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HAHN v. UNITED STATES AMERICA (03/18/85)

March 18, 1985

HAHN, MICHAEL S. AND BRADLEY, B. SHAY AND ALL OTHER PERSONS SIMILARLY SITUATED
v.
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, APPELLANT



Appeal From The United States District Court For the Eastern District of Pennsylvania D.C. Civil No. 82-5149.

Adams, Higginbotham and Sloviter, Circuit Judges.

Author: Higginbotham

Opinion OF THE COURT

A. LEON HIGGINBOTHAM, JR., Circuit Judge.

This is an appeal from a final judgment of the district court for a plaintiff class consisting of persons who participated in the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program prior to September 15, 1981 and who became or will become commissioned medical or dental officers of the Public Health Service after that date. The district court permanently enjoined the government from denying class members "constructive service credit" for their professional education in calculation of their basic pay, ordered that class members receive constructive service credit retroactive to the date of their commissions, and awarded back pay. Because we find that the district court did not have jurisdiction over the plaintiffs' claims for monetary relief, and that it erred in concluding that plaintiffs were entitled to constructive service credit under applicable statutes, we reverse.

I.

The events giving rise to this litigation have unfolded before a somewhat complicated statutory backdrop. Thus, it will be helpful to first explore the relevant statutory scheme, and the the specific events leading to this appeal.

A. The Scholarship Program & Constructive Service Credit

The National Health Service Corps (the "NHS Corps") was established within the Public Health Service of the Department of Health and Human Services "to improve the delivery of health services in health manpower shortage areas. . . " 42 U.S.C. § 254d(a)(2) (1982). To assure an adequate supply of trained physicians and dentists for the NHS Corps, Congress established the National Health Service Corps Scholarship Program (the "Scholarship Program"). 42 U.S.C. § 254l. Under the Scholarship Program, the Secretary of Health and Human Services (the "Secretary") provides scholarships to eligible students in professional health degree programs who, by written contract, agree to serve upon the completion of their training, a "period of obligated service" equal to one year for each year the student receives a scholarship, or a minimum of two years. 42 U.S.C. § 254 l (f).

A scholarship recipient may meet his or her service obligation in a number of ways: (1) as a member of the NHS Corps, 42 U.S.C. § 254m(a); (2) in private practice in a health manpower shortage area, 42 U.S.C. § 254n; or (3) through service under a National Research Service Award, 42 U.S.C. § 254m(e). The NHS Corps consists of three categories of members: (1) commissioned officers of the Regular and Reserve Corps of the Public Health Service (the "PHS Commissioned Corps"): (2) civilian employees of the United States; and (3) other individuals who are not employees of the United States. 42 U.S.C. § 254d(a)(1). The Public Health Service is considered a "uniformed service", 37 U.S.C. § 101(3), and therefore the compensation and benefits for officers of the PHS Commissioned Corps are governed by the same basic laws as for members of the armed forces. Compensation and benefits for civilian employees are governed by the civil service laws.

Prior to September 15, 1981, scholarship recipients who became medical or dental officers of the PHS Commissioned Corps were entitled to receive, in the calculation of their basic pay, "constructive service credit" of up to four years. "Constructive service credit is a way of recognizing time invested in additional preparation for professional status and is awarded to officers entering service when that advanced preparation, beyond the bachelor degree, is a prerequisite to his or her being appointed as an officer in a professional specialty." H.R. Rep. No. 1462, 96th Cong., 2d Sess. 37 reprinted in 1980 U.S. Code Cong. & Ad. News 6333, 6367. The Defense Officer Personnel Management Act of 1980, P.L. No. 96-513, 94 Stat. 2835 ("DOPMA"), as part of a major restructuring of the military pay system, and in recognition of other incentives that had previously been enacted, repealed the provision allowing medical and dental officers constructive service credit. DOPMA did, however, contain the following saving provision:

Sec. 625, (a) The amendments made by this Act do not affect the crediting of years of service to any person who on the day before the effective date of this Act--

(1) had been credited with years of service upon an original appointment as an officer of after such an appointment; or

(2) was participating in a program leading to an appointment as an officer in the Army, Navy, Air Force, or Marine Corps and the crediting of years of service.

(b)(1) Any officer who on the effective date of this Act is an officer of the Army or Navy in the Medical or Dental Corps of his armed force, an officer of the Air Force designated as a medical or dental officer, or an officer of the Public Health Service commissioned as a medical or dental officer is entitled to include in the years of service creditable to him for the computation of basic pay and retired pay the years of service creditable to him for such purposes under clauses (7) and (8) of section 205(a) of title 37, United States Code, as in effect on the day before the effective date of this Act.

(2) Any person who on the day before the effective date of this Act was enrolled in the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences under chapter 104 of this title or the Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program under chapter 105 of this title and who on or after the effective date of this Act graduates from such university or completes such program, as the case may be, and is appointed in one of the categories specified in paragraph (1) is entitled to include in the years of service creditable to him for the computation of basic pay and retired pay the years of service that would have been credited to him under clauses (7) and ...


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