FERS Disability Retirement: The Reassignment Piece

If you do not pursue a reasonable reassignment of your position, can you be declined for FERS disability retirement?

“You have not declined a reasonable offer of reassignment to a vacant position”. 

So states the last of the seven eligibility criteria that an applicant for FERS Disability Retirement must meet.

The key here is the word “declined”. Gooden v. Office of Personnel Management 471 F.3d 1275 (Fed. Cir. 2006) taught us that you cannot be found ineligible if you simply did not pursue reassignment.

If your Agency never offered you a reasonable reassignment to a vacant position, it logically follows that you did not decline any such offers, and you can rest assured that you meet this requirement. You are not required to prove that you would not have been medically able to perform the essential functions of any hypothetical position had your agency theoretically made a reassignment offer. 

You cannot either be disqualified from this eligibility criterion if you did indeed decline an offer of reassignment made by your agency, where the offer was for a position that had any one of the following features: 

  • The job is located outside of your commuting area
  • The job is of not the same tenure as your current position (career, temporary, competitive, excepted, etc.)
  • The job requires less hours than your current position
  • The job will net you less than an equivalent amount of basic pay in the same pay system, as defined in 5 U.S.C. 8331.(3) 
  • The job requires skills or knowledge for which you are unqualified

Disabled federal employees often suffer from a sense of vulnerability and frequently feel at the mercy of their Agency, leading them to accept unreasonable offers of reassignment that include such inequities as downgrades in pay for fear of being fired or left without an income. When they later become aware of the option to file for disability retirement, earlier decisions to accept unreasonable reassignment offers sometimes complicate the picture and may even disqualify them from these benefits. 

Knowing both the limitations and the scope of your rights will provide much leverage when trying to access your due benefits as a federal employee. 

Cyril Dubin works exclusively with federal employees to prepare their FERS Disability Retirement application. With her years of experience and fine-tuned process, she aims to make the experience smooth and stress-free. Reach out to Cyril at cyril@kaldisability.com or visit the FERS Specialists website.