Question of the Week: What is Reassignment and How Can It Affect Federal Disability Retirement?
A: Federal policy states agencies must make every effort to retain an employee through reassignment to other available positions. Since federal disability retirement is the last resort, reassignment is important to discuss.
When you begin the process of federal disability retirement, your employing agency must review all vacant positions in the same grade/pay level and the same commuting area to determine if you meet the minimum qualifications for any vacant position. An agency is not obligated to create a position and the position must be a real, vacant position.
For disability retirement purposes, you are deemed qualified for reassignment when you meet the minimum requirements for the vacant position. If considering qualifications for another position, your agency may consider requirements for mobility or travel that are precluded by your medical condition.
Time Limit on Search
OPM offers no minimum time for which you must be given special consideration for placement in a vacant position because a reasonable attempt to place you depends on your individual case. However, consideration for placement should continue at least until your agency receives OPM’s notification that the disability claim has been allowed.
If your agency is successful in reassigning you, your application for federal disability retirement and supporting documentation should be returned to you since there is no eligibility for it when reassignment is successful.
Refusal of Reassignment
Now the question becomes do you have to accept a reassignment. And will a refusal do to your eligibility for federal disability retirement?
The answer to “do you have to accept a reassignment?” is simply yes. If your agency locates one or more vacant, available positions at the same grade/pay level and in the same commuting area for which you are qualified for reassignment, and you refuse that reassignment, that terminates your agency’s obligation to identify any other vacant position as an alternative to federal disability retirement.
A couple other ways your application for federal disability retirement will be terminated from consideration by OPM is that you voluntarily accept a position at a lower grade/pay level or you are placed in a position at a lower grade/pay under adverse action before submitting your application to OPM.
Your agency must notify OPM of your refusal and provide evidence submitted in support of the refusal because OPM will not approve an application when you’ve refused reassignment for which you are qualified.
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 area without it affecting your eligibility for disability retirement.
If you are facing the possibility of federal disability retirement, please don’t hesitate to call us at 877-226-2723. Our firm has more than a decade of experience helping federal employees with their disability retirement applications. Our consultation is always FREE. You can also fill out this INQUIRY form.