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Chapter 9 - Two-Year Rule

Part 7 - Human Resources Administration And Management

Title Section
Introduction 7-9.1
    Purpose 7-9.1A
    Background 7-9.1B
    Policy 7-9.1C
    Guidance 7-9.1D
    Authority 7-9.1E
Procedures 7-9.2
    Applicability 7-9.2A
    Reassignment 7-9.2B
    Appeal Process 7-9.2C
    Exception 7-9.2D
    Indian Preference 7-9.2E
    Equal Opportunity 7-9.2F

Exhibit Description
Manual Exhibit 7-9-A Welcome Letter


  1. Purpose.  This new chapter clarifies the "Two-Year Rule" that applies to assignment and transfer of all United States Public Health Service (USPHS) Commissioned Corps Officers serving within the Indian Health Service (IHS).
  2. Background.  There have been ongoing inconsistencies regarding duty station transfers by USPHS Commissioned Corps Officers prior to the completion of a mandatory 2-year tour of duty.  As specified in the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual (PHS CCPM), before seeking a voluntary permanent change of station (PCS) a Commissioned Corps Officer is required to complete a 2-year tour of duty with an Agency, an operating division, or other health program.  (See Book 3, Chapter 2, Section D(2)(c), PHS CCPM.)
  3. Policy.  At a minimum, a USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer will be assigned to a duty station for no less than a 2-year period, unless a shorter timeframe has been negotiated and approved in writing, prior to posting. The IHS Two-Year Rule applies to the time spent (in calendar years) at the duty station, not the time the employee is assigned to the duty station.
  4. Guidance.  United States PHS Commissioned Corps Officers serving within the IHS are expected to serve at least 2 years at each duty station for the following reasons (See Manual Exhibit 7-9-A):
    1. orientation time involved with each transfer is reduced;
    2. sufficient time is provided to conduct officer performance reviews allowing for meaningful evaluations for the Commissioned Officers Effectiveness Report or other awards;
    3. permanent change of station costs are reduced; and
    4. continuity of care for patients is enhanced.
  5. Authorities.
    1. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration Manual, CCPM, Part 2, Chapter CC23, Subchapter CC23.5, Personnel Instruction 2, Section D, paragraph 2c.

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    2. Part 7, Chapter 3, "Indian Preference," Indian Health Manual (IHM), must be used in conjunction with Part 7, Chapter 1,?Excepted Service Examining Plan," IHM, Part 7, Chapter 2, "Merit Promotion Plan," IHM, and other applicable laws, regulations, and policies.


  1. Applicability.  If an employee converts from civil service to the USPHS Commissioned Corps while at the same duty station, the requirements of the Two-Year Rule may be met by combining the consecutive civil service time and USPHS Commissioned Corps time, provided that the civil service employee met USPHS Commissioned Corps appointment standards throughout such employment periods.
  2. Reassignment.  Indian Health Service managers who directly supervise USPHS Commissioned Corps Officers have the discretion to reassign an officer they supervise within the first 2 years of assignment for the good of the service as allowed by IHS personnel guidelines.  For instance:
    1. A Chief Executive Officer (CEO) may reassign a USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer from one clinic to another within the respective Service Unit.
    2. Two Area Directors (or their representatives, the Area Commissioned Corps Liaisons) may arrange for a transfer between Areas for a USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer.
  3. Appeal Process.  In the event a USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer requests a duty station reassignment before he or she fulfills the 2-year service commitment, either the CEO or the requesting USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer may appeal to the Director, IHS, for reassignment.
    1. The request for appeal should clearly state the urgent situation and need for releasing the USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer before the 2-year commitment has been fulfilled.
    2. The request for appeal must be endorsed in writing by the USPHS Commissioned Corps Officer?s supervisor, the CEO, and the Area Director before the appeal is submitted to the Regional Liaison for approval.
    3. Following written approval, the Regional Liaison must then forward the request for appeal to the Director, Division of Commissioned Personnel Support (DCPS) to initiate the process for final decision.
    4. The Director, DCPS, will transmit the request for appeal to the Director, IHS, through the Program Director, and Director, Office of Management Services.  The Director, IHS, will make the final decision.
  4. Exceptions.  The Two-Year Rule does not apply to (involuntary) redeployments, when an exception is specified in advance, or when a duration is implied or prescribed by the assignment, such as certain types of training, temporary duty assignment (TDY) in excess of 180 days, special projects with authorization, etc.
  5. Indian Preference.  All applicants and appellants must be aware that the policy of the IHS is to provide absolute preference to qualified American Indian and Alaska Native applicants and employees who are suitable for Federal employment in filling vacancies within the IHS.  All new hires and reassignments must be in compliance with Indian preference:  (See IHM 7-3.1B(1) and IHM 7-3.1B(2)).
    1. Indian preference requirements apply no matter how the vacancy arises, whether the position is newly created, or if the position was previously encumbered, without regard to the previous incumbent's status in competitive service, excepted service, the USPHS Commissioned Corps, or the Senior Executive Service (SES).
    2. Indian preference requirements apply to all actions involved in filling a vacancy, which include initial hiring, reassignment, transfer, competitive promotion, reappointment, or reinstatement.  This is true regardless of whether the vacancy, is in the competitive service, excepted service, the USPHS Commissioned Corps, SES, or whether it is filled under a special appointing authority that applies to experts, consultants, students, or people with disabilities.
  6. Equal Opportunity.  All USPHS Commissioned Corps Officers are afforded equal opportunity when considered for assignment, relocation, and separation, consistent with laws and regulations affecting the USPHS Commissioned Corps and the needs of the PHS, in accordance with the HHS, Administration Manual, CCPM, Part 4, Chapter CC46, Subchapter CC46.1, Personnel Instruction 1, "Equal Opportunity."

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