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Normally, writing a referral EPR is the last thing a supervisor wants to do. A referral EPR is serious business and is very often the first step in ushering an Airman out of the Air Force. In my experience, referral EPRs are usually downward directed. When an Airman is involved in an incident that attracts the attention of the Commander, he or she may order, through the chain of command, that the Airman be given a referral EPR. It's an uncomfortable and unfamiliar spot for a supervisor to be in. You care about your troop and don't want to see him get in serious trouble yet, as a supervisor, you must enforce standards. And follow orders. It's a tough spot to be in. Ultimately, we have little choice.
A referral EPR is an EPR with at least one of the rated categories graded as Does Not Meet and/or the Overall Performance Assessment in Block 5 is rated as Poor (1) or Needs Improvement (2). An EPR can have an overall 4 rating and still be a referral EPR if one or more of the rated categories is marked as Does Not Meet. It's called a referral because Air Force policy makers decided that a ratee who gets a Does Not Meet rating may not be suited for active duty and should have his or her performance reviewed by senior management. Note that when a person receives a referral report, they are ineligible for promotion testing, PCS, or awards. The official definition of a referral report, per AFI 36-2406, Officer and Enlisted Evaluation Systems, is:
1.10.3. When to Refer a Performance Evaluation. Performance evaluations must be referred when:
220.127.116.11. Comments in any OPR, EPR, LOE, or TR (to include attachments), regardless of the ratings, that are derogatory in nature, imply or refer to behavior incompatible with or not meeting AF standards, and/or refer to disciplinary actions. When considering the Airman’s ability to meet standards, consider unacceptable performance as actions that are incompatible with, and/or Airmen who have routinely (a repeated inability to meet standards that would render the aggregated performance assessment over the entire reporting period as below AF standards and expectations) and/or significantly (a single instance where failure to meet standards is either egregious in nature or so far short of a standard that it impacts overall aggregated performance assessment) failed to adhere to established AF standards and expectations.
18.104.22.168. When an officer fails to meet standards in any one of the listed performance factors, in Section III or Section IX of the OPR, the overall evaluation will be a "Does Not Meet Standards" and must be referred. Note: If the evaluation is marked “Does Not Meet Standards,” there must be a comment pertaining to the behavior in the referring evaluator’s assessment block. Comments in the referral memorandum do not meet this requirement.
22.214.171.124. An evaluator marks “Does Not Meet Standards” in Section III of AF Form 707 or “Do Not Retain” in Section IV of AF Form 912.
For standard EPRs, comments are limited to the space provided on the form but for referrals, attachments may be used. Non-specific or vague comments about the individual’s behavior or performance are not allowed. For example, statements such as "Due to a recent off-duty incident, this member's potential is limited" do not explain the behavior or how their potential is limited. The behavior that is considered to be inappropriate must be described. If comments contain references to Article 15 actions or any other punitive actions, the conduct or behavior that led to the action must be specified. For example, a report should not simply state that "SrA Smith received an Article 15 during this period." Instead, the conduct that caused the punishment should be specified with the resulting action included, such as:
The focus of the comment should be on the conduct or behavior. It is up to the writer where to place these comments. They are commonly entered in the Standards, Conduct, Character & Military Bearing block. It is not neccessary to fill the block with other comments as is done with normal EPRs. The goal is to document bad behavior and if that can be accomplished in a single line, that's enough. But the other categories must be filled as usual. They should be filled with factual information. If the ratee has otherwise strong bullets, include them where appropriate. If the overall rating is a 3 or lower, management may require that the tone of the whole EPR reflect this. In this case, a ratee's accomplishments may still be included but adjust their impact.
If you have questions as to whether comments are appropriate, consult the base staff judge advocate and MPF career enhancement personnel. That's their job and they'll be glad to help.
If, after the referral EPR is submitted, the Rater's Rater evaluator upgrades the ratings (changes to Meets Standards or higher) and/or invalidates the referral comments so that the conditions defined in AFI 36-2406, paragraphs 1.10.3. no longer apply, the nonconcur block is marked and comments are made supporting the disagreement in the rating. The report is then no longer considered to be a referral EPR; however, retain original referral correspondence with the report.
Who Refers a Report? An evaluator whose ratings or comments cause an EPR to be a referral report or any evaluator who determines that the report should have been referred, may refer the report to the ratee. In the latter case, the subsequent evaluator refers the report on behalf of the previous evaluator.
Unlike normal EPRs which may not be seen by the ratee until they become a part of the formal record, referral EPRs must be shown to the ratee and the ratee must be given an opportunity to rebut the EPR before it becomes a matter of public record.