Among the other requirements for Federal Disability Retirement eligibility, one is your agency must certify it is unable to accommodate your disabling condition in your present position and it has considered you for any vacant position in the same agency, at the same grade/pay level, within the same commuting area, for which you are qualified for reassignment.
That is a loaded explanation, so for the sake of this post, we are just going to focus on the accommodation and reassignment parts.
So, what do these terms mean and how can they affect your federal disability retirement application?
Accommodation is an adjustment made to your job and/or work environment that enables you to still perform the essential elements of your job. Reasonable accommodation applies to both your current position and to any vacant position to which you may be reassigned. These accommodations can include:
- Modifying work site
- Adjusting work schedule (if it’s still to the terms in your job description)
- Restructuring your job (if the essential job functions stay the same)
- Acquiring or modifying equipment or devices
Your agency must exhaust all reasonable efforts to help accommodate you before you consider federal disability retirement. If your agency is successful in accommodation, you should not apply for FDR. Further, if you’ve already sent your application to OPM, you/your agency must notify OPM immediately.
Accommodation can still be tricky. Here are a few “accommodations” that OPM does not accept (for FDR purposes):
- Using up sick/annual leave to supplement a full-time schedule
- Taking away job duties
- Part-time work schedules, especially if your job description states you’re in a full-time position
Like accommodation, federal agencies must make every effort to retain an employee through reassignment. When you begin the process of FDR, your agency must review all vacant positions in the same grade/pay level, within the same commuting area to determine if you meet the minimum qualifications for a vacant position. The position must be a real one, not one your agency “made up”. You are deemed qualified for reassignment when you meet the minimum qualifications for a vacant position.
Refusal of Reassignment
If your agency locates one or more vacant, available positions at the same grade/pay level and within the same commuting area for which you are qualified for reassignment, and you refuse that assignment, OPM will not approve your application. Further, accepting a position at a lower pay/grade will have the same outcome at OPM.
However, you may decline an offer to a position at a lower pay/grade level, a position of lesser tenure or a position in another agency or commuting are without it affecting your eligibility for FDR.
Harris Federal Law Firm assists federal employees with their federal disability retirement applications. If you think you may qualify, don’t hesitate to call us 877-226-2723 or fill out this INQUIRY form. The consultation is always FREE.