considered.
    5. Indication of priority placement clearance.
    6. The certificate of referral including the names and grades of the applicants, the name of the selectee, and the signature of the selecting official.
    7. Notification of non-selection letters sent to applicants.
    8. Confirmation of job offer sent to the selectee.