Q. I voluntarily left my GS job to take an Army Guard and Reserve position for the past 12 years. I have since retired as a reservist and applied for several federal positions.

Prior to going AGR, I had obtained GS-13 Step 5 but took a staff position for the past couple of years as GS-12 step 10 (the pay was relatively the same, and I knew the experience would be beneficial for the AGR position I sought).

After looking through your FAQs, it seems the hiring authority may have some leeway to reinstate me to a higher step level. I recently interviewed for a GS-13 position. If selected, can my previous SF-50 as a step 5 help me retain that level? Or since I went down to GS-12, will that hurt my chances?

A. While you can negotiate, it’s up to that agency to decide what grade and step they’ll offer you based on your previous employment history and your current qualifications.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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