A successful federal disability pension application under FERS or CSRS must meet the 5 basic eligibility requirements. The 5 elements can be further divided into three main factors: (A) Basic time-sensitive requirements, (B) The adequacy of medical documentation, and (C) Impact on the federal position and the Agency. When preparing to apply for a federal disability pension under FERS or CSRS, it is important to organize the potential filing into clear and concise categories so that the final presentation for the Office of Personnel Management is compelling, understandable and irrefutable, to the extent that it meets the legal assessment standard: that of “Consideration of evidence”.
First, regarding basic time-sensitive requirements: A federal or postal worker expecting to apply for federal disability benefits must have either (A) 18 months of meritorious federal service completed if covered by federal employee retirement plans (FERS), or, at least 5 years on meritorious civil service as under the civil service pension system (CSRS). This is a basic requirement that must be met.
Second, if a person meets the basic requirement As a federal or postal worker, the next question to be asked is whether the medical condition from which you suffer will last at least 1 year from the date of submission of the invalidity benefit application to the Office of Personal Management. Most treating physicians can, within reasonable medical probability, predict the duration of a medical condition, the symptoms, the impact on a person’s physical or cognitive abilities will last. The chronicity of the medical condition, based on clinical studies, the diagnosis and the experience of the treating physician, will lead to the physician’s opinion. It should be remembered that when preparing for a federal disability pension application, the potential applicant does not have to wait a year for the medical condition to pass; what is needed sooner is the attending physician’s opinion that the medical condition is expected to last at least a year.
Third, the medical condition must occur while working in a position subject to FERS or CSRS, resulting in a deficiency in performance, behavior or presence or, if no such deficiency exists, the disabling medical condition must be “incompatible” with either useful and efficient service or retention in the job. There are, of course, multiple “sub-requirements” in the overarching requirement, as mentioned. For the federal or postal worker who is considering applying for a federal disability benefit under FERS or CSRS, here are the important things to keep in mind: (A) once the federal or postal worker has a minimum of 18 months of creditworthy federal service, to the minimum eligibility requirement is met. (B) If a medical condition occurs, it must have occurred while you are a federal or post employee (however, remember that even if you are terminated, you can still claim federal disability benefit under FERS or CSRS) until one (1) year after termination or divorce from Federal Service). (C) The medical condition must last at least one (1) year. (D) The medical condition from which you suffer (psychiatric or physical) must prevent you from performing one or more of the essential elements of your work. For this element, you don’t have to complicate what it means. In effect, it means that the federal or postal worker applying for a federal disability benefit must be able to demonstrate that the medical condition somehow affects a person’s ability to perform his job. The term “incompatible” is more of a collective phrase that allows for more flexibility. Remember that in the known case of Bruner v. Personnel Management Office, 996 F.2d 290, 293 (Fed. Cir. 1993), United States. There, the Court of Appeal reiterated the applicable standard for determining invalidity pensions and stated that one of the criteria was to demonstrate a “lack of service in terms of performance, conduct or presence, or in the absence of an actual shortage of service, evidence that the medical condition is incompatible with useful service or retention in the position.“This is where the flexible standard of proof comes from, and it’s useful to take that into account.
Fourth, the adjustment of the disabling medical condition to the job must be unreasonable – or in other words: the Office should not be able to deal with the medical condition. This is where many federal and postal workers get confused. The term “accommodation” has a legal, technical meaning. Being “accommodated” means that a person with a medical condition will be able to continue performing all essential elements of their work, with a reasonable accommodation provided by the Agency. If the proposed accommodation is too burdensome and therefore “unreasonable”, the federal or postal worker is eligible for federal disability benefits precisely because the Agency cannot provide such unreasonable accommodations. For explanation, take the following example: A letter carrier has bilateral knee complaints, with severe osteoarthritis and chronic pain. The essential elements of such a task include: standing for a long time wrapping mail and transporting and lifting mail volumes, as well as delivering mail. Now suppose the U.S. Postal Service buys the Letter Carrier a $ 5,000.00 Segway (one of those scooter-like devices that can travel about 12 miles per hour). Would this be an “accommodation” by law? Probably not – because while the essential element of mail delivery may have been accommodated, the long standing issue should still be an issue – as should be on the Segway. In addition, the question would be whether spending $ 5,000.00 would be “reasonable”. Another example: Take an IT specialist or an auditor for a federal agency who suffers from major depression and anxiety. The Agency allows the federal worker to take sick leave, annual leave, and even LWOP to allow “free time.” Do these promotions constitute “accommodation” by law? The answer is: No – because allowing federal employees’ leave does not provide the essential elements of the job. In fact, it does the exact opposite – it only reinforces the obvious fact that the federal worker is unable to do many of the essential elements of the job, which is why so much “free time” is needed.
And fifth, that the federal or postal worker does not reject a reasonable offer to be relocated to a vacancy. The “vacant position” offered by an agency must have the same salary or rank. In a pragmatic sense, this is normally not a problem. Agencies rarely find another job that is considered compatible with the federal or postal worker who already has a medical condition. Often, the comparable job at the same pay or rank creates the same problems for the federal or post worker, precisely because it was the medical condition that initially left people unable to perform one or more of the essential elements.
The above are some of the basic elements of a federal disability pension application. While there are many other (and rather complex) issues that need to be addressed when preparing, formulating and drafting a Federal Disability Retirement application under FERS or CSRS, it is always best to start with the basics and then an effective delineation to make a compelling case – to submit it to the Office of Personnel Management.