- This chapter is the Department's plan for repaying certain Federally-insured student loans under 5 CFR 537.103, in exchange for an employee's agreement to remain in service.
- This chapter applies to the following categories of highly-qualified non-Schedule C applicants or current employees (including part-time employees) whom the Department seeks to recruit or retain:
- Permanent employees-i.e., employees serving on appointments without time or total hours limitations;
- Term employees with at least 36 months left on their appointments;
- Temporary employees who are serving on appointments leading to conversion to term or permanent appointments; and
- Employees serving on excepted appointments with conversion to term, career, or career conditional appointments.
- Repayments are limited to the indebtedness outstanding at the time the employee enters into the service agreement.
- Repayments may be made only on student loans that are not currently in default.
- Written Determination.
- Consistent with law, regulation, this order, and the availability of funds for such purpose, all or part of an outstanding student loan (excluding late fees), up to $10,000 per calendar year (and $60,000 per employee), may be repaid provided there is a written determination by the approving official that includes-
- An explanation of the difficulty that would be faced, in the absence of loan repayment, in filling the position with a highly-qualified employee, or retaining a highly-qualified employee;
- For retention repayments, a description of the employee's high or unique qualifications or the special need for the employee's services, including the extent to which the employee's departure would affect the component's ability to carry out an activity or perform an essential function;
- The criteria used to determine the amount and timing of repayment, and the term of the service agreement; and
- An explanation of the extent to which other available recruitment or retention incentives were considered or offered.
- A determination made for recruitment purposes will be made before the employee enters on duty in the position.
- Payment Criteria. In determining whether a student loan should be repaid, and the amount and timing of any such repayment, recommending and approving officials will consider the following factors, as applicable:
- The employee's qualifications;
- Funds available (or expected to be available) for repayment;
- The minimum repayment amount needed to ensure the acquisition or retention of the employee's services;
- The success of recent efforts to recruit candidates with qualifications similar to those possessed by the employee(s) or for positions similar to the position held by the employee(s);
- The availability in the labor-market of candidates for employment who, with minimal training or disruption of mission accomplishment, can perform the full range of duties and responsibilities of the employee's position;
- The relative advantages and disadvantages (both for the Department and for the employee) of repaying student loans, as compared with other available recruitment or retention incentives;
- The employee's preferences with respect to whether payments should be spread out over more than one tax year; and
- The need to maintain a balanced workforce in which women and members of racial and ethnic minority groups are appropriately represented.
Note: OPM has determined that student loan repayments are not subject to the aggregate limitation on pay in 5 U.S.C. 5307.
Higher Level Approval.
- Each determination to repay student loans and the amount of the repayment will be approved by an official who is at a higher level than the recommending official, unless that official is the DAG or the Attorney General.
- Approving officials will ensure that the payment criteria in paragraph B.4. of this chapter are considered, and that applicant/employee selection for loan repayment benefits is consistent with the merit system principles in 5 U.S.C. 2301.
- Approving Officials.
- GS and Prevailing Rate (Wage) Positions, Except Attorneys and Law Clerks.
- The AAG/A's delegated authority to approve student loan repayment is redelegated to Bureau heads for these employees. This authority may be redelegated; however, the approving official may not be at a level below the Bureau Personnel Officer.
- For certain OBDs, the approving official is the AAG/A. Requests will be submitted through the Human Resources Staff, JMD. OBD heads will review requests before submission.
Note: The AAG/A has redelegated various personnel authorities to the Litigating Divisions and to the National Drug Intelligence Center. These redelegations include the authority to approve repayment of student loans for GS and prevailing rate (wage) employees (except attorneys and law clerks).
- Attorneys and Law Clerks. The Bureau General Counsel or OBD head will approve repayment determinations for attorneys and law clerks. This authority may be redelegated in writing.
- Other Categories. The DAG or his or her designee approves repayment determinations for employees in eligible categories not listed in paragraphs B.6.a. and B.6.b. above. Bureaus should submit requests for review and approval of repayments for these positions through the AAG/A.
- Required Provisions. In addition to the requirements specified by regulation, a service agreement will provide that:
- If an employee voluntarily leaves the authorizing component for any reason or is involuntarily separated, no further loan repayments will be made under the terms of the agreement.
Note: If the employee has moved to another component, the gaining component may enter into a new loan repayment agreement.
- If, for any reason, an employee moves to another component during the term of the agreement, the employee will not be required to reimburse the Department for loan repayments already made.
- The term of the agreement is a specified period of at least 36 months, beginning on the date of the first repayment.
- Repayment benefits will be terminated if an employee fails to maintain a "fully successful" level of performance under Part 430 of Title 5, CFR, or a similar level of performance under another applicable performance management system.
- Permissible Provisions. A service agreement may provide that:
- An employee must reimburse the Department for repayment benefits paid when, before completing the agreed-upon period of service, he or she voluntarily separates or transfers from the Department to enter service in another Federal agency; and
- The amount to be repaid may be increased by the approving official without requiring a new service agreement.
- A service agreement under this chapter will run concurrently with a service agreement required for other purposes, such as a service agreement for a recruitment or relocation bonus under Chapter 2-5 of this Order.
- A service agreement may exceed 36 months only when the total amount of loan repayment exceeds $30,000 (the maximum payment for 36 months). The service agreement may cover up to an additional 12 months for each whole increment of $10,000 over $30,000.
- Verification. An employee, including an individual who has been selected for a position, will provide sufficient information about the student loan to enable the Department component to contact the loan source for verification of the status and outstanding amount of the loan.
- Repayment Procedures. Except for the FBI, approved repayments will be forwarded to the National Finance Center for payment using Form AD-343, Payroll Action Request, in accordance with the procedures specified in the JMD/HRSAG Systems Notice #2001-13. The FBI will process repayments in accordance with its own internal procedure.
- Amounts owed to the Department due to an employee's failure to complete the terms of a service agreement will be recovered in accordance with the provisions of DOJ Order 2120.3B, "Collection of Debts by the Department of Justice."
- The right of recovery of an employee's debt to the Department under 5 U.S.C. 5514 may be waived in whole or in part by the Attorney General if a determination is made that recovery would be against equity and good conscience or against the public interest.
C. Documentation and Reporting.
- Documentation. Written documentation for each determination to repay a student loan will be available for Departmental or OPM review.
- The completed service agreement will be filed in the employee's OPF.
- Annual Reports. Each Bureau will prepare an annual report on its use of the repayment authority. The reports will be submitted to the Director, Human Resources Staff, JMD, no later than November 15 covering the preceding FY. The report will include:
- For each employee who received repayment benefits during the FY, the following information:
- Whether the repayment was for purposes of recruitment or retention;
- Amount repaid during the FY (before withholding);
- Amounts to be repaid in future FYs (before withholding);
- Employee's position title, job series, pay plan, grade, and geographical area (city and state, or country); and
- Length of the service agreement.
- A narrative discussion of the situations for which repayments were made, the effectiveness of the repayment authority, and any recommendations for improving the use of the authority in terms of both regulatory change and Department requirements and flexibilities.
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