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U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Commitments & Legal Protection

National Disaster Medical System

NDMS is made up of medical, fatality management, veterinary professionals and para-professionals who serve as excepted–service federal employees who are activated on an episodic intermittent basis under official orders.

As an intermittent federal employee, you commit to completing certain requirements and you are covered by several legal statutes when you are acting under official orders from NDMS.

Required Commitments

  • Maintaining Licensure and Certifications: NDMS personnel are required to maintain appropriate licensure and certifications within their discipline, if applicable. When personnel are activated as Federal employees, licensure and certification is recognized by all States.
  • Carry Your Credentials: When you are deployed, you are required to carry a copy of any applicable licenses and/or certifications.
  • Training and Other Events: If you choose to serve, you will need to be available to deploy, complete training, attend meetings and drills, and respond to requests for information. 
  • Remain Medically and Physically Fit: Deploying during a disaster often requires a lot of physically demanding work. You need to remain medically and physically fit so that you can face a wide range of challenges that are common in disasters.
  • Compensation and Travel: NDMS personnel are compensated, traveled and billeted based on Civil Service classifications and standards associated with a public health emergency or special event. You cannot arrange for your own travel.

Legal Protection

NDMS intermittent federal employees a protected by several statutes during their service, including the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA), the Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), and Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA).

Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act

The Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act of 1994 is a Federal law that establishes rights and responsibilities for uniformed Service members and their civilian employers. USERRA protects the job rights of individuals who voluntarily or involuntarily leave employment positions to perform service in the uniformed Services, including certain types of service in the National Disaster Medical System and the Commissioned Corps of the Public Health Service.

USERRA is a Federal law intended to ensure that persons who serve or have served in one of the uniformed Service, including NDMS:

  • are not disadvantaged in their civilian careers because of their service;
  • are promptly reemployed in their civilian jobs upon their return from duty; and
  • are not discriminated against in employment based on past, present, or future service.

The law is intended to encourage non-career uniformed service so the United States can enjoy the protection of those services, staffed by qualified people, while maintaining a balance with the needs of private and public employers who also depend on these same individuals.

USERRA affects employment, reemployment, and retention in employment, when employees serve in the uniformed Services. USERRA also prohibits employers from discriminating against past and present members of the uniformed Services and applicants to the uniformed Services.

Service as an intermittent disaster-response appointee when the Secretary activates the National Disaster Medical System or when the individual participates in a training program authorized by the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response shall be deemed "service in the uniformed services" for purposes of chapter 43 of title 38 pertaining to employment and reemployment rights of individuals who have performed service in the uniformed services.

Federal Tort Claims Act

NDMS members are covered by the Federal Tort Claims Act when working within the scope of their Federal employment. The FTCA represents a limited waiver of federal sovereign immunity under which, with certain exceptions, the United States may be liable for the tortious conduct of its “employees” to the same extent as a private party would be so liable under the applicable state tort law.

In general, the FTCA provides money damages for personal injury or loss of property, or death, caused by the wrongful act or omission of an employee of the government while acting within the scope of office or employment under circumstances where the United States, if a private person, would be liable to the claimant in accordance with the law of the place where the act or omission occurred.

If a covered Federal employee is sued for a wrongful act or omission that occurred when the employee was working for the Federal government, the United States is substituted as the party defendant following certification by the Department of Justice that the defendant was working within the scope of employment at the time of the incident out of which the suit arose. A covered employee cannot be sued personally for liability.

Federal Employees’ Compensation Act

NDMS members are covered by the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act if they are injured or killed while working within the scope of their Federal employment. FECA provides workers’ compensation coverage to Federal employees for employment-related injuries and occupational diseases. All injuries, including disease proximately caused by employment, sustained while in the performance of duty by civilian employees of the United States are covered.

The employee must provide medical and factual evidence to establish the essential elements of the claim, i.e., that the claim was filed within the statutory time requirements of the FECA, the injured or deceased person was an employee within the meaning of the FECA, the employee sustained an injury or disease, the employee was in the performance of duty when the injury occurred, and the condition found resulted from the injury.

Benefits cannot be paid if injury or death is caused by willful misconduct of the injured employee, by intent to bring about the injury or death of oneself or another, or by intoxication of the injured employee. The NDMS statutory authority pertaining to FECA coverage was modified in 2015 to specify that FECA benefits for NDMS members will be calculated as if NDMS members were full time HHS employees.


NDMS Seal 

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  • This page last reviewed: October 11, 2020