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«U.S. DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES Program Support Center Human Resources Service Division of Commissioned Personnel 5600 Fishers Lane, ...»

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* Clinical Psychology, Computer Science, Dental Hygiene, Medical (Health) Record Administration, Hospital Administration, Public Health/Epidemiology, Medical Technology, Optometry, Physician Assistant, Podiatry, Social Work.

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The regular corps is the career component of the corps. Reserve corps career-oriented officers who have long-term commitments to the mission and goals of the Service may apply for assimilation into the regular corps. Before applying for assimilation an officer must have completed a minimum of 4 years of continuous active duty in his/her current tour of duty. Assimilation is requested on form PHS-7034, “Application for Assimilation into the Regular Corps” and submitted to the Director, DCP. The completed form and the officer’ record is forwarded to an assimilation board, which evaluates the s officer's qualifications and ranks the officer with all other candidates for assimilation. A list of nominees is prepared and sent through administrative channels for nomination by the President and confirmation by the U.S. Senate. The size of the regular corps is established in the HHS Appropriations Act.


The active reserve corps supplements the regular corps and may expand or contract according to the needs and resources of the Service. All newly-appointed officers are commissioned in the reserve corps and serve a 3-year probationary period. Unsatisfactory or unsuitable performers may be terminated during this period. Reserve corps officers may request consideration for appointment into the regular corps after completing a minimum of 4 years of continuous active duty in their current tour.


The Inactive Reserve Component of the Reserve Corps is comprised of health professionals, most of whom were at one time on extended active duty. In the event the President signs an Executive Order and militarizes the commissioned corps, inactive reserve officers can be involuntarily called to active duty at the discretion of the Service for the duration of the emergency. Officers in the inactive reserve continue to accrue longevity credit for pay and may accrue promotion credit should they decide to reactivate at a later time. However, at this time there is no retirement program for officers in the inactive reserve. An officer in the inactive reserve must keep DCP informed of his/her current address, telephone numbers, licensure, medical, and employment status. In addition, an officer must inform DCP of any family or personal hardship which may make it extremely difficult or impossible to response to calls to active duty orders for a period of 6 months or longer.

The Individual Ready Reserve (IRR) is a subset of the inactive reserve component of the reserve corps.

Officers in the IRR agree to serve on active duty for a minimum of 2 weeks over a 2-year period in PHS programs across the country. In past years, individual ready reservists served by providing care in the Indian Health Service, National Health Service Corps, Community and Migrant Health Centers, and Mental Health Centers. IRR officers also served on short tours with the U.S. Coast Guard, Bureau of Prisons, and Commission on Mental Health Services, Washington, DC. These short tours were from as little as one day, but generally ran from 14 to 120 days and brought much needed services to the underserved and unserved populations throughout the U.S. Officers in the program include physicians, dentists, nurses, and pharmacists, with other professionals considered on an as-required basis.

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Inactive Reserve Corps and Civil Service Employment Federal civil servants who are in the PHS Commissioned Corps inactive reserve are cautioned that special rules apply if they are called to active duty.

Because there is no pay and allowance associated with being an officer in the inactive reserve corps, merely holding a Federal civil service office and an inactive reserve commission does not violate the law.

However, if an inactive reserve corps officer is called to active duty, he/she must either give up his/her Federal civil service position or be called to active duty without pay.

A special dual employment and pay provision that allows a reserve member of the Armed Forces or member of the National Guard to hold a Federal civil service office and to receive the pay and allowances from both systems does not apply to PHS inactive reserve corps officers.

An inactive reserve corps officer cannot be called to active duty with pay for a short or intermittent tour, even if he or she is on leave-without-pay from a Federal civil service position.

If an inactive reserve corps officer who is a Federal employee is interested in serving on a short or intermittent tour, he or she must be called to active duty without pay. The officer also must be on either administrative or annual leave from his or her Federal agency. Although the inactive reserve corps officer cannot receive PHS pay and allowances, the PHS OPDIV calling him or her to active duty is permitted to authorize travel and transportation allowances.

If you are an inactive reserve corps officer and hold a Federal civil service position, you must notify DCP of your status so that you can be called to duty without pay for any future short or intermittent tour.

For information on this program, contact:

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Each officer holds a permanent grade and may also hold a higher temporary grade. The grades are coded with the letter "O" (signifying officer) followed by a digit in the range of 1-10. In the Corps, permanent grades are in the range of O-1 through O-6; temporary grades are in the range O-1 through O-10. An officer holding a temporary grade should be referred to by that grade. Officers holding temporary grades above O-6 are referred to as flag grade officers.

