Expert's View

By the government’s definition, a short-term disability is a physical or mental condition that causes you to be unable to perform your job for any period of time that is less than one year. But it doesn’t offer its employees an insurance program to cover such situations. So, if you are unlucky enough to have a short-term disability, you’ll have to fall back on the benefits that do exist.

Paid leave


Employees earn both sick and annual leave every pay period. If you have a short-term disability, you can use the sick leave you’ve accumulated. If you run out of that, you can use any accumulated annual leave. Then if you run out of that, your supervisor may have the authority to advance you both sick and annual leave. If you are a full-time employee, the maximum amount of sick leave that can be advanced is 104 hours (lees if you are a part-timer). The maximum amount of annual leave that can be advanced is the amount you would be able to accrue to the end of the year.

Leave without pay

If you run out of sick and annual leave and your supervisor either has advanced you all the leave that he or she can (or doesn’t have the authority to grant you any), he or she may be able to grant you periods of LWOP. If agency policy allows it, your supervisor may even be able to do that if you haven’t yet exhausted your sick or annual leave.

Leave transfer program

Under current law, employees may donate annual leave to you to ease your financial hardship if you have to take extended leave without pay. If you receive such donations, every hour will be paid at your usual hourly rate of pay until the medical emergency ends or the donated leave runs out.

Workers’ Compensation

If your disability was due to a personal injury or disease incurred while you were performing your job, you may be eligible for worker’s compensation. Workers’ comp payments begin when you first experience a wage loss; in other words, when your leave runs out.


Disability Retirement

If your disability is expected to last a year or longer and you have at least 18 months of service under FERS, you could file for disability retirement. CSRS employees by definition already have the five years of service needed to qualify for disability retirement.

While these alternatives aren’t a match for a well-designed short-term disability program, it’s all there is.

Read more on how to calculate a disability retirement at