Using Leave Can Support Your Disability Retirement

by | Jul 17, 2023

federal employees using sick and annual leave to retire early on Federal Disability Retirement

Did you know that sick and annual leave can help you retire early? That’s right! Federal employees have a lot of benefits that come with their jobs, and one of those benefits is sick and annual leave. Many federal employees don’t take advantage of these hours, however, and instead let them add up over the years. If you become disabled and are no longer able to complete all of the essential functions of your position, these hours can come in handy. In fact, using excessive leave hours from work can benefit you if you are planning on applying for Federal Disability Retirement!

Federal Employee Leave Accrual

The federal government provides significant benefits to their employees, one of them being hefty amounts of sick and annual leave.

Federal employees with less than 3 years of service earn 4 hours of annual leave for every pay period. Federal employees with more than 3 but less than 15 years of service earn around 6 hours and federal employees with more than 15 years of service earn 8 hours. Additionally, you can carry up to 30 vacation days into the next year.

Federal employees earn up to 4 hours of sick leave for every biweekly pay period, regardless of their length of service.

Federal employees often do not take advantage of their accrued leave as you can receive compensation for annual leave in the form of a lump sum paid out at retirement, and sick leave can be counted as creditable years of service. But if you are struggling in your job, you shouldn’t shy away from using up your leave, in fact, a break from work may be exactly what you need.

Running Out of Leave

If you were injured on the job or became disabled while working in your federal position, you may have already used up a lot of your leave. It can be stressful to watch your paid hours dwindle while struggling to return to work. But there are a few solutions and using a lot of leave may actually help you retire early!

Leave Without Pay or LWOP is available to federal employees who are unable to continue working. LWOP can be granted by your agency for 12 months, and in some instances more, for multiple reasons including disability. This additional time off work can provide you with additional hours to focus on your health.

Another option to take advantage of is the Family and Medical Leave Act or FMLA. FMLA could provide you with 12 weeks of job-protected leave for a serious medical condition that is preventing you from performing your job. You will be able to maintain your health and life insurance while on FMLA which could benefit the treatment of your medical condition.

If you have run out of leave options completely your next step should be requesting reasonable accommodations or reassignments to a position that you would be able to work in. An accommodation would be any adjustment to your job or work environment that would allow you to continue working at full capacity. This could look like an ergonomic chair, noise cancelling headphones, or even the ability to telework.

There are many disability benefits available to federal employees throughout their career and depending on your work history and type of disability, you may be eligible for even more benefits like VA Disability or a Schedule Award.

If You Have Exhausted All Your Options

If you have used up all your leave, are unable to be accommodated or reassigned, and are struggling with a medical condition, you may be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement. This is a benefit built into your FERS retirement that allows you to retire early while maintaining your retirement benefits– and using all your leave could help you qualify.

In order to qualify for Federal Disability Retirement, you must have a service deficiency in performance, attendance, or conduct. Using excessive leave or going on leave without pay can help showcase an attendance deficiency, essentially proving you are disabled.

It’s important to remain in communication with your agency while you are on leave and throughout the application process for Federal Disability Retirement as you will have to work with your agency on documentation and supportive evidence.

Sick and annual leave can be a great benefit of working in the federal government, and it’s important to take advantage of that benefit if needed. If you have used up your sick and annual leave, and are worried about your future, schedule a free consultation today to see if you qualify for Federal Disability Retirement!

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