Eligibility Criteria for Social Security Disability and Federal Disability Retirement

by | May 9, 2018

Last Updated March 6, 2024

No one wants to think about the idea of becoming disabled and no longer being able to work. Hopefully this will not become a reality for you, however, it’s important to understand the eligibility criteria for both Social Security Disability and Federal Disability Retirement, because they differ dramatically.

Primarily, FDR is specifically for federal employees. SSD is available for those who qualify if they’ve paid into social security while working.

While one of the criteria for FDR is you must apply for SSD, that is about where the criteria similarities end. Let’s look at the 5-step process the Social Security Administration uses in determining your eligibility.

Are you working?

If you’re working and you earn, on average, more than a certain amount each month, the SSA won’t consider you disabled. This amount changes every year. On the other hand, if you aren’t working, or are earning less or equal to the current earning amount, the agency looks at your medical condition next.

Is your medical condition severe?

SSA’s standards of disability look to see if your medical condition significantly limits your ability to do basic work activities—lifting, standing, sitting, walking, and remembering—for at least 12 months. If your condition is severe, the SSA moves on to step 3.

Does your impairment meet or medically equal a listing?

The SSA’s list of impairments describes medical conditions the agency considers severe enough to prevent you from completing a substantial gainful activity, regardless of age, education, or work experience.

If your condition isn’t on the list, the agency looks to see if your condition is as severe as a condition on the list. If the severity meets or exceeds the severity of listed impairment, the SSA will determine you have a qualifying condition. Contrary, if the severity doesn’t meet or equal the level of listed impairment, the SSA moves on to step 4.

Can you perform the work you did before?

The SSA decides if the medical impairment prevents you from performing any past work. If it doesn’t, they decide you don’t have a qualifying disability. If it does, the agency moves on to step 5.

Can you do any other type of work?

If you can’t do the past work, the agency looks for other work you can do despite your impairment. Your age, education, past work experience, and skills you have get considered when determining if you can do other work. If you can’t do other work, you are considered disabled, and if you can, it’s decided you don’t have a qualifying disability.

All the following criteria are required for FDR eligibility:

  • You must have completed 18 months federal civilian service creditable under FERS.
  • You must have become disabled because of disease or injury, for useful and efficient service, in your current position.
  • Your disability must last at least one year.
  • Your agency must certify it’s unable to accommodate your disabling medical condition in your present position and it has considered you for any vacant position in the same agency at the same grade or pay level, within the same commuting area, for which you are qualified for reassignment.
  • You must apply before your separation of service, or with one year thereafter.
  • You must apply for SSD.

While there are similarities to some of the criteria, these programs are quite different. Harris Federal Law Firm has helped thousands of federal employees receive their federal disability retirement benefits. We would love the opportunity to talk with you. If you think you may be eligible for FDR, please call us at 877-226-2723 or fill out this INQUIRY form. The consultation is always FREE.

Message us & find out if you qualify today!

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