Q&A Session – Disability Retirement


Ask the Lawyer received the following question (paraphrased for easier reading and clarity) from a reader on a legal matter that might be of interest to the entire audience.


An employee has a medical condition that prevents him from doing his job which requires heavy lifting and a lot of walking. What are his options?


Under the Rehabilitation Act, or the Americans With Disabilities Act as applied to federal employees, federal employers are obligated to provide a reasonable accommodation for an employee with a disability, if requested, so long as the accommodation does not pose an undue hardship on the employee.  To qualify for a reasonable accommodation, an employee must show that he has a physical/mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity, that the disability precludes the employee from meeting the established criteria of his position, and except for the disability the employee is qualified to fill the position.  With or without the reasonable accommodation, the employee must be able to perform the essential functions of the job. Depending on the nature of your job, and the doctor’s diagnosis of your illness, and whether you can perform the essential functions of the job, you may be eligible for a reasonable accommodation. 

If the Agency is unable to accommodate you for your disability, or reassign you to a vacant position at the same grade/pay level, then you may be eligible for disability retirement.  To be eligible for disability retirement, you must have completed at least 18 months of Federal service credible under FERS, have become disabled because of disease or injury, and the disability must be expected to last at least 1 year.  If you meet these requirements, you are eligible to apply for disability retirement within 1 year of your separation from service.

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About Author

Debra Roth

Debra L. Roth is a partner at the law firm Shaw Bransford & Roth, a federal employment law firm in Washington, D.C. She is general counsel to the Senior Executives Association and the Federal Managers Association, host of the “FEDtalk” program on Federal News Radio, and a regular contributor to Federal News Radio’s “Federal Drive” morning show. Email your legal questions to lawyer@federaltimes.com.

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