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Quality Step Increase

A quality step increase (QSI) is a faster than normal within-grade increase used to reward a General Schedule (GS) employee who demonstrates high quality performance. A QSI is a change in base pay providing cumulative benefits and is usually considered a higher form of recognition than a performance cash award. Granting of a QSI is no longer attached to the annual appraisal cycle and may be granted at any time during the rating year based upon the eligibility criteria below.

  • A GS employee is eligible to receive a QSI if he or she:
    • Is below step 10 of their grade;
    • Is rated “Exceeds,” on the Excellence, Achievement and Recognition System (EARS) or “Achieved Excellence” on the Department of Homeland Security/Performance Management System (DHS/PMS);
    • Has demonstrated sustained superior or high-quality performance which significantly enhances mission accomplishment; and
    • Has not received a QSI within the preceding 52 consecutive calendar weeks.
    • Sustained superior or high quality performance is characterized by:
      • A rating of “Exceeds” or “Achieved Excellence” received during the preceding 52 consecutive calendar week period;
      • Exemplary performance that is expected to remain consistently high well beyond the preceding 52 consecutive calendar week period;
      • Sufficient duration and substance as to fully justify a QSI. Duration is a time period that is typically a minimum of six months into a rating cycle, or mid-way through an appraisal period when a Progress Review is due to be issued. Substance is demonstrated performance that is truly exceptional, reflects measurable results and benefit to the Coast Guard, and fully justifies a permanent increase in the rate of base pay.
  • A GS employee is ineligible to receive a QSI when he/she:
    • Received a QSI within the preceding 52 consecutive calendar weeks;
    • Is in a career ladder position where promotion to the next higher grade is based on a rating of “Meets” (EARS) or “Achieved Expectations” (DHS/PMS) at the previous grade level; and,
    • Is due to receive or just received a promotion based upon a description of the same sustained superior or high quality performance that is now being cited as justification for an award of a QSI.
  • Only one (1) QSI may be granted to an employee within a 52 consecutive calendar week period. An employee may receive either a QSI or a performance cash award, but not both, for the same rated performance within a 52 consecutive calendar week period.
  • A QSI is not an equivalent increase and will not start a new waiting period for the next within-grade increase. This means an employee will be credited with time already accumulated while in a waiting status. However, receipt of a QSI may delay the next regular within-grade increase if its receipt places an employee at either step 4 or step 7 of a grade because the waiting period will be extended an additional 52 weeks.
  • Upon funding certification, the effective date of a QSI will be one pay period after CG-83 approves the QSI, whenever practicable.
  • A QSI may be held no longer than two pay periods when the goal is to accommodate an effective date of a within-grade increase.