Firefighter disability


Q. I was a career wildland firefighter for the federal government from 1996-2011. In May, I suffered a back injury off the job and can no longer fight fires anymore. My supervisor is telling me I should apply for disability retirement as I can no longer perform the duties required of my position. Am I still able to get a partial FERS disability even when I got hurt off the job?

A. If you can no longer perform the duties of your job or another job for which you are qualified at the same pay or grade in your commuting area, you can apply for disability retirement. (There is no such thing as partial disability; you are either disabled or you aren’t.) Your agency personnel office will provide you with the application you need to fill out and also complete its portion of that application. Because you are a FERS employee, you will also have to apply for Social Security disability benefits.


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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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