Board for Correction of PHS Commissioned Corps Records:
On September 29, 1979, Congress amended Public Law 96-76, Public Health Service Act, Section 312, Section 221a(a)(12) (42 U.S.C. 213a(a)(12)) extending to the Commissioned Corps the provisions of 10 U.S.C. 1552 allowing the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, acting through a board of civilians, to correct the record of any Corps officer when necessary to correct an error or remove an injustice. The Board for Correction of PHS Commissioned Corps Records (the Board) is the highest administrative appeal within the Department of Health and Human Services for Corps officers. It is located in the Program Support Center and is administratively removed from the Commissioned Corps to ensure fairness and avoid bias in Board decisions.
The Board can consider appeals resulting from errors or injustices dealing with personnel actions such as appointments to the Corps, disciplinary actions, disability retirements, reinstatements, use of leave, entitlements to pay and allowances, promotions, and separations from the Corps. Prior to appealing to the Board, the officer must exhaust all other available administrative avenues. The Board has the authority to correct any record in the Department pertaining to the service of an officer provided the record is relevant to correcting an error or removing an injustice. The Secretary is also authorized to pay any amount that becomes due from the U.S. Government as a result of correcting an error or removing an injustice.
Who Serves on the Board?
Three persons are selected from a rotating panel of senior level and SES employees of the Public Health Service to serve as Board members. One member is the Chairperson. Active duty corps officers cannot serve on the Board. The Board meets in Executive Session to determine whether an error or an injustice exists and recommends corrective action to the Approving Official based on documentation in the record. The Director, Program Support Center, is the Approving Official on all Board recommendations. Except when procured by fraud, a correction by the Board is final and conclusive on all officers of the United States. Board decisions are appealable to the U.S. Court of Claims. The case record developed by the Board is admissible evidence in court.
How Does the Board Function?
The Board acts only on the evidence provided, may request more proof or, in rare cases, may convene a hearing. It may refuse to consider an appeal if insufficient proof is provided to prove the existence of an error or an injustice. It may also refuse to consider an appeal if the Board does not have the jurisdiction to determine the matter presented or if it cannot grant the relief requested.
Who Can File an Appeal?
Any officer or former officer can apply to the Board. The heirs, guardians or executors of an officer or his or her estate can also appeal to the Board, if the officer is unable to act on his or her own behalf. A legal representative in the event of the death, incapacity or unavailability of an officer need not be an attorney. The appeal must be signed by the officer alleging an error or an injustice unless that person is incapable of filing the appeal or is deceased or cannot be located.
Can I Get Help With My Appeal?
A number of service organizations such as chapters in your area of the American Legion, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and the Disabled American Veterans may assist you. In addition to these organizations, the Correction Boards in the Air Force, Army, Coast Guard and Navy also may assist you. All boards were established under the same statute.
When Should I File My Appeal?
Your appeal should be filed within three years after you discover an alleged error or an injustice. If you file after the deadline, you must submit evidence to support waiving the deadline. The Board may excuse a late filing if it finds that to be in the interest of justice. You should delay filing your appeal until after you have exhausted all effective administrative remedies available to you by law or regulation. These may include filing a grievance or appealing to the Comptroller General, if applicable.
What Information Should I Submit?
You are responsible for providing the evidence necessary to support your appeal. This means describing the exact nature of an alleged error or injustice and offering proof of the existence or occurrence of the error or injustice. It also means organizing the arguments to be presented and procuring all documentation necessary to support those arguments. The proof submitted can include copies of pertinent records, relevant regulations, letters of corroboration of alleged facts from colleagues and so forth. You should also provide or authorize the submission of the results of a grievance or other administrative action or investigation or examination that supports your appeal. Private counsel may be obtained to assist you in organizing and presenting evidence. The expense of counsel is your responsibility. For the most part, the Board deliberates on the basis of the written record provided by you and the Corps. You should keep a copy of all documents you send to the Board.
What Happens After I File My Appeal?
A copy of your appeal, after acceptance by the Board, is sent to the Commissioned Corps for corrective action. If corrective action is not taken, an Advisory Opinion is sent to the Board, and it along with a Case Summary, prepared by the Board Staff, are sent to you for your review and comment. This allows you to make sure that your view of the facts and circumstances are fully set forth in the documents submitted to the Board members.
You must keep the Board informed of your current address after filing your appeal. If the Board cannot reach you, your appeal may be closed without action until you provide a current address. Please keep your address, a daytime telephone number, and email address up-to-date so the Board can contact you, if necessary.
What About an Oral Hearing?
You may request to appear before the Board in Bethesda, Maryland in person or by counsel or in person with counsel at your own expense. However, it is not necessary for you to appear in person to ensure that the Board considers your appeal in a fair and impartial manner. A hearing is granted only if it is found that the evidence indicates that a hearing would likely provide additional proof relevant to your appeal not otherwise obtainable from the written record. If your request for a hearing is approved, you are contacted to set a hearing date.
Can I Get Reconsideration of an Unfavorable Board Decision?
If your appeal is denied, you may ask for reconsideration provided you furnish new and relevant documentation not previously considered which, if true, would change the decision on your appeal. The denial of a request for reconsideration must be approved by the Approving Official.
How Should I Apply?
An appeal to the Board must be submitted on Form PSC-54, Application to the Board for Correction of Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Records, and sent to the address shown below.
Board for Correction of PHS Commissioned Corps Records
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
Program Support Center
7700 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, Maryland 20857
Phone number: 301-492-4812
If you have any questions be sure to reference the Commissioned Corps Personnel Manual (CCPM).
How do I request a copy of a file?
Anyone wishing to obtain a copy of any case file or decisions should submit a request under the federal Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Such requests should be directed to the PHS FOIA Office at (202) 690-7453 or via email to HHS.ACFO@hhs.gov.