Frequently Asked Questions
1. What is an Ombudsman?
An Ombudsman is a neutral party who confidentially, neutrally and independently prevents or resolves problems, complaints or issues brought to him/her by individuals or groups and brings about systemic change where needed. The title 'Ombuds' is often used as a gender-neutral substitute for 'Ombudsman'.
2. What is the role of the Ombudsman?
An Ombudsman resolves disputes from a neutral, independent viewpoint. The Office of Personnel Management's (OPM) Ombudsman will informally conduct impartial fact-finding about your complaints or concerns, and ensure the agency is meeting its quality and timeliness standards, or as appropriate in certain individual cases, seek to bring about a mutually agreeable resolution. We will often recommend solutions, but we don't have the authority to impose or reverse decisions.
3. When should I contact the Ombudsman?
It's best to think of the Ombudsman as a last resort. We will try to help when other approaches have failed. If you have a complaint, first calmly discuss it with the person involved. In many cases, this action can resolve the problem or help you better understand the issue.
When you have made a reasonable effort to resolve your problem through normal processes and it still is not resolved then contact the Ombudsman.
4. Is there a cost to using the Ombudsman?
There is no cost for using the Ombudsman’s services.
5. What will the Ombudsman do?
- An Ombudsman is a neutral, independent and confidential resource that allows customers and employees to resolve disputes from a neutral, independent viewpoint.
- The Ombudsman remains free from control or interference of any OPM employee in carrying out their duties.
- The Ombudsman encourages open and effective communication between and among all OPM managers and employees, and our customers to discuss and resolve issues affecting OPM.
- The Ombudsman maintains the confidentiality of dispute resolution communications made by employees, including managers and supervisors, unless the party making the disclosure consents to disclosure or as required by law.
- The Ombudsman will consider all sides in an impartial and objective way.
- The Ombudsman will help develop fair solutions to complex and difficult problems.
- The Ombudsman will help raise and resolve issues of concern or complaints regarding the Agency meeting courtesy, service, and timeliness standards.
6. What won’t the Ombudsman do?
- The Ombudsman will not be your advocate.
- The Ombudsman will not automatically take your side in a complaint.
- The Ombudsman is not a deciding official.
- The Ombudsman will not direct a certain action be taken.
- The Ombudsman will not replace the appeal (statutory, regulatory and/or administrative) process for such actions as adjudication of retirement, court-ordered benefit cases, disputed health insurance claims, etc.
7. What can I expect from the Ombudsman?
We will treat you respectfully and courteously by listening to you. We will work with you to determine the best method of timely resolving your request for assistance and keep you informed of our progress.
8. Is there a time limit for bringing an issue(s) to the Ombudsman?
There is no time limit for bringing an issue(s) to the Ombudsman. However, if you are a Federal employee and the matter you are bringing to OPM’s Ombudsman is covered by statutory, regulatory and/or administrative time frames, those timeframes do not stop because you have sought the help of the Ombudsman.
9. How do I get in contact with the Ombudsman’s Office?
You may contact the Ombudsman’s Office by one of the following methods:
10. Can I have someone, in addition and/or other than myself, interact with the Ombudsman’s office?
Yes, you may. We will ask you to put in email, or in writing to be faxed to us, your authorization to let us interact with someone other than yourself about your matter. You will need to designate someone by name, and provide their telephone number, address, and possibly their email address, and relationship to you.
11. Does the Ombudsman have the authority to direct the resolution of issues?
The Ombudsman's office does not have the authority to direct the resolution of issues; however, through facilitated interaction of the parties it is hopeful that a satisfactory resolution can occur.
12. Does my contacting the Ombudsman stay the time I have to file a complaint in the EEO process?
No, it does not. For OPM employees, during the informal process you may work with our Office until a formal complaint is filed. You will be provided a current Acknowledgement Form for your signature which contains the timeframes you must meet to protect your rights.
13. Does my contacting the Ombudsman stay the time I have to file a grievance in the grievance processes?
No, it does not. For OPM employees, you may work with our Office. You will be provided a current Acknowledgement Form for your signature which contains the timeframes you must meet to protect your rights.
14. May I work with OPM's Ombudsman concurrent with filing a regulatory or statutory appeal, such as with the Merit Systems Protection Board?
No, however, the Ombudsman’s office is available for informal attempts at dispute resolution. There may be some limited circumstances during which an appeal is being pursued through the regulatory/statutory process the Ombudsman’s office can help resolve the issue. Generally speaking, if there is a statutory and/or regulatory process available that process needs to be used and those timeframes must be met.
15. What does the Ombudsman make public?
The Ombudsman keeps aggregate statistics of general categories and subcategories of requests for assistance. Our Charter provides for an annual report to be provided to the OPM Director which includes statistics, any identified systemic concerns, trends, or suggested areas of improvement.