• Lynette A. Whitfield

Removal for Medical Inability: Disability Retirement & The Bruner Presumption

Updated: Jul 8, 2018

A federal employee's medical condition can sometimes cause issues in performance, attendance, and eventually result in an employee's termination. Although this can be quite traumatic experience for the employee, there is a legal advantage to being removed due to medical reasons. Normally, when a federal employee applies for disability retirement, the burden is on the employee to establish that he/she is entitled to receive these benefits.

In Bruner v. OPM, 996 F.2d 290 (Fed. Cir. 1993), the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals held that where an employee is terminated for medical inability to perform the duties of his/her position, there is a rebuttable presumption that the employee is entitled to disability retirement. The burden of proof then shifts to the Office of Personnel Management to produce evidence that the applicant is not disabled in terms of 5 CFR 831.502. This presumption of disability is referred to as the "Bruner presumption." The U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board has applied the Bruner presumption to cases involving both physical and mental health conditions. The MSPB has also applied the Bruner presumption in cases where an employee's medical condition renders him/her unavailable for duty.


In cases in which the Bruner presumption is applied, the employee is not guaranteed to be granted a disability retirement annuity. OPM can always rebut the Bruner presumption, and has done so with success in many cases. However, this shift in the burden of proof does work to the advantage of the employee, giving them the upper hand in establishing their eligibility for disability retirement .


If you are a federal government employee who would like assistance with your Disability Retirement application or appeal, please contact our office online or via telephone at (301) 869-8774 to schedule a consultation.


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