An individual may qualify for disability retirement if he or she is so disabled or injured that they cannot provide "useful and efficient service" at their current pay level. The disability can be physical or mental.
Also, if your disability is due to an accident, it doesn't matter whether it happened on the job or not. This is entirely different from the rules governing workers' compensation, where a condition must have arisen in the career for the employee to be eligible for compensation.
The term "useful and efficient service" implies that you must perform your position's essential responsibilities acceptably and satisfactorily. Typically, if you cannot meet those performance standards, conduct, and attendance, you may be demoted or fired from service. However, if your inability to meet those standards is due to illness or injury, you may be eligible for disability retirement. But to qualify for disability retirement, there are certain criteria you must meet.
First, you must have the specified years of creditable service, which is five years for CSRS employees and eighteen months for FERS employees. Secondly, the medical condition must have caused the deficiency in service and be expected to last for at least a year. Your agency also has to certify that it can't accommodate your condition for your current position or any other position within your grade and pay level.
Lastly, you must apply for disability retirement before you leave or within one year of that date. A guardian or any interested person can apply on your behalf if you cannot do it yourself.
As a CSRS employee, you will have to fill out the Standard Form 3112 -Documentation to Support Disability Retirement. You can download a copy of the form at www.opm.gov/forms or obtain it from the Personnel Office.
FERS employees have to fill the Standard Form 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, obtainable from the site or the Personnel Office. You also need to complete the Standard Form 3105A, Applicant's Statement of Disability, which is only available at the Personnel Office.
Additionally, since FERS employees are eligible for Social Security, you may need to file for Social Security disability. To do this, visit www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability and follow the instructions.
You'll need to provide acceptable medical evidence to support your claim for disability retirement, so you’ll need to get more information from your doctors. Your agency's medical professionals will examine the evidence in determining whether to approve your retirement.
If they certify the evidence you submitted, they will add their concurrence to your application, and it will be forwarded to OPM. If your agency medical professionals disagree with your evidence, you can still apply for disability retirement, but your application won't have the agency's support.
OPM will review both the medical evidence and the agency's testimony of your inability to continue providing useful and efficient service. If there's no testimony from the agency, OPM will ask the agency for clarification. Any evidence collected after you must have resigned but which is yet to be approved for retirement must be sent to OPM for consideration.
Suppose your disability retirement is approved, but your condition isn't permanent; you may be required to undergo a periodic medical evaluation to ascertain if you are still suffering from the condition. This requirement will continue until you reach age 60 unless the condition is said to be permanent.
Keep in mind that you'll have to elect a survivor benefit as part of your retirement application process. The rule is the same for CSRS and FERS employees, but the amount that can be elected differs.