If you are employed by the federal government and become disabled, then you may be entitled to benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (“FERS”). Like most disability programs, a FERS applicant needs to provide both medical and vocational proof of disability.
Even if you establish that you have a serious medical condition that started while working for the federal government, which has lasted over a year, you still need to show that the medical condition caused a service deficiency and that the agency failed to make a reasonable accommodation. The agency is not always helpful, and in fact, may affirmatively attempt to prevent a claimant from obtaining benefits.
I received a decision today from the Office of Personnel Management (“OPM”) that reversed its initial decision to deny my client’s application for disability retirement benefits. That decision reveals the importance of establishing the vocational proof in a FERS claim.
After submitting overwhelming clinical, diagnostic and opinion medical evidence from several treating sources, OPM conceded that the claimant satisfied the medical portion of his claim. However, according to OPM, the agency said that the claimant did not establish that it failed to accommodate the claimant’s medical condition. Under FERS, a claimant needs to show that any accommodation the agency offered was unreasonable. The agency claimed that it made reasonable attempts to accommodate the claimant by providing special on site training and opportunities for training outside agency.
I successfully argued that while the agency may have attempted to accommodate the claimant with additional training, the training that was offered was not reasonable. The constant supervision from the on site training increased the claimant’s anxiety; the agency denied the claimant’s request to train on his own; and the off site training was in another state, which was precluded because of the claimant’s agoraphobia. I also cited case law that held where an employee could not accept a position due to agoraphobia, it was impossible for employer to make a reasonable accommodation for employee.
When filing an application for retirement disability under FERS, it is essential that you provide the requisite medical and vocational evidence, which must show the causal nexus between the medical condition and the inability to work.Previous Next
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