Disability retirement


Q. If I’m offered a position at a lower grade, but the same pay through pay retention (same GS pay plan), would declining it forfeit my already filed disability retirement application? Also, position would be non-law enforcement versus my current law enforcement retirement plan, so I would be giving up my enhanced 20-year law enforcement officer annuity. According to what I’ve read, I’m not required to accept a lower grade position — even if they match the pay rate.

A. You are mistaken. Go to OPM’s chapter on disability retirement at www.opm.gov/retirement-services/publications-forms/csrsfers-handbook/c060.pdf. At Section 60A2.1-5E you’ll find the following statement:

If the agency locates one or more vacant positions at the same grade or pay level and in the same commuting area for which the employee is qualified for reassignment, but the employee refuses reassignment, the employee’s refusal terminates the agency’s obligation to identify any other vacant position as an alternative to disability retirement.

The agency should notify OPM of the employee’s refusal, provide any evidence the employee submitted in support of his or her refusal, and then proceed with whatever personnel action is appropriate, since OPM will not approve an application for benefits when any employee has refused a reassignment for which he or she is qualified.


About Author

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


  1. If he already has the 20 years as a LEO, and accepts the non-LEO position, wouldn’t his retirement be computed using the 1.7% for the 20 years as a LEO and 1 or 1.1% for the remaining years of service?

  2. Ron Griffith on

    As per the below referenced OPM documentation, I believe your GS-1811 position under the Special 6c/ enhanced 1.7% for 20 years retirement is referred to as your TENURE. This retirement system is your Expected Condition of Employment and any Job/ position offered to you outside of the Special 6c retirement plan would not qualify as a Reasonable Offer for OPM.

    As per the CSRS and FERS Handbook dated April, 1998 on Chapter 44; Section 44A1.1-2 Definitions (Cont.)

    Reasonable Offer must meet all of the below conditions:

    1. Must be in writing
    2. Employee must meet qualifications of the new position
    3. Offered position must be in the employee’s agency
    4. The offered position must meet the same TENURE. An appointment of tenure means the same expectations of continued employment; same service, same career type, same work schedule
    5. The offered position must not be lower than 2 grade/ pay levels

    A disability retirement for you would mean 60% of your high 3 for the first year, 40% each year after that until you reach 62, and then your Special 6c Retirement would be calculated. Your new retirement would include 1.7% for your first 20 years of Government service (including time as LEO/ 1811 and disability retirement time up to 20 years) then 1% for every year after that up to 62 years of age TIMES your high three. This calculation will also include all of the COLA over the years until your age of 62.

    You may continue working in the non-government sector making 80% of the pay you made when you went on Disability. Pay only means wages earned from a job and does not include rental income, your disability payments, or any other type of non-wage/ W-2 income). Working again for the Federal Government would cause problems.

    This is what I have deduced from hours of research under this special retirement system.

    El Gato

    • Brain Zuppetelli on

      You are correct. If the LEO was disqualified from his/her LEO 6C position due to medical disability, then he/she would no longer be eligible for another LEO 6C position with the same agency, in the same commuting area withe the same work schedule, etc.

      I was forced to accept my disability retirement as opposed to another LEO position. My medical disability disqualified me from meeting the “critical” elements of my position description (after 19.5 years) and requirement for 6C, thereby negating any possible offer of transfer to an equal position (ie. retirement system).

      • I have 24.5 years as a federal firefighter. I am currently on light duty attempting to reach my 25 year anniversary date to reach early retirement. Is it better to retire with a disability vs. or apply for regular retirement?

        • Ronald Griffith on

          Since applying for a Disability Retirement is a labor intensive (paper work, lawyer, doctor) and a very time consuming process, having six months to retirement seems to make your situation a moot point. I believe, for most people, there is no real financial advantage to taking a Disability Retirement. It is like comparing apples to oranges. It is a different path that has its own positives and negatives.

          • Most employees who apply for disability retirement don;t have the combination of age and service to leave on either a regular or discontinued service retirement. Therefore, disability retirement is their only option. Further, under FERS most disability retirees are better off financially than they would be if they were eligible to retire.

        • Ronald Griffith on

          Mister Jones our host and retirement expert is correct that “under FERS most disability retirees are better off financially than they would be if they were eligible to retire.” This is specifically for the PENSION portion of our three Legged stool FERS retirement.

          You specifically Brian, being a Federal Firefighter and under the 6c retirement system are eligible to retire at any age with 25 years on the job. You would lose your FERS Social Security supplement if you went out on a Disability Retirement instead of 6c retirement in 6 more months. For you specifically, you will get 39% under a normal 6c retirement system plus a Social Security supplement. This combined should be more a month than a Disability Retirement for the Pension portion of your FERS.

          However, this is not the case for everyone. And the difference between a normal retirement and a disability retirement depends on many things. One of the most important is just how disabled you are and if you are still able to work or not.

          The Cons of a Disability Retirement are:
          Possibly not being able to work
          No Social Security Supplement
          Loss of Wage income
          Loss of Wage Grade increases and promotions
          Loss of TSP deposits
          Possible loss of monthly income at 62 when retirement is recalculated

          The Pros of a Disability Retirement may be:
          An additional civilian career (up to 80% of former FED salary)
          Additional/ possible 401K
          A steady FERS Pension income
          FED Health Insurance plan

  3. I applied for FER’s Disability Retirement, and was Approved. Does that entitle me to receive severance pay?
    It was voluntary application, but my agency could not medically accommodate( medical inability) is what I believe they submitted on my behalf.

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