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MSPB rules to reinstate disability retirement benefits of Department of Justice employee

Federal workers who suffer a physical or mental injury related to their employment, may no longer be able to perform assigned work duties. In some cases, an individual's injury may be deemed temporary in nature and he or she may apply to receive workers' compensation through the Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. In other cases, an injury may be more permanent in nature and the government employer may be unable to provide sufficient accommodation to allow the individual to continue their employment. In these types of cases, a federal employee may qualify for disability retirement.

In cases where a federal employee is granted retirement based upon his or her disability, he or she can file to receive a disability retirement annuity. One recent appellate case that was filed with the U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, involved the termination of a federal employee who qualified for a disability retirement annuity.

At dispute was the Department of Justice's decision to terminate the employment of a disabled U.S. Air Force Reserve GS-7 Firefighter. According to the appeal, the employee was issued a disability status after he was diagnosed as suffering from post traumatic stress disorder. At that time, he informed the DOJ of his medical condition and the fact that he had been awarded a disability retirement annuity.

The DOJ subsequently requested that the employee provide additional information related to his medical condition. After receiving no response, the DOJ issued a second request and suspended the man’s employment for 14 days. Upon receiving no response from the employee, the DOJ took steps to terminate his employment. In response, the man appealed the DOJ's decision to the MSPB and also accused the DOJ of disability discrimination.

Upon appeal, an administrative judge dismissed the employee’s claim of disability discrimination. The judge did, however, reinstate the man's employment status thus preserving his disability retirement annuity. In the opinion, the judge cited that the DOJ "failed to show that it had authority to require the appellant to produce the documentation."

Source: emspb.gov, "Board Decisions," July 11, 2014

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