How to Qualify for Federal Disability Retirement

Mary Barrett
March 18, 2022

Are you a federal employee with a medical problem that keeps you from performing “useful and efficient” service in your role? You may be able to get on Federal Disability Retirement.

We’ll explain the qualifications needed for federal employees to medically retire and help you understand if this is a good option for you.

Applying for Disability Retirement

To qualify for Federal Disability Retirement, you have to send an application to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) proving your inability to perform the major functions of your job because of an injury or disability.

This application is reviewed by OPM, who then issues the decision and directs the benefit to those that qualify.

You may want to think about applying for disability retirement, but only after you have given your agency complete documentation of your medical issue and after they have exhausted all practical efforts to keep you in a working capacity, through accommodation, reassignment, etc.

Disability Retirement Eligibility Conditions

  1. While being employed in a role creditable under FERS, you must have become disabled due to injury or illness while performing “useful and efficient” service.
  2. The disability must be expected to last 1 year or more.
  3. You’ve completed 18 months (or more) of Federal civilian service under FERS.
  4. Your application has to be received by OPM one year after your separation date or earlier. You have to apply either before your separation or within 1 year after separation. If you were mentally incompetent during your separation, it may be possible to extend these deadlines.
  5. You must prove that your agency can’t accommodate your disabling medical condition in your present position. They also must show that they have considered you for any open role in the same agency with the same grade or pay level, within the same commuting area, for which you are qualified for reassignment.
  6. It’s important to note that you may not qualify for Social Security disability benefits. However, you do have to also apply for Social Security disability benefits to qualify for FERS disability retirement. If you withdraw your application for Social Security disability benefits, OPM will dismiss the FERS disability retirement application. Your application for Social Security Disability does not have to be approved in order to qualify for Disability Retirement.

You should also know that FERS disability benefits usually start before your Social Security benefits claim is processed. Your Social Security payments shouldn’t be worked out until your FERS benefits have been reduced.

Is It Hard to Get Disability Retirement?

OPM will consider all the evidence from your agency, you, and your doctor to decide if your claim is allowable. Your claim can be allowed only if the evidence shows that you meet all of the above-mentioned guidelines.

It’s important to also keep in mind that OPM won’t pay for any medical exams or procedures needed to provide the required documentation.

The highly experienced federal employment attorneys at Melville Johnson, P.C. have been helping injured and disabled federal employees prepare the medical evidence and legal arguments necessary during the disability retirement application process with OPM for over 35 years.

We constantly see obstacles in the Federal Disability Retirement process that can be difficult to navigate without professional legal help.

However, we have the experience and track record to successfully guide you through the process.

We can also help you with a reconsideration request to OPM or even appeal a denial to the MSPB. Call us today or fill out the form below to find out how we can help you qualify for Federal Disability Retirement.

This blog and web site published by Melville Johnson, P.C. should not be used as a substitute for seeking competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney. Readers of this information should not act upon any information contained on this blog or website without seeking professional counsel.
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