Federal Disability Retirement

This is an "early-out" option for federal employees disabled either due to industrial injuries and diseases, or for non-industrial reasons. This ‘early-out’ for disability is a program administered by the U. S. Office of Personnel Management. Federal regulations set out the requirements for a successful disability retirement application, but each case depends on its specific facts and the evidence presented.

There are two retirement systems for federal employees - the “old” Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and the “new” FERS (Federal Employees Retirement System). Generally, anyone initially hired by the government after January 1, 1984 is covered by FERS.

If an employee becomes disabled while employed by the federal government, and the employing agency can’t or won’t accommodate the work to the disability, he or she can file an application for disability retirement. The longevity requirements are: under CSRS, 5 years; under FERS Disability, 18 months.

For federal disability retirement purposes, the FERS employee must show that he or she can no longer perform useful and efficient service for full-time, full-duty work in the last position held. The application must, with few exceptions, be filed while still employed or within one year of the employee’s termination date; this is true even if the employee is receiving or has applied for workers’ compensation benefits.

Most disability retirement applications, including FERS benefits, are decided primarily on medical evidence. Therefore it is important that your doctor understand what he or she must state in writing, as insufficient medical reports submitted to OPM will result in a denial.

With certain exceptions, an application for disability retirement must be received by OPM while the employee is still working for the federal government or within one year after employment ends. Specific medical information must be provided to OPM by the applicant.

Examples of cases we have handled

  • A Postal letter carrier suffered from post-traumatic headaches after an on-the-job injury. The Postal Service gave her limited-duty work inside the post office, but she had so much pain she cried at work every day. Even though the Postal Service claimed she had been reasonably and permanently accommodated, we proved to MSPB that she was disabled, and she received her disability retirement.
  • A disabled IRS employee’s disability retirement had been denied due to insufficient evidence, even though his doctors said he was disabled. We proved to OPM that despite the possibility that he could work, he was unable to do so in a useful and efficient manner; his FERS benefits were then approved retroactively to when he stopped working and into the future.
  • A disabled FERS employee did not file her claim for disability retirement within the one-year time limit and it was denied. We proved to OPM that she was incompetent during a sufficient period of time to make her application timely, and she was granted the benefits.

Contact us  for more information about how we can help you with your disability retirement related issue.