There are six main criteria that OPM use in determining a federal employee's eligibility for FERS/CSRS disability retirement benefits. This guide should assist potential applicants in understanding the requirements.
The first requirement is that a potential applicant must have a certain minimum amount of creditable service. For FERS employees, this amount is 18 months. For CSRS employees, the minimum level is 5 years. Generally, service in which the employee's pay is subject to FERS/CSRS retirement deduction
The second requirement is that you have a diagnosed disability, and that disability has caused a deficiency in performance, conduct, and/or attendance. Generally, this deficiency is determined by your supervisor and noted on Standard Form 3112B, which is included in your application for FERS/CSRS disability retirement. Additionally, your doctor should discuss this deficiency in detail (e.g. if you have a performance deficiency, your doctor should discuss specific essential functions of your position that you are unable to perform as a direct result of your disabling medical condition).
The third requirement is that your disabling medical condition is expected to last for at least an additional 12 months from the time of filing. Your doctor should state this fact in his letter.
Accommodation and Reassignment
Your agency must not be able to accommodate your medical condition so that you can perform the essential functions of your position. Additionally, the agency must not be able to reassign you to a similar position to which you are qualified.
The fifth requirement is a timely application. The deadline to file your initial application for FERS/CSRS disability retirement is one year from your date of separation. If the deadline is coming up and you cannot complete your entire application beforehand, you can meet the one-year deadline by filing Standard Forms 3107 and 3112A, and by giving OPM the names and contact information of those individuals that will be supplying the remainder of your application (e.g. your doctor, ex-supervisor, etc)
Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)
The last requirement is that you apply for SSDI. You do not have to be approved for SSDI, but you must apply to receive disability retirement benefits from OPM.
The Bruner Presumption
The Bruner presumption can greatly strengthen a federal employee's application for disability retirement. This presumption stems from a Federal Circuit court case (Bruner v. OPM). The main takeaway is that If your agency removes you for a Medical Inability to Perform the essential functions of your position, your chances of getting approved for FERS/CSRS disability retirement is greatly increased. There is also case law that states that someone removed for AWOL may also be entitled to this presumption if their AWOL was due to their disability.
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