While state and federal laws address employment discrimination, applying for a job can be difficult for individuals with disabilities. In particular, government jobs that require a competitive employment process can unintentionally deter individuals with disabilities from applying or competing for a job. Fortunately, the government created a streamlined process for people to apply for federal jobs with most federal agencies. Understanding this regulation, referred to as Schedule A for individuals with disabilities, is important for human resource professionals, vocational rehabilitation counselors and career counselors who assist individuals in finding employment.
Benefits of Working for the Federal Government
Working for the federal government provides many rewards, including competitive salary and benefits. In some instances, the pay and benefits can outpace the private sector. Government jobs also tend to have job security and opportunities for advancement. Despite the misconception that most federal jobs are in Washington, D.C., the majority of federal jobs are outside of the capital. There even federal jobs in foreign countries. Due to the number of agencies and the variety of jobs, it is possible to find employment for individuals with diverse interests and skills. Between the opportunities for career advancement and continuing education, an individual can craft their own career path with both long and short-term goals.
What is Schedule A?
Schedule A employment is an exception to the ordinary competitive process for hiring federal employees. The use of Schedule A for individuals with disabilities is intended to streamline the hiring process. Using Schedule A is not a guarantee an applicant will secure employment with the federal government. Rather, it aims to make the application process less prohibitive for individuals with disabilities. While it is not common, there are some positions where hiring managers can only choose from Schedule A employees. Schedule A can be used to hire individuals for permanent or temporary positions.
What Constitutes an Eligible Disability for Schedule A?
It is not always be easy to tell if an individual qualifies as a Schedule A applicant; the government does not clearly define which disabilities qualify.
The regulations state the following disabilities are eligible for the Schedule A application process:
- Intellectual disability
- Severe Physical Disability
- Psychiatric Disability
The Schedule A regulations do not define what constitutes one of these types of disabilities. However, you can gather information on what constitutes a disability from other government questionnaires and forms regarding disability and employment. Based on this guidance, a disability will be Schedule A employment compliant if the individual:
- Requested or received any educational accommodations
- Received Social Security Income benefits
- Was diagnosed and treated by a mental health professional for a learning disability, attention deficit disorder, or an anxiety disorder
- Has been identified as needing services through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)
- Was educated under an IEP or 504 Plan in school
- Utilizes vocational rehabilitation services
- Qualifies as an individual with a disability under the Rehabilitation Act or the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA)
- Meets the definition of any of the conditions or disabilities listed on Standard Form 256 (Self-Identification of Disability)
(Taken from Standard Form 256)
Proof of Disability
If a person with a disability is interested in federal employment, they need to obtain proof of disability. This should be done prior to applying for Schedule A employment because the application will be rejected as incomplete without this proof. Federal jobs are frequently open for a short period of time, and an unprepared applicant could miss an opportunity.
The documentation required is straightforward. A letter on letterhead from a doctor, a licensed medical professional, a licensed rehabilitation professional or any state or local government agency that provides services will be acceptable. The letter needs to state the applicant is eligible to use Schedule A for application purposes. The statement DOES NOT need to give any information regarding the specific disability or any accommodations, nor does it need to provide information regarding the applicant’s medical history. These sample letters may help a professional write a proof of disability letter.
Finding a Job
After the proof of disability is secured, positions can be searched for on the USAJOBS website and on individual agency websites. You can also use Twitter and Facebook to find job openings in federal agencies; USAJOBS and most federal agencies have a social media presence.
If you find an interesting posting, you can contact the hiring manager named on the vacancy listing to learn more about the position and see if there may be other opportunities with that agency. The federal government has made it a priority to have a diverse workforce. Therefore, most agencies have a Disability Program Manager (DPM) or a Select Program Manager (SPC) to facilitate hiring individuals with disabilities. You can ask the hiring manager for the name and contact information for the agency’s DPM or SPC.
A qualified applicant can apply for positions on the USAJOBS website and on the specific agency’s website using the Schedule A process, then follow up directly with the agency’s DPM or SPC. Similar to any job search, following up with the prospective employer after a reasonable amount of time is ideal. If the agency requests an interview, the applicant can request an interview accommodation if necessary. An applicant should hold off on discussing reasonable job accommodations until an employment offer has been made.
Working for the federal government can provide a fulfilling and stable career path for employees. However, the competitive hiring process used for most federal positions can be intimidating for applicants who have disabilities. Using the Schedule A employment process streamlines the process and may result in successful career search.