OPM Disability Retirement: Accommodations

While I am often asked about the intersecting connection between the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Disability Retirement laws under FERS & CSRS, and the issue of accommodations, my short answer is that the two areas of law rarely directly intersect. “Accommodation issues” under disability retirement law rarely present a problem in a practical sense. 

The term itself is rarely applied properly; the best way that I can describe what the term “accommodation” means, in its technical application, is by giving the classic example:  A secretary who suffers from a chronic back condition is unable to perform her secretarial duties because of the high level of distractability from her chronic pain.  The agency purchases an expensive, ergonomic chair, which relieves the chronic pain; she is able to perform the essential elements of her job.  She has thus been “accommodated”. Thus, the definition of “accommodation” is essentially where the Agency does X such that X allows for employee Y to continue to perform the essential elements of Y’s job.  Further, an accommodation cannot be a temporary or modified assignment; in fact, it is not an “assignment” at all — it is something which the Agency does for you such that you can continue to perform your job. 

Thus, as a practical matter, it is rare that an Agency will be able to accommodate an individual. Further, when it comes to psychiatric disabilities, it will be rarer still -especially when the essential elements of one’s job requires the cognitive capabilities which are precisely that which is impacted by the psychiatric medical conditions.  As such, the issue of accommodations is rarely a real issue, and further, people who are attempting to enforce the provisions of the ADA are not those who are truly seeking disability retirement, anyway.  It is the very opposite — they are trying to preserve their jobs, and to force the Agency to provide an “accommodation” under the law.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

5 thoughts on “OPM Disability Retirement: Accommodations

  1. Arthur Maxwell

    I have over 20 years of government service i work for the bureau of prison as a cook supervisor. i have 4 knee surgery two on both knee the right one was the worst. june 26, 2009 i have my right knee surgery and have not return to work yet. the docter have giving me a periment no proling standing or walking. the agency has not yet offer my a light duty posts yet. i am only 47 years old. the doctor said that i would have to have a complete knee replacement. any suggestions.

  2. Mozelle Hamler

    I got hurt as a carrier in 1985. The post office switch me to a modified clerk position in 1987 or 1988. I have
    worked different modified clerk position for the last 22 years. I’ll have a total of 25 years service 9-29-2009. I
    qualify for the ver retirement pkg with the 15000 incen-
    tive. What is best for me the opm disability or the ver
    retirement pkg? I had a lot of leave without pay in the
    early years of my career. I have two owcp cases that have being closed for years, but I’m still working my
    modified job assignment.

  3. debbie

    i was an injured postal employee in 1997…they would not accomadate me…..I won court case…returned back to work 2001…4 years…they had to accomadate me…it has been horrible…I hurt my back again in 2007…I can only work 6 within an 8 hour day…i am being harassed and sexualy harassed by supervisor…what recourse and solution to this matter….I am considered an limited duty employee…i am not a fulltime…iam considered a part time flexible…i have been looked over for a positon fulltime…union was no help…any help will be great…and are there any lawyer in my area that i can consult with….thanks

  4. Mr. Percy A Williams Jr

    I am a disabled vet hired by the post office with permanent
    and progressive condition call RP (Retinitis Pigmentosa).

    I was told last night after clocking out I was no longer needed at the special delivery collection section due to my disability (visual impairment). By, order of the Acting Seattle Postmaster Mr. Robert Montgomery. Now, with the advice of my current Supervisors and the DRAC board that a should put in a request for Permanent Light Duty so they can accommodate me. Is this the reasonable avenue I can take?….Thanks

  5. jeff sherfey

    Hi, I am an engineer equipment operator / labor? with the army corps of engineers in dc at the washington aqaduct, we provide drinking water which pays our bills . i am told we are not funded by the feds for this reason. I have an injury on my right knee from military service 1983ish, i have up till this point never filed with the va on it, I have the documents/records to back it up. I have arthritis in this knee and the other as well do to a surgery on it as well. My knees have never kept me from doing any job, I have also had to pass physicals for jobs including this one. this past fall/winter I started to have a lot of pain in my knees from the heavy labor intence work that i was required to perform at work. I didnt push workmans comp, instead i went to my ortho who put me on light duty for a whilw, this only helped a little so we we have been exploring other options, injections ect. The latest was to go in and clean up the right knee, I have been on light duty for about 5 months for which they have accomadated me by placing me in the supply room and doing work there. The issue now is I was told that they feel that they have lived up to there comitment and after this light duty period which end the 10th of june they will no longer except light duty from me. I was asked to give my resume so they could try to find me something, I was told I may have to go out on leave w/o pay, or possibly have my position reviewed or to that extent , which i was told would not be good since I cannot do the position at this time, and it would not be good for me. What are my recourses? I am a VET, CAREER CONDITIONAL employee. I have spoke to other people that have told me different thinks, like they cant do that, or anyplace else would accomadate you since you are providing and being productive. I have nothing in writing as of yet just spoken to me by my supervisor, but what happens when I return on the 10 with anothewr light duty slip, I still healing, i am still limited can the gov really ,really do this! Please help me, I have a family to support. Thanks Jeff

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