In a previous post, we outlined “5 Steps to Prove Eligibility for FERS Disability Retirement.”

We outlined the 5 basic steps: Eligibility, Disability, Continuity, Reassignment, and Appeal.

This post will discuss the second step: Disability.

If you were asked to define disability, you might say that it is a medical condition that prevents a person from doing something other people do with relative ease. That’s a good starting point. Problem is that the law, in its infinite wisdom, has dozens of different legal definitions of “disability”. The definition of disability for the purpose of FERS/ CSRS disability retirement is no exception.

A disability, in the context of FERS/ CSRS disability retirement, exists when a disease or injury results in a service deficiency of sufficient degree to preclude useful and efficient service. Let’s break that down.

Disease or injury: Most long-term medical conditions will meet the element of “disease or injury”. It doesn’t matter whether your disease/injury occurred on or off the job. It doesn’t matter if it is a physical injury or disease. It doesn’t matter if it’s a mental injury, condition or disease. The primary focus of OPM, and possibly the MSPB, will be whether or not there is a reasonable expectation that you will recover within one year of the onset of the condition, disease or injury. Finally, if you refuse “normal” medical treatment (unless such treatment is inconsistent with you religious beliefs), OPM and the MSPB will likely deny any application for disability retirement. What is “normal medical treatment” could well fill volumes.

Deficiency that precludes Useful and Efficient Service: This is the easiest part of the “Disability” test to understand, but the hardest to actually prove. Useful and efficient service is acceptable performance of the critical or essential functions of the job, satisfactory conduct, or satisfactory attendance. If your disease or injury prevents you from doing one (or more, preferably) of these things, it is likely that your service would not be “useful or efficient”. In fact, your service will most likely not be “useful and efficient” if you could get demoted, denied a within-grade increase, or suspended/removed for conduct, attendance or performance that is degraded by the disease or injury.

Do you actually have to have a suspension, removal, or demotion to prove your service is not useful or efficient? No – if your performance, conduct or attendance would continue at a level that one of those actions would result, however, you should be able to prove that your continued service is not useful or efficient.

No post on this website is legal advice, is meant to be legal advice, and certainly does not serve as a substitute for legal advice. Information is power, and we are providing this information to give you, the federal employee, with some power. This information is not widely or easily accessible to Federal Employees.

The Law Office of Eric Pines represents Federal employees under FERS or CSRS in their applications for disability retirement to OPM. If an application for disability retirement is denied, the Firm represents Federal employees under both FERS and CSRS in their MSPB appeals of denials of disability retirement applications by OPM.

It is best to consult with a lawyer familiar with Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) appeals to discuss the facts and law of your particular case. If you have questions about disability retirement under FERS or CSRS, or OPM’s denial of your applications for disability retirement benefits under FERS or CSRS, contact an MSPB attorney at the Law Office of Eric Pines to schedule a telephone consultation.