Yes, I started with the Foreign Service back in February of this year. Yes, I brought along copies of my personnel record and filled out tons of typical government paperwork showing my 2 1/2 years of civil service time. No, it didn't all magically transfer over on my first day. This is still government work.
I took the suggestion from another blog (see Not Everything Transfers) and my new hire classmates on submitting my last civil service leave and earnings statement to speed up the transfer of my leave balances. I submitted it to payroll help and it worked wonderfully to get my annual and sick leave credited. The rest of the official transfer was soooo much slower.
First, I had to wait for Air Force civilian personnel to transfer hard copies of my records to OPM and then OPM transferred them to the State Department to scan in to the eOPF system. That little "e" means electronic just like the Air Force eOPF system. This is the government so the systems are completely different and not connected in any way other than using the same acronym. We love acronyms in the government.
I kept prodding records people on both sides and everything was finally done and loaded September 12th. Yes, 7 months to essentially print paper and scan paper involving 3 agencies. I immediately put in the request to update my Service Computation Date (SCD) along with transferring my retirement contributions.
There's no hurry at all for the retirement stuff but that SCD is important for my annual leave. We earn vacation time at 4 hours per pay period with less than 3 years of service. I passed that point in July and should be earning 6 hours now. I'm not. My SCD was still set for when I started at the State Department because they haven't updated my records yet for my total government civilian time.
So I waited. October passed. I submitted another request asking how long this stuff takes. No answer other than another HR ticket number. November was almost done so last week I started contacting the office I thought was responsible. The HR help system tells me nothing about who's supposed to be working on it. I hear nothing for a few days. I politely emailed the person in charge of that office... now today my SCD is finally updated... almost 10 months after being hired!
Sometimes government works at the speed of gentle prodding around the bureaucracy. I say "gentle prodding" because I learned long ago that firm requests or loud demands sometimes gets you shuffled to the bottom of someone's pile of crap to do. A polite query to the right person about what's possible sometimes gets you taken care of immediately. It seemed to work again for this.
Skills Incentive Program (SIP) Pay
One perk of being an Information Management Specialist (IMS) in the Foreign Service is the ability to earn additional pay from the Skills Incentive Program (SIP). We can get 9% or 14% added to our pay depending on several IT related certifications or degrees. It looks like a pretty good incentive to me so I'm surprised a majority of my fellow IMSers don't take advantage of it. I think there's only 40% of those eligible collecting this optional pay.
I already have Project Management Professional (PMP) certification (a 14% cert!) but I earned it before being hired so it really hurts I can't get SIP for it. I understand it's supposed to be an incentive to improve myself now instead of paying for something I already did. It still hurts I already checked it off the list of possible certs to use for SIP. I should be able to let it lapse and earn it all over again in the future but what a pain.
I studied on the side during my IMS training for the Systems Security Certified Practitioner (SSCP) exam and earned that certification. It took a while to get the certificate awarded and then the SIP panel only meets every other month but this week I got the approval so I'll start getting 9% more pay. So I got that going for me...