Work-Related Stress as the Basis for Federal Employee Disability Retirement

If you suffer from work-related stress and are a federal employee or USPS worker, you can file for disability retirement, assuming you have met all of the federal disability retirement eligibility criteria laid out by OPM (Office of Personnel Management) and the MSPB (Merit Systems Protection Board).

The MSPB has often concluded that workplace or job-related stress that results in the diagnosis of a physical or mental condition and keeps a postal or federal employee from performing the required duties of their position can lead to a grant of federal disability retirement benefits from OPM.

The cause of a medical condition is not relevant to determine whether or not a postal employee or federal employee is eligible for federal disability retirement. In a 2001 case, the MSPB rejected an argument from the OPM that a federal employee was not eligible for disability retirement benefits because sexual harassment and working conditions, rather than duties, created the appellant’s disabling mental condition. The MSPB reasserted its position that the relevant consideration is whether the medical condition -- whatever its cause -- prevents the employee from rendering useful and efficient government service.

Here is what the federal employee or USPS employee must show to OPM and (possibly) the MSPB to prevail on a claim for disability retirement benefits due to work-related stress.

  • Objective medical clinical reports, diagnoses and findings that connect the claimed hostile work environment to a physical or psychological diagnosis.
  • Subjective evidence of pain and disability.
  • Any evidence, subjective or objective, that is related to the impact that the medical condition has on the federal employee or postal worker's ability to do the work expected of their position, at the grade or class last occupied, and
  • Evidence that your federal employer cannot or will not reassign you to a vacant position at the same grade or level that was last occupied.

If work-related stress is keeping you from performing the essential functions of your job, take a copy of your position description to your medical care provider, print out a copy of this article, and ask if your doctor would be willing to support your application for disability retirement. For more information on how to apply and win, read our article on applying for federal disability retirement.

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