By Holly Bates
So, here’s the good news: It took less than two weeks for me to get a referral under the Priority Placement Program (PPP), Program S (Military Spouse). The not-so-good news: It’s for the lowest position I said I would consider and I’m not sure I want the position now.
But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
While I’ve only been out of the federal civilian service loop for three years, some major changes occurred to my surprise and benefit, especially PPP, Program S.
When I arrived at CPAC almost a month ago to register under the Military Spouse Program (MSP), the clerks at the information desk asked me if I was applying for the PPP program. To my knowledge, PPP was only for spouses returning from overseas employment who left their jobs due to PCS orders. I was confused and explained, “No. I’m not a current federal employee here because my husband received PCS orders. I haven’t been employed for three years.”
I was at CPAC simply to apply for employment using my hubby’s orders under MSP eligibility.
Well, it turns out during those three years of pursuing my Master’s degree a change was made to the PPP program which allows military spouses to qualify for the program. The clerk who counseled me at the CPAC office said I am able to apply to positions for which I am qualified within certain parameters, including those in grades above previously-held positions. Consideration is only given to positions within the local commuting area (50 miles) surrounding the duty location of my military spouse and eligibility for this program is for two (2) years from the date of his PCS orders.
Sounded pretty good to me! Note: For all Coast Guard Spouses out there, this includes you too.
I was required to submit a copy of his orders, our marriage certificate, my USAJOBS resume (including salary), my transcripts, my DD214 (not applicable to all) and my ID card. A few days later, I received a phone call from one of the personnel technicians, who let me know some of the positions I could qualify for and at what rank. Next I was brought in to sign the necessary paperwork and a clerk explained in further detail the PPP-Spouse preference program, what positions I am interested in, etc.
When I came in for that appointment, I was pleasantly surprised to find that I could be referred for positions based on my education (GS-09/GS-11) as well as previous jobs.
Under the old Military Spouse Program, I was only ever referred for jobs at the same or lower rank. It was frustrating. When I moved to Texas from OCONUS, I was excited and looking forward to moving into positions commensurate with my newly-earned Bachelor’s degree. These ambitions were crushed when I saw the jobs for which they were going to refer me. Turns out, by the way, that this particular CPAC office was wrong. I should have been referred for other positions.
Look, I recognize I’ve been lucky in my federal career path so far. I’ve always received a promotion between duty stations, which as many know, this is no small feat. A military spouse following her service member often has to take a downgrade, a lateral position or wait a long time before “getting back into the system” when moving to a new duty station.
My last DA Civilian position was a GS-09 over three years (and two duty stations) ago. Between then and now, though, I focused on completing my Master’s degree in Human Resources. For all my efforts, I’d really like to land a job in this career field at the GS-09 or higher level. I’m only willing to take that GS-07 position if the job comes with promotion potential (i.e., a GS-07 target GS-11 or GS-12).
However, since I’m registered under PPP, Program S, I must submit my application for the position or lose my eligibility. And faced with the real possibility of having to accept a GS-07 position without promotion potential, I realize I really don't want this GS-07 position doing what I’ve been doing for the past 10+ years.
I want to move away from the administrative field. Hmm, talk about a rock and a hard place! I’m getting pressure from hubby to “get my foot in the door with any job” and my ambition for a position utilizing my degree.
Well, seems I’ll be contacting the Employment Specialist at CPAC to change my lowest acceptable grade level! I always have my reinstatement eligibility to fall back on for DoD employment after the year is up, which means I may have to accept that GS-07 position.
In the meantime, better to try for something more before accepting less, right? Since my husband’s orders were dated a year ago, this means my eligibility is only good for one more year. Whoohoo! Sounds great, doesn’t it?
I mean, it will not take a year to get re-employed, right? Fingers crossed. Pretty, pretty please!
If you’d like more information about MSP or PPP-Program S, I’ve included some links below.
Additionally, you’ll definitely want to visit your local civilian personnel office. Another good source for job seekers and those looking to improve their résumé-writing skills is Army Community Service (ACS), Airman & Family Readiness Center (A&FRC), Navy Fleet and Family Readiness Programs, Marine Corps Community Service (MCCS) and the Coast Guard Office of Work-Life.
Visit these links for more information:
1. “Military Spouse Preference through the Priority Placement Program (PPP)” (http://www.armycivilianservice.com/JOA/MSP-PPP.pdf) accessed 9/23/14.
2. Department of Defense (DoD) Priority Placement Program (PPP) Handbook published July 2011 by the Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service (http://www.cpms.osd.mil/Content/Documents/PPPHandbookAug2012(2).pdf) accessed 9/23/14.
3. “DoD Civilian Personnel Management System: Employment of Spouses of Active Duty Military” Department of Defense Instruction 1400.25, Volume 315, dated March 19, 2012 (http://dtic.mil/whs/directives/corres/pdf/140025v315.pdf) accessed 9/23/14.