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How to Comply with Scholarship Program Leave Policies

When you begin your service commitment in the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program (NHSC SP), we expect you to follow policies we set forth, including those related to temporary and permanent leave.

The following policies apply after you leave school and/or postgraduate training and begin your two year NHSC service commitment.

Review your NHSC Scholarship Program Application and Program Guidance (PDF - 577 KB) for complete details.

How to take temporary leave from your NHSC site

If you work full-time, you may not spend any more than 35 full-time workdays per service year away from the NHSC-approved service site.

If you work half-time, you may not spend any more than 35 half-time workdays per service year away from the NHSC-approved service site.

This applies to vacation, holidays, continuing professional education, illness, or any other reason.

Note: The above only pertains to compliance with your NHSC SP service commitment. Your service site is responsible for granting you any type of leave.

What about maternity, paternity, or adoption leave?

We will automatically approve maternity/paternity/adoption leave of 12 weeks or fewer, if you document the leave in the Bureau of Health Workforce (BHW) Customer Service Portal. We will extend your service commitment end date accordingly.

Note: You must also adhere to the leave policies of your NHSC-approved service site.

How to take temporary leave from service

Under certain circumstances, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) can suspend your NHSC SP service or payment obligation.

If complying with the service commitment:

  • Is temporarily impossible, or
  • Would involve a temporary extreme hardship such that enforcement of the commitment would be unconscionable.

Note: Periods of approved suspension of service will extend your service commitment end date.

  • Leave of Absence for Medical or Personal Reasons
    • Submit independent medical documentation of a physical or mental health disability, or personal circumstances, including a terminal illness of an immediate family member (e.g. child or spouse, including same-sex spouse regardless of where the couple lives).
  • Maternity/Paternity/Adoption Leave
    • Submit documentation of medical need for leave that will exceed 12 weeks (or a longer period permitted under the state law where you reside) during a service year.
  • Call to Active Duty in the Armed Forces
    • Submit a copy of your active duty order along with your suspension request.
      • You cannot credit active military duty towards your service obligation.
      • We grant suspensions for up to one year, beginning on the activation date described in your active duty order.
      • If the Armed Forces entity extends your period of active duty beyond the approved suspension period, you must request an extension of the suspension period.

Submit suspension requests through the BHW Customer Service Portal.

How to take permanent leave from your NHSC site

If you feel you can no longer continue working at your current NHSC-approved site, discuss the situation and/or concerns with your NHSC-approved site management and contact us immediately through the BHW Customer Service Portal.

Note: If you leave your NHSC-approved service site(s) without our prior approval we may place you in default. Default would begin the date you stopped providing patient care. You would then become liable for the monetary damages specified in your NHSC SP contract.

How can you request a transfer to a different NHSC site?

Submit a transfer request through the BHW Customer Service Portal.

We must approve the site change and process the request prior to you beginning work at the new site.

Note: You may only transfer to a site that meets your placement HPSA score.

What if you experience a period of unemployment?

Whether you resign or your NHSC-approved site(s) terminates you, contact us immediately through the BHW Customer Service Portal.

If eligible for a transfer, we will give you a certain timeframe in which to obtain employment at an NHSC-approved site.

Note: Approval of a transfer or reassignment is at our discretion, and available service opportunities may not be in your preferred geographic area.

How to take permanent leave from service

Immediately contact us—via the BHW Customer Service Portal—if a situation arises that may result in you being unable to complete your NHSC SP service commitment—a breach of contract.

A Breach of Contract while in school

You will be liable to the U.S. Government for the repayment of all NHSC SP funds paid to you, if you:

  • Are dismissed from school for academic or disciplinary reasons; or
  • Voluntarily terminate your academic training before graduation.

Note: You must pay the amount owed in full within three years of the date of default.

A Breach of Contract after school

If you:

  • Fail to begin or complete your service commitment; or
  • Fail to comply with the terms and conditions of deferment or postponement for postgraduate training.

Note: You will be liable to the Government for an amount equal to three times the scholarship award plus interest. And you must pay this amount within one year of the date of default.

What happens if you fail to pay the debt by the due date?

  • We will report the debt as delinquent to credit reporting agencies.
  • We may refer the debt to a debt collection agency and the Department of Justice.
  • Federal or state payments due to you (e.g., an IRS or state income tax refund) may be offset by the Department of Treasury to pay a delinquent debt.
    • Defaulters who are federal employees may have up to 15% of their take-home pay garnished to pay a delinquent debt.
  • Medicare, Medicaid, and all other federal health care programs may exclude you from participation.
  • In more than 20 states, your health professional license can be suspended or revoked.

How to request a waiver

Under certain circumstances, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) may waive all or part of your NHSC SP service or payment obligation.

You must demonstrate that complying with your commitment is permanently impossible or would involve an extreme hardship such that enforcement of the commitment would be unconscionable.

Submit a waiver request by uploading a signed request letter, including the reason(s) you are seeking the waiver, as an inquiry through the BHW Customer Service Portal.

Note: We do not routinely grant waivers. As such, requests require documentation of compelling circumstances.

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