| Read Time: 3 minutes | FERS Disability

What Diseases and Injuries Are Considered Disabilities?

If you find yourself on this web page right now, you probably already know a bit about the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Under the FERS retirement disability program, workers who find themselves injured or otherwise disabled receive employment security benefits if they are unable to work due to their condition. Sometimes the benefits are temporary, but sometimes they are permanent. Furthermore, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability.  Some of the most common disability-related questions we get from our clients at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing have to do with what the FERS and ADA consider a disability. Those questions include things like: Is cancer considered a disability under FERS? Is cancer a disability under the ADA? Where can I find a full list of covered disabilities and injuries? If you have any of these or other related questions, you’re in the right place. We put together this page specifically to help you assess whether your injury qualifies you for disability benefits. What’s Considered a Disability? There are quite a few different medical conditions that FERS considers disabilities. In fact, there are too many to cover here. You can, however, find an exemplary list that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses in its entirety right here. While FERS doesn’t use the exact same list, the two are very similar. After all, they both come from the federal government and serve near-identical functions. In all, the SSA’s list contains 14 categories of impairments:  Musculoskeletal disorders, Special senses and speech disorders, Respiratory disorders, Cardiovascular diseases, Digestive system disorders, Genitourinary disorders, Hematological disorders, Skin disorders, Endocrine disorders, Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems, Neurological disorders, Mental disorders, Cancer, and Immune system disorders. This list encompasses a very broad range of different medical conditions and disabilities. At the end of the day, the most important element in qualifying for disability is demonstrating your inability to function at work as you would without the disorder. Notes on Some of the More Common Disorders in the List Injuries to hands, feet, and other extremities can qualify you for disability benefits if you are unable to work. For example, it’s possible you can get disability for plantar fasciitis, arthritis, or tendon damage. It all depends on the circumstances of the injury and your job duties.  If you injure yourself enough to warrant an amputation, chances are you qualify for disability. The federal government considers thumb amputation a disability. In fact, the federal government considers any finger amputation a disability. While losing a finger may not seem as extreme a disability as a terminal illness, losing a digit can significantly impede one’s ability to work. If you’re wondering whether cancer is a disability, the answer is a resounding yes. FERS, the SSA, and the federal government as a whole all consider cancer a disability, as does the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). In fact, you may have noticed that cancer warrants its own category in the SSA’s full list of medical conditions. Cancer itself, and many of the treatments associated with it, take a significant toll on patients’ bodies. As a result, working is often entirely out of the question for individuals with cancer. Excluding cancer in any form from the list of disabilities would be entirely inappropriate. Need Help with Your Disability Claim? More often than not, the most difficult part of getting disability benefits is proving that your condition is sufficient to render you unable to work in your position of record. The problem is that there is a subjective element in determining whether someone can work or not. The best thing you can do to ensure this process moves forward is with the help of a FERS disability attorney. They can help you gather evidence that proves your disability’s impact on your life. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing, federal disability benefits are one of our primary focus areas. You have rights, so let us help you fight to protect them. Have a look at some of our client testimonials, then let’s get started with a free consultation.

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | Federal Disability

How Federal Disability Works in 2021

One of the biggest perks of being a federal employee is having access to the government’s comprehensive benefits package. Currently, most federal employees receive benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Although there are resources explaining FERS and how it works, they aren’t always as helpful as they could be. We frequently get questions from federal employees asking how to balance their medical and financial needs, and many times these employees have never heard of benefits such as disability retirement. If you are wondering how federal disability works, this blog post hopefully demystifies federal disability to help you best understand your options. If you have questions or would like to speak with a federal disability attorney, contact The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing by using our online form are call us at (833) 833-3529. What Is FERS? FERS stands for Federal Employees Retirement System. This program is the modern disability program offered by the federal government. If you started your service earlier than 1987, your disability benefits will come from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) instead. Most of these provisions for disability retirement are substantially the same under CSRS, so if you are a CSRS employee you can qualify for disability retirement as well.  When Am I Eligible for FERS Disability? Eligibility starts with your length of creditable service with the government. For employees covered under FERS, you must have at least 18 months of creditable federal civilian service to qualify. Note that federal employees covered under CSRS need five years of service to qualify. In addition:  Your disability must prevent you from “useful and efficient service” in your current position (in other words, you have a deficiency in your performance, attendance, and/or conduct); The expected length of the disability must be one year or greater; Your agency must be unable to accommodate your disability, either in your position or through reassignment; You must apply for disability before your separation from service or within one year after; and You must submit an application for Social Security benefits. Whether your disability prevents you from useful and efficient service isn’t always obvious. For that reason, many federal employees seek advice from a federal disability lawyer. Does FERS Include Short-Term Disability? No, FERS does not include short-term disability. FERS does not cover disabilities expected to last less than one year. Other than sick leave, annual leave, and your agency’s leave bank (if available), there are no specific benefits for short-term disability. However, in many cases of a short-term disability, the employing agency may be required to provide reasonable accommodation. Reasonable accommodations may include leave, job restructuring, telework, ergonomic equipment, or another option which would allow the employee to perform the duties of his or her position.  FERS Disability and Social Security As explained above, eligibility for FERS disability is partially dependent on the employee applying for Social Security benefits. So how does federal disability work when it comes to this requirement? Fortunately, you don’t have to receive approval for Social Security benefits to receive FERS disability; you just have to apply. You can be approved for both SSDI and FERS disability simultaneously. In such a case, you would generally receive your full SSDI benefit while receiving a reduced disability annuity from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  Unfortunately, keeping track of all the eligibility requirements can be difficult, especially if you’ve never worked with federal disability benefits in the past. We’re here to help you understand the process and make it as stress-free as possible. Applying for FERS Disability As with other government benefits programs, applying for FERS disability starts with completing several forms. Generally, you must complete at least SF 3107 and SF 3112. Additionally, you will need to provide documentation that you applied for Social Security disability, and other supporting documents depending on your responses on the SF 3107 and SF 3112 forms. During this first part of the process, your supervisor will also have to provide some information about your agency, position, and accommodations made available to you (if any).  If you are still on agency roles and not separated, or are within 30 days of separation, you must apply through your agency. If you are more than 30 days separated, then you will apply directly to OPM. Once your application is submitted, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will review your eligibility before notifying you of its decision. What to Do If You Are Denied FERS Disability Benefits As a federal employee, you have a robust set of rights when it comes to your employment, including denial of benefits. In a case where OPM disallows your application for FERS disability, you have 30 days to file a reconsideration appeal with OPM. Note that on the reconsideration form, you may elect to submit additional information in support of your application. During this appeal, a reconsideration specialist will give your application a second review. If your reconsideration appeal is denied as well, your next option is an appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). An MSPB administrative judge will review OPM’s decision to determine whether you are eligible for FERS disability. If the administrative judge also denies your benefits, you can appeal to the MSPB board. After that, you will have exhausted your administrative remedies, giving you the right to take your case to the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit. Losing FERS Disability Benefits Generally, once you’ve been approved for FERS disability, you will keep your benefits as long as you remain disabled. However, OPM may require you to get periodic medical exams to continue receiving benefits. Accordingly, if you recover from your disability, your benefits will stop. There are two other main reasons why you may lose your federal disability: Your income from wages and self-employment equals at least 80% of your base pay from the position you retired from; or You obtained employment in Federal service at an equivalent position. Additionally, remember that your standard non-disability FERS retirement annuity will start when you reach age at 62....

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