FEDweek

Reinstating a Disability Annuity

A disability annuitant whose annuity is terminated because of an “earning capacity provision,” and whose earnings in any subsequent year fall below 80 percent of the current rate of pay for the retiree’s former position, may obtain reinstatement of benefits if the retiree has not been reemployed in a federal position and “has not recovered from the disability for which he was retired.” Likewise, regulations at 5 CFR 831.1211(a) provide that when a disability annuity stops, “the individual must again prove that he or she meets the eligibility requirements in order to have the annuity reinstated.”

In the case of a disability annuitant whose earning capacity has been restored but who thereafter loses his or her earning capacity, the regulation provides that benefits will be reinstated if the annuitant “has not recovered from the disability for which retired.” The regulations define “disability” to mean “inability, because of disease or injury, to render useful and efficient service in the employee’s current position, or in a vacant position in the same agency at the same grade or pay level for which the individual is qualified for reassignment.”

The statutory and regulatory requirement that the employee prove that he or she “has not recovered from the disability” for which retirement was granted means that the employee must prove not only the existence of a medical condition, but also that the medical condition is disabling in nature–that it prevents the employee from rendering efficient and useful service in the employee’s position or an equivalent position. The retiree is not entitled to resumption or retention of disability benefits simply by showing that his or her medical condition is similar, or even identical to, the condition that resulted in an initial determination of retirement eligibility. The retiree must also show that the medical condition is disabling.