Be Smart in Choosing Medical Treatment for Disability Retirement

Seeking appropriate medical care is an important part of the FERS Disability Retirement application process.

“When an employee is unable to render useful and efficient service because she fails or refuses to follow or accept normal treatment, her disability flows, not from the disease or injury itself, as the statute requires, but from her voluntary failure or refusal to take the available corrective or ameliorative action.” Baker v. Office of Personnel Management, 782 F.2d 993, 994 (Fed. Cir. 1986)

Know this: For those thinking about applying for FERS Disability Retirement, part of ensuring you have a good case is doing your due diligence in seeking appropriate medical care from licensed medical professionals and following their recommendations. 

Kimberley A. Craig v. Office of Personnel Management provides further elucidation to the limitations of this requirement on the applicant, and much clarity can be gained from reviewing the details of this case. 

The takeaways 

For federal employees with physical conditions: See your doctor on a regular basis (this is advised in any case to have updated evidence documenting the progression and severity of your disability) and if it is a condition with primarily pain symptoms, try painkillers or other proposed medication, any reasonable surgical treatment or physical therapy recommended by your physician. 

And don’t stop unless the treatment period runs out, proves to be ineffective, has adverse side effects, or you are advised to abort treatment by your doctor for any other reason. 

For federal employees with mental health disabilities, this generally means going for some form of consistent psychotherapy along with medicated treatment. An applicant with an Anxiety or Major Depressive Disorder can easily be denied in a case where he/she did not pursue any sort of talk therapy or medication, as this is perceived to be standard treatment. Seeing a psychiatrist is not mandated, if the primary care physician did not specifically recommend it and the applicant is undergoing psychotherapy with a licensed mental health practitioner or therapist.

One additional point to allay your concerns: OPM should not deny an otherwise qualified applicant due to being unable to pursue more expensive treatment for financial constraints.

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 or visit the FERS Specialists website.