Kathryn Troutman, Federal Career Coach®, Author, Federal Resume Guidebook, 7th, Aug. 24, 2020
Can People with Disabilities Work for the Federal Government?
Absolutely! As a Federal Career Coach, I have had great success coaching people with disabilities in navigating the federal application process. Many people are not aware that there are hiring programs specifically for disabled individuals to apply for Federal jobs.
The Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into Law 30 years ago in 1990. One of the government’s large contribution to the ADA was establishing the Schedule A Hiring Program for hiring people with disabilities into the federal government.
I coach my clients through the steps listed below. There are a lot of steps, but this would be true even for a person without a disability. However, it is true that the Schedule A hiring program does require MORE determination than regular USAJOBS applications, so if you do apply through Schedule A, be prepared to be determined to make it work.
How Many People with Disabilities Work in the Federal Government?
President Clinton signed the American With Disabilities Act in July, 2000. This Act directed that agencies should hire a total of 100,000 disabled worker by September 2005. At the time, the disabled federal workforce totaled 122,000.
Between 2011 and 2015, the federal government hired 109,575 part- and full-time employees with disabilities, exceeding President Obama’s 2010 executive order goal of 100,000 new hires during that time. In 2015, the Executive Branch of the Federal government had 264,844 full-time permanent employees with disabilities, which was 14.41% of the overall federal workforce. That number was more disabled people working for the federal government than at any time during the past 35 years.
What Hiring Programs Are Available for Persons with Disabilities?
Although agencies can hire people with disabilities various ways, there are two hiring programs specifically targeted for people with disabilities:
- Schedule A for anyone with a disability
- 30% or more Disabled hiring for Disabled Veterans
Veterans who are 30% or More Disabled can use the same Schedule A Hiring process outlined below. And veterans who do not have their VA Disability Letter yet, can use Schedule A hiring process until they do have their VA Letter.
Who Qualifies for Schedule A?
The criteria for determining whether someone qualifies for Schedule A are listed on the OPM Standard Form (SF) 256 for Self-Identification for Disability. In addition to this list, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD), and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are disabilities that can qualify for Schedule A.
Know that you do NOT EVER have to disclose your specific disability. However, disclosure may help you get the accommodations you need to perform your duties.
How to Apply for a Federal Job Using Schedule A
When I coach my Schedule A clients, I first explain that Schedule A hiring is a “double.” You can apply to fed positions two ways, both at the same time:
- Apply for job announcements on USAJOBS for positions for which they are qualified
- Write directly to the Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) or Schedule A Hiring HR specialist to send your resume, cover letter, and Schedule A Letter for the SAME application. To find the Selective Placement Program Coordinator, search the list of SPPCs by state or by agency.
Using both methods to apply does take more work but will increase your chances of getting hired for the position.
Making the “Double” Method Work
These tips help you maximize your chance of success using the “double” method for applying through the Schedule A Program.
- Write your federal resume so that it that targets one or two specific federal positions. The resume will match and demonstrate the specialized experience and KSAs required for the job. For instance, if you are targeting a Program Analyst position, then the resume should include the keywords and specialized experience for the Program Analyst. Refer to the OPM Classification standards to look at the official descriptions of the government jobs. This will help the SPPC place you into a Federal position.
- The resume MUST match the qualifications of a specific position. You cannot depend on the SPPC to give you advise on the resume. The best resume format is in the Federal Resume Guidebook, 7th Ed.
Disability Qualification Letter
- Disabled Veterans: Find your VA letter and use this letter as your “Schedule A” letter.
- Everyone else: Get a Schedule A letter from a doctor, vocational rehabilitation or psychiatrist. The Schedule A letter does not say what your disability is. It states that you do have a disability and you are able to work. Make sure the letter is signed by your healthcare professional. See a sample here.
- Upload the either letter into your documents in USAJOBS.
Write the SPPC
- Look at the SPPC list of contacts. Decide which agencies you are seeking and find the name of the coordinator.
- If your agency does not have a designated SPPC, write to the HR person listed on the announcement to ask who is the SPPC.
- Write a cover letter that introduces your qualifications. The letter should feature skills and target positions and grade level that you are seeking. Here is a great cover letter builder that you can use to write your cover letter.
- Include your resume and disability qualifications letter as attachments. If the job requires education, also send your transcript.
- You can let the SPPC know what grade level (or two) that you are seeking, and ask for their feedback. See the salary levels here.
Apply on USAJOBS
- Apply for Federal positions on USAJOBS that are available for people with disabilities. Be sure to check off the question in the actual application that you are a person with a disability (in addition to the profile questions).
- If you are invited to an interview, ask for accommodations if you need them to be successful with the interview.
Making it Really Work! Follow-up and Perseverance!
- Now for the “double” part: After you apply to the position USAJOBS, write to the SPPC and tell them that you applied to the position of XXXXX on XXXX date. Let them know that you would like to be considered for a Schedule A hiring program.
- You MUST follow up your first email within 5 days and put in the subject line “Following-up:” and your name. Ask if there an opportunity to talk by phone about your experiences and possibilities of positions. The Schedule A job search takes follow-up and determination to make it work.
- To make follow up easier, keep an excel spreadsheet with jobs you are applying for, actions you’ve taken, dates, names of your contacts, email addresses.
- You MUST be persevering with this application process. Keep applying for jobs on USAJOBS. Keep sending letters to the SPPCs. Follow-up on the SPPCs. Don’t give up.
MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SCHEDULE A HIRING FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES:
Department Of Commerce Tips: https://www.commerce.gov/hr/careers/people-with-disabilities/faq
New Freedom Initiative by President Bush, 2001 and 2007: https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/infocus/newfreedom/
Sample Schedule A Letter: https://www.opm.gov/policy-data-oversight/disability-employment/getting-a-job/sampleschedaletters.pdf
Americans with Disabilities Act: https://adata.org/factsheet/ADA-overview
President Obama’s Executive Order – https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/executive-order-increasing-federal-employment-individuals-with-disabilities
President Clinton’s Executive Order – https://www.govinfo.gov/content/pkg/WCPD-2000-07-31/pdf/WCPD-2000-07-31-Pg1686.pdf
Cover Letter builder to write your cover letter to the SPPCs: https://resume-place.com/resources/cover-letter-builder/
Targeted Disabilities List: https://www.opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf256.pdf
You do not need to send this SF 256 form to any SPPC. You do not need to self-identify what is your disability. You can check off 01 – I do not wish to identify my disability or serious health condition.
**Why does this form exist? But it is interesting to see the list of disabilities that can qualify for the Schedule A hiring program.
OPM Classification Standards – use this to write your Federal resume with the right keywords
OPM GS Schedules – Salaries for 2020