OPM Disability Retirement: Accommodations

Last Updated on June 8, 2009 by Federal Disability Lawyer

While I am often asked about the intersecting connection between the ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) and Disability Retirement laws under FERS & CSRS, and the issue of accommodations, my short answer is that the two areas of law rarely directly intersect. “Accommodation issues” under disability retirement law rarely present a problem in a practical sense. 

The term itself is rarely applied properly; the best way that I can describe what the term “accommodation” means, in its technical application, is by giving the classic example:  A secretary who suffers from a chronic back condition is unable to perform her secretarial duties because of the high level of distractability from her chronic pain.  The agency purchases an expensive, ergonomic chair, which relieves the chronic pain; she is able to perform the essential elements of her job.  She has thus been “accommodated”. Thus, the definition of “accommodation” is essentially where the Agency does X such that X allows for employee Y to continue to perform the essential elements of Y’s job.  Further, an accommodation cannot be a temporary or modified assignment; in fact, it is not an “assignment” at all — it is something which the Agency does for you such that you can continue to perform your job. 

Thus, as a practical matter, it is rare that an Agency will be able to accommodate an individual. Further, when it comes to psychiatric disabilities, it will be rarer still -especially when the essential elements of one’s job requires the cognitive capabilities which are precisely that which is impacted by the psychiatric medical conditions.  As such, the issue of accommodations is rarely a real issue, and further, people who are attempting to enforce the provisions of the ADA are not those who are truly seeking disability retirement, anyway.  It is the very opposite — they are trying to preserve their jobs, and to force the Agency to provide an “accommodation” under the law.


Robert R. McGill, Esquire

2 thoughts on “OPM Disability Retirement: Accommodations

  1. I have over 20 years of government service i work for the bureau of prison as a cook supervisor. i have 4 knee surgery two on both knee the right one was the worst. june 26, 2009 i have my right knee surgery and have not return to work yet. the docter have giving me a periment no proling standing or walking. the agency has not yet offer my a light duty posts yet. i am only 47 years old. the doctor said that i would have to have a complete knee replacement. any suggestions.

  2. I got hurt as a carrier in 1985. The post office switch me to a modified clerk position in 1987 or 1988. I have
    worked different modified clerk position for the last 22 years. I’ll have a total of 25 years service 9-29-2009. I
    qualify for the ver retirement pkg with the 15000 incen-
    tive. What is best for me the opm disability or the ver
    retirement pkg? I had a lot of leave without pay in the
    early years of my career. I have two owcp cases that have being closed for years, but I’m still working my
    modified job assignment.

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