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Q&A: OPM disability benefits

Federal employees who are suffering from a disability often have questions about seeking disability benefits. This Q&A answers some of those questions:

What Is OPM?

The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the federal agency that determines whether someone gets disability retirement benefits.

Federal employees may be eligible for disability benefits through the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) or the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).

Who Can Apply For Disability Benefits?

There are certain criteria that must be met to qualify for disability retirement benefits:

  • The employee must have held a federal position for at least 18 months
  • The disability must be expected to last for a period of one year or longer
  • The disability must prevent the employee from performing essential job duties
  • There must be no other positions that the employee can work at within the business

Are Mental Illness Covered?

Yes. Individuals who suffer from PTSD, depression, anxiety disorders, and other mental impairments may seek disability benefits.

Whether the issue is job-related or has been aggravated due to recent life events, the employee should feel comfortable seeking help.

My Employer Is Treating Me Unfairly Because Of My Disability... What Should I Do?

Any federal employee who is suffering from a physical or mental impairment and meets the above criteria should feel empowered seeking answers and help. Some employers may unfairly and indirectly pressure employees to quit because they don't want to deal with legal and administrative complexities.

Remember: It is illegal for a federal employer to discriminate or retaliate against an employee based on disability status.

What If My Claim Is Denied?

Federal employees whose claims have been denied can seek an appeal. It is advisable to work with an attorney who understands the OPM disability process.

Can I Do This Alone?

The process for applying for OPM disability benefits or appealing a denied claim is complex. Making a mistake during the application or appeals process can set you up for future failure.

Federal employees should consider working with an attorney who focuses exclusively on federal employment law matters. This helps ensure that the process is done correctly and all procedural steps are taken correctly.

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