Do I Have To Be Totally Disabled For Federal Disability Retirement?

by | Mar 4, 2013

Last Updated November 6, 2023
Disabled federal employee in need of federal disability retirement

Do I have to be totally disabled for federal disability retirement? Many federal employees struggle with this question. Some problems at work may stem from a medical condition, but most employees find it difficult to classify themselves as disabled. Many workers want to keep working and the idea of a being limited in their life scares them.

That is normal. That is also one of the most interesting and indeed, best, parts of the federal disability retirement benefit. In order to fully understand why, we need to unpack the major differences between total and occupational disability.

The Definition and Implications of Total Disability

Total disability means that someone is completely unable to perform any ‘gainful employment activity’. If you fall under this category, you are certainly eligible and should look into a consultation with a federal disability attorney (Like Harris Federal Law Firm!). If you are unable to work for the rest of your life due to a disability, you would be considered to have a totally disability. Common causes of totally disability include severe injuries, catastrophic illnesses, or chronic conditions.

You would also be eligible for Social Security Disability. This is designed for all Americans that have paid into the Social Security system and can no longer perform any work. But this is a very strict requirement, much more so than the Federal Disability Retirement requirement.

Occupational Disability: A Middle Ground

This brings us to the next type of disability: Occupational.

Occupational disability simply means that you are not able to complete the work required by that occupation. This is where many federal employees struggle. Many cannot fully complete their job’s requirements or meet fitness for duty standards, but know that they are not totally disabled.

Comparing Federal Disability Retirement and Social Security Disability

Federal Disability Retirement is designed specifically for that type of person. If you are less than fully successful at any aspect of your employment, you may qualify. This immediately makes you eligible to continue your working career in the private sector. You must choose a job that fits within the medical restrictions your injury imposes, but you are allowed to work.

Being able to continue to work is what separates Federal Disability Retirement from a Social Security Disability or other total disability benefit. You can get the benefits from the pension you’ve been paying into, while continuing to work. If you have complete disability, it works there as well. You can receive both Federal Disability Retirement and Social Security Disability concurrently, albeit with an offset.

The Verdict: Do You Need to Be Totally Disabled?

To answer our initial question, you do not have to be totally disabled to receive federal disability retirement.

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