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Situational Disability–Can it Approve Me for Federal Disability Retirement?

situational disabilityWhat is a ‘situational’ disability? Will I still be approved for Federal Disability Retirement if I have one?

In order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement, you must meet certain criteria. One of those being your disability must be keeping you from being efficient at your current essential job duties. So having a disability that is ‘situational’ sounds good then, right? In short, the answer is not necessarily. Let’s look at this in more depth.

First, let’s define what a situational disability is.

  • It is location-specific. This means the condition is attributed to a supervisor, co-worker, or work environment at that specific location.
  • Your medical or psychological condition only shows up in that specific work context.

**The condition is NOT a situational disability if it extends beyond your specific work situation.

Stress Claims

The most common type of situational disability cases that come across the desk of the Legal Administrative Specialists at OPM is what are considered to be “stress claims”. Stress is defined as “a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances”. It is considered to be causally connected to something, because of something else. There must be a causal factor. Furthermore, you must prove the work environment caused and aggravated your condition. That is not always easy. These are very hard cases to prove. Most of the time, these cases are situationally specific, so removing a person from that situation, causes the claim to no longer be valid.

One important thing to note is that if you are filing for a stress claim under Federal Disability Retirement because you have a documented psychological disorder, this could call into question whether it’s a stress claim or not. The reason for this is because OPM will want to know if your disorder arose from stress at work. And if so, would simply removing you from that environment alleviate your disorder? For example, you file a stress claim for anxiety and you say your work environment and supervisor have caused you so much stress that it’s causing you to be anxious at work and you’re unable to perform your duties. Does that anxiety translate into other areas of your life or does it strictly show up at work? If it strictly shows up at work, you may have an uphill battle to fight.


One of the biggest reasons stress claims are denied is that there is an extreme lack of supporting medical evidence. No matter the reason for you filing for disability retirement, you need to be sure you have complete and thorough medical evidence supporting your claim. However, this is especially important for these specific claims.

The team at Harris Federal Law Firm is here to help guide you through the process. We have been in helping federal workers for over a decade with their Federal Disability Retirement cases. If you, or someone you know, is suffering from a condition that is causing you to not perform your job duties, give us a call at 877-226-2723, or fill out this inquiry form. The consultation is always FREE.