A common mistake made by federal and postal employees when applying for a FERS or CSRS federal disability retirement annuity is to argue an employment dispute or vent about employment issues in their Applicant’s Statement of Disability. Arguments of discrimination, harassment, failure to accommodate, retaliation, etc. can be used by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and/or the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) as a basis to deny your disability application. Making an argument that if it were not for alleged acts of employment discrimination you would be able to work is not the same as, and is often not helpful to, proving that you are medically disabled to work.
It is fine to have a pending employment dispute such as an EEO claim simultaneous with a disability retirement application, but be careful to keep the arguments separate. I know it is easier said than done. EEO claims and other employment disputes can be very emotional. And to suffer disabling medical conditions on top of that can be exhausting and overwhelming. It is not easy to pursue both claims. It is important to keep these claims separate, particularly when completing your Applicant’s Statement of Disability. If an employee alleges discrimination, harassment or retaliation in his/her Statement, then the Supervisor and Agency will typically feel compelled to dispute that in completing their forms. The application will look to OPM like it is really an employment discrimination dispute, and OPM will deny your application for disability retirement.
It is always a plus to have representation by an experienced attorney when applying for disability benefits. It is particularly important where you can be overwhelmed by the sometimes contradictory two front battle against discrimination and for disability retirement.
Elliott Andalman, Esq.: firstname.lastname@example.org