OPM simplifies special hiring authority for disabled applicants

February 21, 2013
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Persons with certain disabilities no longer will have to meet one of the current requirements under a special authority for hiring them into federal jobs.

The policy change “will speed the hiring process for agencies by removing an unnecessary burden on applicants with disabilities,” according to a notice to be published Friday in the Federal Register by the Office of Personnel Management.

Currently, the special hiring rules applying to persons with intellectual disabilities, severe physical disabilities, and psychiatric disabilities require them to supply a “certification of job readiness.” That is a formal written assessment by a medical professional, vocational rehabilitation specialist or disability benefit agency that the person can be reasonably expected to perform in a particular work environment.

“Persons with disabilities today, however, often have work, educational, and/or other relevant experience that an agency may rely upon to determine whether they are likely to succeed in a particular work environment,” the notice says. “Consequently we believe that a requirement that applicants provide a separate ‘certification of job readiness’ is not necessary.”

Under the revised policies, agencies will be able to hire after determining that the person is “likely to succeed” in performing the duties of the position, a decision that can be based on any relevant work, educational or other experience.

OPM Director John Berry said in a statement, “It’s important to recruit, hire, develop and retain a competitive and diverse workforce, so that we tap the potential of all groups — including Americans with disabilities.”

An OPM report issued last year said that 11 percent of federal workers have disabilities, including veterans with disability ratings of 30 percent or more. That was up slightly from the previous year, it said, and nearly 15 percent of newly hired employees had disabilities.

The so-called Schedule A hiring authority apart from normal competitive hiring rules applies to what the government calls “targeted” disabilities; such persons account for about a tenth of all federal employees with disabilities.

The new rules also drop the former term “mental retardation” and replace it with “intellectual disability.”

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