The PHS Act establishes the formal designations of grades within the commissioned corps. However, it is appropriate to use the equivalent Navy ranks orally when referring to Corps officers. This also applies to most documents (abbreviations optional). The PHS system is used for documents having legal significance.

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Table 3. Shows the official designation of grades in the Corps, abbreviations, the full title of the equivalent Navy rank, and the Navy abbreviation of that rank.

Designation of Grade Within the Corps Equivalent Designation of Grade Within the Navy

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a The proper titles and abbreviations of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Surgeon General, and Deputy Surgeon General are always those of the Public Health Service.

b Assistant Surgeons General may be referred to by that title or by the equivalent Navy rank; the PHS designation is usually preferable.

c For officers, other than officers at flag grades, the category is a part of their official PHS title. By convention, the titles of officers at the Director grade have the name of their category precede the word "Director," as in "Nurse Director." Titles of officers at lower grades have the name of the category follow the grade, followed by the word "Officer," as in "Senior Nurse Officer." By statute, officers in the medical category below Director grade are referred to as "Surgeon." This is preceded by the specific term for their grade and the word "Officer" is omitted, as in "Senior Surgeon." This pattern also applies to Dental Surgeons.

d For the Full Grade (O-4) officer in all but the medical and dental categories, no grade title or abbreviation is used, simply the word "Officer" (or the letter "O") as in "Nurse Officer." A Full grade medical officer has the title "Surgeon" and a Full grade dental officer, "Dental Surgeon."

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The Surgeon General appoints CPOs in each of the 11 professional categories. Four of the 11 CPOs are flag grade by statute (dental, engineer, nurse, and pharmacist). Appointment as a CPO is in addition to any responsibilities the individual has in his/her permanent duty assignment. CPOs advise the Surgeon General on issues in the officers' respective professional areas. In addition, the CPO serves as a distinguished example to all officers in his/her professional category. The CPO advocates and promotes professional development and fosters the highest levels of commitment and integrity for officers serving in the represented professional category.


Each of the 11 professional disciplines has a PAC which advises the Surgeon General on matters of importance to the discipline and to the Corps. New members are recommended by the PAC and selected by the Surgeon General. Concurrence for the nominations is obtained from the OPDIVs.

Officers are encouraged to participate as a PAC or subcommittee member and to work through the CPO and PAC to resolve profession-related issues.


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An officer's supervisor can establish any duty or work hours for the officer necessary to meet the needs of the program. Although most officers have regularly scheduled work hours, this is entirely discretionary. Many officers, especially those in a clinical setting, work more than 8 hours per day, and on weekends or nights. Any work schedule developed to define "work hours" for an officer is for administrative convenience only, and does not establish any rights for the officer or restriction on management in making adjustments or changes as necessary to meet program needs.

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----------------------------------------------------------------A. COMMISSIONED OFFICERS' IDENTIFICATION CARDS Many of the benefits for which an officer is eligible are subject to the possession and presentation of a Uniformed Services identification (ID) card. This is true in obtaining medical care, and in gaining access to commissaries, base and post exchanges, and other military facilities when not in uniform. ID cards are accountable items. Proper controls and procedures for strict accountability and security of the cards are imposed at all ID card issuing sites. Officers are required to maintain proper possession and control of their cards, and not to allow the cards to be misused by others. Failure to surrender an ID card upon separation may result in final pay and lump-sum leave payment being withheld, and disciplinary action being taken.

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All ID cards require a photograph of the officer and most ID card issuing sites have photographic capabilities. If a site does not have photographic facilities, an officer must obtain the photograph at his/her own expense. The photograph should show the officer in the uniform of the day. The picture should show the full face, head uncovered.

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Dependents and former spouses are also eligible for many of the benefits and privileges for which an officer is eligible including medical care and access to commissaries, base and post exchanges, and other military facilities. The possession and presentation of an ID card is required to use these benefits.

Children under 10 years of age are eligible for benefits, but are not usually issued ID cards. Their eligibility is verified through the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS) and the ID card in the possession of the officer or his/her spouse. An ID card may be issued to a child under special circumstances, for example, when the parents are divorced.

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ID cards for dependents/former spouses are obtained by completing form DD-1172. The initial application should include information on all dependents including children under 10 years of age in order to enroll dependents in DEERS.

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