OPM Seeks Contractor to Help Agencies Hire Disabled Americans

Obama in 2010 directed agencies to hire 100,000 disabled employees within five years. Obama in 2010 directed agencies to hire 100,000 disabled employees within five years. Susan Walsh/AP

The Obama administration is turning to outside help to place more disabled Americans in federal jobs, saying private business can more “efficiently and effectively” recruit the targeted demographic.

The contractor will be responsible for finding employees for specific jobs and locations and will help agencies that turn to the Office of Personnel Management -- which issued the solicitation -- for assistance. The request follows an executive order President Obama issued in 2010 directing federal agencies to hire 100,000 disabled individuals within five years. President Bill Clinton made the same call in 2000, though the Obama administration noted “few steps were taken to implement that executive order in subsequent years.”

According to the latest figures, agencies hired nearly 72,000 full-time permanent employees with disabilities between fiscal years 2010 and 2014. The 248,000 disabled employees made up 13.6 percent of the total federal workforce, with both figures marking the highest figures since the government began measuring the population in 1980.

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Acting OPM Director Beth Cobert said in October the government was on pace to meet Obama’s directive, though it had not reached it through September 2014. Nearly 20 percent of the 104,000 total federal hires in fiscal 2014 -- including transfers -- were disabled individuals, the highest such rate since 1980. In fact, that percentage has increased every year since 2004, when just 8 percent of federal hires were disabled.

Edmund Byrnes, an OPM spokesman, said private industry has “unique capabilities best found outside federal departments and agencies.” Byrnes added the contract will follow a similar one OPM issued five years ago that expired earlier this year.

Specifically, he said, the private sector and its non-profit allies have a “broader knowledge of the disability community” and “extensive referral and outreach network partners.” Byrnes also praised industry’s ability to recruit and match candidates, communicate the needs of federal agencies to the disabled community and manage a shared list of potential candidates.

OPM is seeking a contractor that can help recruit, pre-screen and match candidates with disabilities to the appropriate job based on skills and experience. The award recipient will help applicants improve their résumés and prepare their applications and will answer emails and phone calls from candidates about the hiring process and the Schedule A hiring authority to which they are entitled.

The contractor will also communicate with the hiring agency to gain an understanding of the requirements for open positions and to search and review candidates from the shared list. The selected business will submit selected candidates to the agency and ensure accommodations are made for the interview process. The contract will require the company to facilitate communication between the applicant and the agency, and keep the shared list of potential disabled hires updated.

OPM will award a blanket purchase agreement, the base of which will last one year with the option for two, one-year renewals. The agency said that once selected, the contractor might create a list of the top 50 candidates per quarter broken down by area and skill. 

The human resources agency declined to share the potential value of the contract, calling the matter sensitive. OPM previously contracted with Bender Consulting Services, a human resources company that targets disabled individuals, for the initiative. 

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