How do you qualify for federal disability retirement?

If you have become disabled, you may be eligible for FERS disability retirement. Here is how you qualify for federal disability retirement.

3 min read

Federal employees have access to various benefits under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). Apart from providing retirement benefits to retired federal workers, FERS also provides federal disability retirement to disabled or injured workers, if the condition prevents them from being useful or efficient in performing duties in their current position.

You qualify for federal disability retirement if you have completed a minimum of 18 months of creditable service in the federal civilian service. Additionally, you must have become disabled due to an injury or medical condition that prevents you from being useful in your current position. The disability should be expected to last for at least 12 months.

Who is eligible for Federal Disability Retirement?

You may be eligible for the federal disability retirement if you have completed a minimum of 18 months in FERS or a minimum of 5 years in the Civil Service Retirement Service

You must have become disabled or sustained a dilapidating injury that prevents you from providing useful service in your current position. The disability should be expected to last at least 12 months. The agency you work for must confirm that it is unable to accommodate your disability at your current position or other vacant position at the same pay level.

The disability must not necessarily be work-related; you could have sustained an injury outside your job, but the injury prevents you from doing your job efficiently. Also, the condition could have been present before you started working in your position but worsened during your employment with the agency you work for.

You must apply for FERS disability retirement before your separation from federal service, or at least one year after separation from federal service. If you are eligible for social security, you should also apply for Social Security disability benefits.

Medical conditions that qualify for Federal Disability Retirement

If you have a physical or mental health condition that prevents you from providing useful and efficient service at your current position, you may qualify for federal disability benefit.

Medical conditions that may qualify for federal disability benefits include:

Car accident injuries

Heart attack

Traumatic injuries

Degenerative diseases

Bipolar diseases


Physical tear

Carpal tunnel Syndrome

As long as a medical condition interferes with your ability to perform duties in your position, you could qualify for disability benefits. The condition could have emerged on the job or an existing condition that worsened while on the job.

If the employing agency can accommodate your medical condition, you can continue working in your current position. Some reasonable accommodations that an employer can make include providing leave, providing ergonomic equipment, allowing telework, restructuring your job, or reassigning you to a vacant position in the same grade and pay level. If you are able to continue working after the disability, you won't be eligible for federal disability benefits. 

How to apply for federal disability retirement

When applying for federal disability retirement, you should provide your employing agency with documentation to prove your medical condition. If the agency is unable to retain you in your position or other vacant position in the same grade and pay level, you should apply for federal disability.

If you have less than 31 days since leaving your job, your agency can help you fill and deliver the paperwork to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). However, if more than 31 days have elapsed after separating from your job, you will need to fill and forward the paperwork to the OPM.

You will need the following forms when applying for federal disability retirement:

  • Form 3107- Application for immediate retirement
  • Form 3113- Documentation in support of disability retirement

You will also be responsible for providing supporting documentation that OPM will require to process your federal disability retirement. Some of the required documentation may include physician records showing your hospital visits for a disability.

If you are below age 62, you will be required to provide documents that show you have applied for Social Security disability benefits.

What happens if your application is denied?

When you send your application for federal disability retirement, OPM will consider all the evidence provided to decide if the claim is allowable. If OPM denies your application, you can file an appeal for reconsideration within 30 days of the OPM denial letter, not the date of receiving the letter.

You should provide additional information or new evidence in response to the OPM's initial decision along with your reconsideration form. If you are unable to provide new documentation within the 30-day deadline, you can request an extension to provide more documentation. When you file an appeal, OPM will assign a new medical specialist to review your medical records.

The appeal process can take 4 to 6 months depending on the workload that OPM has. If your appeal is accepted, you will start receiving disability payments. However, if the appeal is rejected, you can lodge an appeal with the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). If the appeal is rejected and you still believe you have a valid case, you can file an appeal with the US Court of Appeal for the Federal Circuit.

Can you lose Federal Disability Benefits?

Once you start receiving disability benefits, OPM will require you to provide routine updates to verify your disability status. You may be required to undergo medical exams at your cost, and if you fail to complete a test as requested, the benefits could be suspended. If evidence shows you have recovered from your disabling condition, OPM will stop the payments. Also, if your total income from other sources equals or exceeds 80% of the base pay rate of your current position, you will lose your benefits.