Definitions for Common Terms Regarding Federal Disability Retirement

Jul 31, 2018


Federal Disability Retirement can be a long and overwhelming process. There are many terms you may encounter that leave you confused and looking for a dictionary. This article will break down the definitions of common Federal Disability Retirement terms, to help simplify this process a little.

Federal disability retirement has strict eligibility requirements you must meet to be qualified for the benefit:

  • You must have 18 months of federal civilian service creditable under the Federal Employees Retirement System.
  • While employed in a position subject to the retirement system, you must have become disabled due to disease or injury, for useful and efficient service in your current position.
  • Your disability must be expected to last at least one year.
  • Your agency must certify it’s unable to accommodate your disabling medical condition 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 from service or within one year thereafter.
  • You must apply for Social Security Disability benefits.

A couple of these requirements are straightforward and really require no further explanation. However, some aren’t as easily understood. So, let’s look at some of these terms or phrases and clarify what they mean.

Useful and Efficient Service

This means either acceptable performance of the critical or essential elements of the position, or the ability to perform at that level and have satisfactory conduct and attendance.

Vacant Position

A vacant position is one of the same tenure (career or temporary, depending on what you’re in currently) in the same commuting area, which is not occupied and that is full-time. The position must have a work schedule of no less time than your current position. It must also be a real position, not one that your agency “made up”.

Same Grade and Pay Level

Regarding a vacant position within the same pay system as you currently occupy, the same grade and an equivalent amount of basic pay as defined in 5 U.S.C. 8331(3).

Regarding a vacant position in another pay system, a representative rate (as defined in 5 CFR 532.401) at least equal to the representative rate of your current position.

Commuting Area

This means the geographic area that usually constitutes one area for employment purposes. It includes any population center (or 2 or more neighboring ones) and the surrounding localities in which people live and can reasonably be expected to travel back and forth daily for usual employment. For disability retirement purposes, this is 50 miles.

Qualified for Reassignment

You must be able to meet the minimum requirements for the grade and series of the vacant position in question. For this purpose, under 5 U.S.C. 8337(a), an employee of the U.S. Postal Service is not considered qualified for reassignment if the reassignment is to a position in a different craft or is inconsistent with the terms of a collective bargaining agreement covering the employee.

If you think you may qualify for federal disability retirement, please give us a call at 877-226-2723 or fill out this INQUIRY form. We would love the chance to speak with you. The consultation is always FREE.

Message us & find out if you qualify today!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Recent Articles

6 Key Reasons Why Your Disability Retirement Application Was Denied

Have you recently applied for Federal Disability Retirement, only to receive a denial? The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is denying more initial applications than ever. However, it's important to understand that a denial does not mean the end of the road for...

Federal Employee Resources

Our ever growing library of federal employee resources give you the knowledge you need to make smart choices about your future.


Frequently Asked Questions

Get the answers you need on-demand, from a team of federal employee benefits professionals.

View FAQ

Federal Benefit Webinars

Twice per month we host webinars to help federal employees better understand their benefits and answer their questions LIVE.

See Webinar Schedule

Benefit Guides

From guides to detailed charts, these educational resources will help clarify confusing federal employee benefits topics.

See our resources