Get a Federal Job: The Schedule A Hiring Process for Individuals with Disabilities

Getting a federal job is usually a lengthy and complicated process. But for workers with disabilities, there is a program which may allow you to cut through some of the red tape and get assistance and accommodation with the application process.

what is it?

  • Schedule A is “a special hiring authority that provides federal agencies an optional, and potentially quicker, way to hire individuals with disabilities.”
  • This process is a non-competitive hiring process, meaning that it is not open to the public or current employees unless they have a disability.
  • Schedule A positions do come with a probationary period that can last up to two years before being converted into a competitive position.
  • You can identify the positions that have a specific hiring path for those with disabilities by seeing this icon:  

how to qualify for schedule A

You are able to apply to positions under Schedule A if you “have an intellectual, severe physical, or psychiatric disability” and it affects one or more major life activities.

You do have to submit proof in the form of a disability letter that states that you have a disability. This letter can be obtained from:

  • Your doctor
  • A licensed medical professional
  • A licensed vocational rehabilitation specialist, or
  • Any federal, state or local agency that provides disability benefits.

This letter does not require:

  • Details about your disability
  • Detailed medical history or records
  • Information about necessary accommodations

This letter does not have any expiration date or date of renewal once it has been submitted and accepted. You do not have to obtain a new letter for a change in position or location. You will still need to obtain and submit this letter even if you currently qualify for disability benefits; however, the agency providing you the benefits can supply that letter for you.

other requirements

You are required to be qualified for the position that you are applying to, as well as the pay grade required for the position. You must provide the standard documentation about your qualifications including, but not limited to:

  • Resume
  • Cover letter
  • Writing sample
  • Transcripts
  • Professional certifications or licenses

Applications that do not include everything required in the job listing will be labeled as “incomplete” and will be rejected.

how to apply

You will find all government positions available on USAjobs. This website will also be where you upload required documentation and Schedule A proof of disability documentation. You are also able to list your resume as searchable to those looking for Schedule A applicants.

You can apply online through the USAJobs website using Schedule A if the listing indicates that there is a hiring path for those with disabilities or it specifically states, “Schedule A”. Alternately, most federal agencies have a Disability Program Manager (DPM) or Selective Placement Program Coordinator (SPPC) whose role is to help the agency recruit workers with disabilities. You can reach out to that person directly, and they will provide guidance on the best way to apply.

The general recommendation is to apply through the competitive, or regular, application process and then either submit your resume to a specific federal agency’s resume bank (such as with the IRS) or contact the DPM/SPPM for that agency to determine the best way to apply under Schedule A. Another option is to reach out to the HR professional within the agency and explain that you are looking to apply under Schedule A for persons with disabilities.

keep in mind

It is also important to keep deadlines or cutoff dates in mind when applying, as the exact time can vary depending on your time zone. There are also some long-lasting openings, such as 6 months or more, where hiring can be done on a rolling basis. Generally, it is best to apply as early as possible because the entire process can take several months.

There can be seasonal or telework only positions, depending on the agency. Seasonal positions are full time, but you do not work the entire 12 months. Telework can be temporary until you move or can be permanent. You will likely have a distance requirement from the location in order to come into the office occasionally.

Hiring Process

Once the application has been submitted, you will typically see its status change to “referred”. This means that the application and resume are being reviewed to determine whether they match the required qualifications for the position. If there are any required assessments, that information will be provided after you have applied. You can request accommodations for these assessments.

The next step would be interviews; however, sometimes this step can be skipped depending on the agency, position, and hiring manager. The interview will be followed by the tentative job offer and then background checks along with fingerprinting. Once the agency has decided to hire you, they will give you a firm job offer with all of the information necessary to proceed to the next step. Then it’s time for onboarding or orientation along with whatever training is necessary for the position.

This entire hiring process can take anywhere from 2 to 6 months depending on the agency and the position. Accommodations work much like they do anywhere else, and you can get further information about accommodations in our previous blog post.

Written by Kathryn Cusimano