Last Updated on September 5, 2022 by Federal Disability Lawyer
I am often asked whether or not it is more difficult to get OPM Disability Retirement benefits based upon a psychiatric medical condition (e.g., PTSD, Major Depression, Anxiety, panic attacks, Bipolar Disorder, etc.). Does the Office of Personnel Management deny a Federal Disability Retirement application which is based solely upon a psychiatric condition? Should a FERS Disability Retirement application always include a physical condition? The short and simple answer is an unequivocal “No”.
Let me provide a slightly more expanded answer: (1) In my experience, psychiatric disabilities present no greater obstacles than physical disabilities. So long as we can prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the medical condition — physical or psychiatric — prevents one from performing the essential elements of one’s job, there really is no difference between the two. (2) Do not “add” a physical disability because you think that a psychiatric disability is “not enough”. This would be a foolish approach. Focus upon the primary medical conditions, whether physical or psychiatric, in proving your case. (3) Remember that OPM Disability Retirement often has other complex factors which come into play — accommodation issues; certain jobs are more easily shown to be “incompatible” with a psychiatric disability (for instance, Law Enforcement Personnel who have psychiatric disabilities obviously must have the mental acuity to perform the inherently dangerous aspects of the position); and remember that psychotropic medications, prescribed and necessary for daily functioning, often have side-effects which impact one’s ability to perform one’s job.
The point in all of this is that there really is no substantive difference between psychiatric disabilities and physical ones, anymore; the societal stigma of “psychiatric medical conditions” has largely disappeared, and the Office of Personnel Management — in my experience — treats both psychiatric disabilities and physical disabilities on an equal par.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire