The Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) mobility program is intended to facilitate cooperation between federal and state agencies and both nonprofit and for profit private sector organizations through temporary assignments of skilled personnel. IPA assignments may not be used to circumvent personnel ceilings or federal hiring practices. Nor may they be used to meet the personal interests of employees or to avoid unpleasant personnel decisions.
Section 7364(b)(2) of the NPC authorizing statute enacted in 2010 specifically authorizes VA medical centers to reimburse NPCs for the salary and benefits of NPC employees assigned to VA under the IPA. An assignment consistent with the IPA regulations is the only approved mechanism for reimbursement of personnel costs from VA to an NPC. Transactions involving payment of VA-appropriated funds to an NPC may not be accomplished using MOU's.
If a facility Fiscal Office is unfamiliar with making IPA reimbursements from VA to an NPC, please refer them to "VA Financial Policies and Procedures, Volume II, Chapter 6, 1358 Obligations, September 2014." On page 20, the section on "Non-Procurement Obligations" provides procedures for IPA obligations using VA Form 1358.
Please note: An IPA appointment is an official federal appointment. NPC employees working on VA research or education under an approved IPA appointment with VA do not need a separate VA without compensation (WOC) appointment for the duration of the IPA assignment.
Certification of VA NPCs
In May 1998, the Office of Research and Development determined that NPCs established under Title 38, sections 7361-7368 are certified as eligible to participate in the IPA mobility assignment program. Click here for the eligibility determination. The list of NPCs covered by the VA certification was updated in May 2010. Click here for the updated list and the eligibility determination.
Other Guidance on Using IPA Assignments
VA Office of the Inspector General Audit of Medical Center Use of Intergovernmental Personnel Act Assignments (Report No. 7R8A19044; Date: February 27, 1997)
CoNon-Citizen Eligibility for IPA Appointments
Do IPA Reimbursements Trigger the Need for an A-133 Audit?
IPA Form - ASSIGNMENT AGREEMENT
Accrual for Vacation and Sick Time for Employees, Including Those on IPAs
Correct Use of VA IPA Assignments
The VA Inspector General (IG) regularly conducts system-wide reviews of use of the Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA). Nearly 75% of all the IPA assignments made in VA involve research. As a result, research IPA assignments are subject to particular scrutiny. VA nonprofit research and education corporations (NPCs) are encouraged to exercise care in establishing IPA assignments and to ensure fulfillment of all regulatory requirements.
To date, the IG has generally found use of the IPA to acquire personnel and skills for research to be appropriate. However, pointed questions are often asked:
Why is the IPA mechanism being used rather than other hiring mechanisms?
What services are being obtained?
Is the compensation comparable to that paid to VA employees performing the same work?
Are IPA appointees less accountable for time and effort than VA employees?
How are IPA personnel are supervised?
How important are IPA appointments to supporting the VHA research mission?
NPCs may administer IPAs. The Office of Research and Development has certified corporations established under 38 U.S.C. §§7361-7366 as eligible to participate in IPA mobility assignments. Click here for a copy of the certification letter and for the 2010 update.
Highlights of the regulations pertaining to IPAs when the individual comes to VA from a non-federal organization such as an NPC include the following:
IPA appointments are intended to facilitate federal-state-local cooperation through the temporary assignment of skilled personnel. Make sure IPA personnel are in positions requiring skills. Use of the IPA authority to obtain clerical or administrative staff is inappropriate.
To be eligible for an IPA assignment, an individual must first be employed for at least 90 days in a position with a state, local or Indian tribal government, an institution of higher education or other eligible organization, such as an NPC.
IPA assignments may be made for up to 2 years and extended by approval of the appropriate official for up to 2 more years.
After serving on an IPA assignment continuously for four years, an individual must return to the organization from which he/she was originally assigned for at least 12 months before becoming eligible for another IPA assignment. Successive assignments without a break of at least 60 days are considered continuous service.
Appropriate written documentation - an IPA Assignment Agreement - must be completed and approved before the individual begins work as an IPA appointee. The agreement for each IPA assignment must specify how the work will benefit each of the participating organizations (VA and NPC) and must indicate how the employee will be used at the completion of the assignment.
VA may not use IPAs for the purpose of obtaining clinical staff or patient care services. However, IPA assignments may be used to acquire research staff - including MD physicians - and research services for VA. For example, an MD who is an employee of a university or an NPC may perform data analysis for a VA research project under an IPA assignment; an IPA assignment may not be used to acquire an MD's services to treat VA patients.
VA retirees may participate in IPA assignments. Note that there would be no reduction in their retirement pay or salary because the NPC, not VA, would be their employer.
VA employees who terminate their VA employment under a buyout agreement may have to forfeit the buyout amount if they return to VA employment within a certain specified time - usually 5 years - after accepting the buyout. However, a federal employee who terminates their federal employment under a buyout agreement and is otherwise eligible may participate in an Intergovernmental Personnel Act (IPA) assignment within the buyout waiting time period provided that their employer of record is a private sector organization or a state governmental agency. Under such circumstances, the employee may keep the buyout payment and still receive their full federal retirement benefits as well as their full non-federal salary. The key point is that their employer of record may not be an agency of the federal government. As a result, a VA employee may retire from VA one day, may be hired by an NPC the next and 90 days later may be eligible for an IPA assignment to VA. Such an employee may be paid a salary consistent with the NPC's normal salary structure, will receive their full VA annuity and may keep the full amount of the buyout.
NAVREF recommends that NPCs consult their local VAMC HR officials if they have questions about hiring VA retirees.
Agencies may not provide reimbursement for indirect or administrative costs associated with an IPA assignment. As a result, an NPC must cover the administrative costs of payroll, reporting, etc., from another source. Some NPCs limit the number of IPA personnel to one or two per investigator. Others assess investigators' NPC residual accounts for the cost of administrative overhead for each IPA appointee requested by the investigator.
Questions regarding IPAs may be directed the local Regional Counsel office or to the OPM IPA official:
Darlene Phelps or Gregory Snowden (8/2016)
Email - firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Statutory authority for IPA assignments is found at 5 USC §§3373-3375. Regulations may be found at 5 CFR Part 334.
NON-CITIZEN EMPLOYEE ELIGIBILITY FOR IPA APPOINTMENTS
As confirmed by the Office of Personnel, non-citizen employees of NPCs may serve on IPA assignments as long as the individual remains an employee of an NPC and meets other requirements of the IPA program. VA General Counsel has informed NAVREF informally that there are no internal VA laws, regulations or policies that affect the compensation of non-citizens on IPA assignments.
In most situations, non-citizens may participate in IPA assignments to federal agencies as long as they are otherwise eligible. That is, just like any other IPA assignee, an alien must meet the conditions specific to IPA appointments. These include being a skilled employee, being employed by the sponsoring organization for 90 days before becoming eligible for an IPA assignment, and in the case of the NPCs, being appointed to a skilled position related to VA research or education. Please note: IPAs may not be used simply to circumvent federal hiring or contracting policies and procedures.
The government prohibition against hiring non-citizens as federal employees and a statement in the Federal Personnel Manual are the source of some confusion on this issue. Chapter 334: Temporary Assignments Under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, Subchapter 1, Section 3.f. states:
Citizen Requirements. Citizenship requirements do not apply to persons participating in the IPA mobility program whether on detail or appointment. The controlling factor is that the individual coming to a Federal agency must be an eligible State or local government employee. Agencies are reminded, however, that a potential problem in appointing an alien is the legal bar to the payment of compensation by a Federal agency to an individual unless that individual is a “citizen of the United States” (Pub L. 93-143). There are exceptions to this general restriction. An agency contemplating the appointment of an alien under the IPA mobility program must ascertain whether that individual may be paid under the Federal agency's appropriation.
According to OPM, the restriction cited in section 3.f. applies when a federal agency employs the individual serving on an IPA assignment. That is, the individual's salary is paid by the agency via an agency check made out to the individual. Similarly, IPA requirements regarding the individual's employment status - permanent, career, etc. - apply only when the individual is an employee of a federal agency.
However, in the case of the VA-affiliated nonprofit research corporations the alien individual remains an employee of the NPC, the NPC issues a corporation salary check to the individual, and VA reimburses the NPC. The Office of Personnel Management General Counsel has determined that non-citizens may serve on IPA assignments. A parallel situation occurs when an individual retires from a federal position, goes to work for a private company and then returns to the agency as an IPA from that company. OPM General Counsel has determined that such a person may serve on an IPA assignment and is not "double-dipping" because he/she is an employee of the private company and is paid by that company, not the federal agency.
Do IPA Reimbursements Trigger the Need for an A-133 Audit?
Questions: Is an IPA appointment a federal award or contract? Do IPA related reimbursements from VA to an NPC contribute to the $500,000 federal grants or contracts threshold that triggers the requirement for a nonprofit to have a Circular A-133 audit?
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has determined that an IPA assignment is not a federal award or a contract and therefore reimbursements associated with IPA assignments do not trigger the need for an A-133 audit. An A-133 audit is required when a nonprofit expends $500,000 or more a year in federal awards.