Short-term disability


Q: I have a friend who works with the Veterans Affairs Department. Because of his illness (expected to last more than 6 months) he has been provided information regarding his eligibility for FEMA and unpaid sick leave without pay for three months by our Human Resources Department. Is he entitled to any type of disability, or workers’ compensation entitlements from his federal service? Or will he only be able to apply for SSI/SSDI? His illness was not incurred at work. Because of the seriousness of his illness, how long will his position be held for him? Is the VA required to offer him a light-duty position and still pay at his present rate?

A: The federal government doesn’t have a short-term disability provision for its employees, only a long-term one for those whose disability is expected to last for at least a year. While unable to work, he can use any sick or annual leave he has to his credit. Further, he can ask that his name be added to the agency’s list of people for whose benefit other employees can donate annual leave. While his agency should check to to see if there are any other positions for which he is qualified at the same grade or pay, it isn’t required to do so. As for how long his position would remain open, that’s something that only his agency can tell you.


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Reg Jones was head of retirement and insurance policy at the Office of Personnel Management. Email your retirement-related questions to

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