The Bruner Presumption: What Federal Employees Need to Know

by | Jul 5, 2023

federal employees need to know about the bruner presumption

If you are a federal employee struggling with a disability, you need to know about the Bruner Presumption.

So, what is the Bruner Presumption?

If you are separated from your agency due to a medical inability to complete your job, and you want to apply for Federal Disability Retirement, the Office of Personnel Management must prove that you are NOT disabled. The Bruner Presumption switches the burden of proof from you to the OPM since you were separated due to a medical inability to perform your job.

History of the Bruner Presumption

The Bruner presumption was established in 1993 when Larry Bruner successfully appealed the decision of the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). Larry Bruner applied for Federal Disability Retirement due to his ongoing back pain at the VA. However, during the application process, Bruner was terminated due to his inability to perform his job. Larry Bruner’s application for Federal Disability Retirement was denied by the OPM and he had to appeal his case to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

The board placed upon Bruner the burden of proving that he is disabled. But Larry Bruner asserted that the burden of proof should have been upon the government, because a government agency had terminated his employment because of disability.

Essentially, this means that if you are applying for Federal Disability Retirement, and your agency separates you because you can no longer medically perform your job, then the OPM must now prove that you are NOT disabled, which significantly strengthens your case.

How to Enact the Bruner Presumption

The Bruner Presumption will automatically be enacted if you are separated due to a medical inability to perform your job. While it is illegal to discriminate against an employee for a disability, the inability to perform your job due to a disability may be grounds for termination. It is important to note that the Bruner Presumption only applies if you are separated due to a disability-related reason. If you are separated for a reason that is not related to your medical inability, such as poor performance or misconduct, then the presumption usually cannot be enacted.

How the Bruner Presumption Can Help You

The Bruner Presumption does not mean an automatic acceptance for Federal Disability Retirement. The Bruner Presumption works with the evidence you currently have to further support your disability and makes a strong case that is often hard to deny.

The OPM can still deny an applicant who has obtained the Bruner Presumption if they do not have sufficient evidence to support their case or if there is evidence that contradicts your disability retirement application (for example: updated medical documentation showing you have recovered). It’s still important to work with your agency and your doctor to compile the MOST supportive evidence for your case. You will need a diagnosis stating your disability is expected to last at least one year, medical and work restrictions, and a service deficiency directly caused by your medical condition.

Don’t Fight the OPM Alone

An experienced attorney can help you prepare a strong Federal Disability Retirement application and can be the difference between an approval and a denial. With the right legal support to back up your claim, we can strengthen your case and help you maximize your retirement.

We have helped over 8,000 federal employees apply for this benefit and we have seen many cases where the Bruner Presumption was successfully enacted and changed the life of a federal employee. We know exactly what the OPM and MSPB are looking for and we are ready to take on your case. Give our office a call at 877-226-2723 to schedule a free consultation and see how we can help you.

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