Civil servants in New York and around the country who are unable to perform their duties due to a medical condition or injury may apply for civil service disability retirement benefits, but their employing agencies should be notified first. This is because those agencies must be given an opportunity to reassign disabled civil servants or make accommodations that would allow them to remain in their current positions. When accommodations or reassignment would not allow disabled civil servants to remain productive, they will be entitled to disability retirement benefits if they meet the program’s eligibility requirements.
Civil servants with medical conditions that will prevent them from working for a year or longer become eligible for disability retirement benefits after five years of service. A medical condition is considered a disability when it causes long absences or prevents a civil servant from performing their critical duties at an acceptable level. A medical condition is not considered a disability if the applicant could perform the critical duties of another suitable position. A reassignment is considered suitable if the new position is with the same agency, has the same pay level and is located within the same commuting area.
Civil servants must apply for civil service disability benefits while they are still employed or less than a year after leaving their employing agency. Disabled civil servants may be given more time to submit Application for Immediate Retirement and Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement forms if they were unable to submit the required paperwork due to incapacity. Employing agencies do not usually retain the personnel records of departed civil servants for longer than 31 days, so applications submitted after a month has passed should be sent directly to the OPM.
When the Office of Personnel Management processes disability retirement applications, it relies on documents provided by the employing agency and the applicant’s physician to determine whether or not a medical condition is a disability. This is why applications should be supported by strong evidence that shows the medical condition is expected to last for at least a year and prevents the applicant from preforming their critical duties.