Disability Retirement for Federal Workers: Sequence of Procedural Requirements

There is a specific reason why the benefit identified as Federal Disability Retirement, whether under FERS or CSRS, exists.  It is to allow for an early retirement for an individual who has met the minimum eligibility criteria — of being a Federal or Postal employee , and having at least eighteen (18) months of Federal Service under FERS, or five (5) years under CSRS.  That is the basic eligibility criteria.  

Those who meet that minimum criteria, have a “right” to take the next step: One must prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that one is eligible for the benefit, by proving (generally speaking) that as a Federal or Postal employee, one cannot perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job, or any similar job; that the agency is unable to “accommodate” the Federal or Postal employee’s medical condition (and the term “accommodation” is a term of art, such that there is a particularized and narrow definition of how that term is applied in Federal Disability Retirement law), and that the medical condition will last a minimum of 12 months.  

Beyond those sequential procedural steps, is a wide and fairly complex array of legal, medical and practical considerations which must be viewed, before proceeding with a Federal Disability Retirement application.  Does the Federal or Postal employee have a supportive doctor?  Will that doctor be willing to write a narrative report expounding and delineating the factors and addressing the issues which need to be discussed?  

As with most things in life, it is important to identify, recognize and approach a Federal Disability Retirement application in a logical, sequential manner, such that one does not waste time, effort, and a reserve of hope in going down a path which may not be applicable to one’s particular circumstances.  Advice and counsel from an OPM Disability Attorney who can explain the process may be helpful in this endeavor.

Sincerely,

Robert R. McGill, Attorney

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