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If you suffer from work-related stress, can you claim disability retirement from OPM?

The Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) has repeatedly held that job-related stress resulting in physical or mental ailments that prevent an employee from performing the duties required in a position can warrant the granting of disability retirement. In fact, the cause of a medical condition is not relevant in the determination of whether an employee is eligible for disability retirement. In a 2001 case, the MSPB rejected the notion that the appellant was ineligible for disability retirement because sexual harassment and working conditions, rather than duties, created the appellant’s disabling mental condition. Marucci v. Office of Personnel Management, 89 M.S.P.R. 442, ¶ 9 (2001). Instead, the MSPB has always considered the relevant issue whether the condition prevents the employee from rendering useful and efficient service in the employee’s government position.

Does that mean you have to win a discrimination/hostile work environment claim to be eligible for disability retirement? No.

What you need to produce to OPM, and possibly eventually to the MSPB, are a) objective clinical findings, diagnoses and medical opinions linking the hostile work environment to the physical or psychological condition; b) subjective evidence of pain and disability, c) evidence relating to the effect of your condition on your ability to perform in the grade or class of position last occupied, and d) evidence that you are not qualified for reassignment to a vacant position at the same grade or level that was last occupied. Objective medical evidence must be considered, but such evidence is not required to establish disability.

In short, OPM must consider all of your competent medical evidence, and an applicant may prevail based on medical evidence that consists of a medical professional’s conclusive diagnosis, even if based primarily on his/her analysis of the patient’s own descriptions of symptoms and other indicia of disability.

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.

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Eric L. Pines is a nationally recognized federal employment lawyer, mediator, and attorney business coach. He represents federal employees and acts as in-house counsel for over fifty thousand federal employees through his work as a federal employee labor union representative.

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