Q. I completed a full one-year internship with the Veterans Affairs Department system (with annual leave and sick leave earnings) prior to my current federal employment. Three years after this internship ended, I obtained a job at a VA hospital. I have known other VA employees who have had this period counts toward changes in annual leave accrual from four to six hours. Upon my hire, I was informed that the VA hospital I worked at had some of the documentation but was missing a specific form required to change annual leave calculation. Hence, our human resources office could not verify that I was at this site (even though if had I not completed this training, I would not have been eligible for my degree, been properly credentialed, obtained professional licensure, or have been eligible for my current employment).
The person in HR who processed my application retired shortly after my start date. My case was turned over to another individual. I met with that person who stated that HR “was probably going to credit me this” after reviewing information. I was not notified that other documentation (e.g. tax returns, pay stubs, etc.) could be provided for verification at that time. I sent some follow-up communications but had no response.
As my two-year employment service date approached (which would have been three years given prior-qualified federal service for annual leave calculation), a new HR employee provided assistance in checking into the annual leave calculation. He noted: 1). that this one-year internship did qualify for annual leave recalculation; 2). that nothing had been changed in terms of credit for the internship. Basically, he said there had been no follow-through by the HR person I previously met with. This new person stated that HR could not verify my prior service but that it could be done with pay stub/W-2 forms.
I was then informed that annual calculation could not be retroactive. Hence, changing to six hours from four hours would only be approved after the documentation I provided was approved. To date, I have lost over three days of annual leave due to all the administrative errors with no resolution in sight. How can I move forward?
A. I checked with the Office of Personnel Management. Here is their response:
If an agency discovers an employee should have received credit for a period of service that would advance the date in which the employee reaches a higher annual leave accrual category, the correction to the service credit date should be handled immediately, and the employee’s annual leave account must be reconstructed for each affected leave year. That is, the new leave accrual rate would not be prospective only. The employee may be entitled to additional annual leave. However, in order to receive the additional leave accrual, leave records must be available to ensure the employee does not receive annual leave in excess of the statutory limit.
“When reconstructing leave accounts due to an administrative error, the annual leave accumulation limit still applies (5 U.S.C. 6304 for most employees), and an agency may recredit only annual leave that is not in excess of the statutory limit.
“When an employee is recredited with leave in order to correct an administrative error, his leave records are reconstructed for each leave period affected. In thus reconstructing the employee’s leave account, he may not be recredited with any leave which would cause his leave balance for the beginning of a new leave year during the period in question to exceed the statutory limitation of 240 hours imposed on annual leave carry over from one leave year to the next by The Annual and Sick Leave Act of 1951, as amended, now 5 U.S.C. 6304.” See Comptroller General Decision B-177977, May 21, 1973, at http://www.gao.gov/products/465098#mt=e-report.
In reconstructing the leave account, if the employee would have earned additional annual leave over the statutory limit, the excess leave will be forfeited.