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Federal Disability Retirement

What You Need to Know

You’ve put in your time and served your fellow Americans, possibly for decades. You’ve sacrificed time with your spouse, children and friends to perform your duties and take care of your fellow citizens. During the good times, you never considered filing for federal disability retirement.

Many unfortunate circumstances might have caused your health woes. Maybe an illness such as diabetes, cancer or Parkinson’s disease has laid you low. Possibly an auto accident crippled you, or you might have fallen victim to stress.

Whatever the circumstances, you’re now disabled. You can no longer perform the work that you previously had done to support your loved ones. What do you do now?

It doesn’t matter whether you became disabled on the job or off, because either way, you should…

File for Federal Disability Retirement

Before we get started, you need to know that you cannot get both disability retirement benefits from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) and regular workers’ compensation payments from the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OWCP). You must choose one or the other. The exception: You can receive both disability retirement and a workers’ comp scheduled award. Contact us to discuss the interplay between these two different federal programs.

Even if you’re receiving workers’ compensation, file for your disability retirement so you can obtain that money after your workers’ compensation runs out. To get the ball rolling, complete the SF 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, as well as the SF 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability.

You may find these standard forms at this OPM site.

If you file for benefits while on the job or within 31 days of leaving the federal service, submit your retirement application to your employing agency’s personnel office. On the other hand, if you request benefits after you’ve left federal employment for about a month, file directly with OPM at this address:

Office of Personnel Management

Federal Employees Retirement System

Retirement Operations Center

Boyers, PA 16017-0001

Your employing agency must complete the following forms and send them to OPM:

SF 3112B, Supervisor’s Statement

SF 3112D, Agency Certification of Reassignment Efforts

SF 3112E, Disability Retirement Application Checklist

SF 3100, your employment record.

Your Physician needs to submit the SF 3112C, Physician’s Statement.

The OPM must obtain all these documents within one year of your leaving federal employment.

After OPM receives your information, they will send you an acknowledgment letter with a claim number starting with CSA. You should include that number on all correspondence with that office.

You must prove a number of things to qualify for disability retirement, and you can find a detailed description of these qualifications in our article entitled, “What You Must Prove to Obtain Federal Disability Retirement.”

But for our purposes, this is what you need to do. You must file within a year of your leaving federal employment. In addition, you should demonstrate that you worked under FERS for 18 months, have an injury or disability that renders you unable to perform your job, and that your agency couldn’t accommodate your health problem. Once you’ve demonstrated these things, OPM should approve your disability retirement.

You may not receive your retirement check for awhile after OPM approves it, however, because first, your employing agency must send in the date it separated you and also give OPM your final retirement records.

In the meantime, the government sometimes provides interim disability retirement pay before it determines the final amount you will get. See our article entitled, “How Much Will I Receive for My Workers’ Compensation Claim?” for more information about that.

How Much Money Will You Receive?

You now may want to know the amount of money you will get should OPM approve your claim. That’s a complicated issue that we cover in our article entitled, “How Much Will I Receive for My Federal Workers’ Compensation Claim?”

Suffice it to say here that your annuity depends on many factors including your age when OPM approved your disability retirement, the number of years you worked under FERS and the average of your “highest-3” salaries.

After that, you’ll probably want to know how long you can receive retirement disability. The short answer is you can do so until you’re no longer disabled. However, it’s never that simple, so here’s the long version. Payment continues unless one of the following happens:

  • You’ve recovered from your disease or injury. The OPM will discontinue your annuity either one year after your physician has determined you’ve recovered or on the date the federal government reemploys you, whichever comes first.

  • If you’re under 60 years old, OPM may require periodic medical examinations to determine the extent of your disabilities, and you or your insurer must pay for them. Once you reach 60, OPM will reassess your medical condition only when you request it.

  • Your capacity to earn an income has been restored. That means you can keep your disability retirement only if you earn a maximum of 80% of the salary for the position you left.

  • The government reemploys you, or

  • You die, which, of course, should go without saying.

What If the OPM Denies My Claim

You’ve applied to OPM for a disability retirement, but they’ve rejected your petition.

Generally, when OPM decides the merits of your claim, they make an initial decision. If they deny your petition, you may then ask the agency for a reconsideration.

Your reconsideration request needs to comply with the following. It must,

  • Be in writing

  • Contain basic information such as your name, address, DOB and claim number

  • State the basis for your appeal

If the reconsideration goes against you, you may appeal to the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB). You can’t appeal their decision except in federal court.

If you want additional information about any of the topics this article covers, you may either consult the OPM disability handbook or this online brochure..

Although you might not find it difficult to file a federal disability claim, you should get it right the first time, so you might avoid the onerous appeals process.

If you’d like to learn about the head of our federal disability retirement department, you may find information about Stephanie Leet here.

In any case, we’re here to help. Simply call us at 855-233-3002 and we’ll give you a free, friendly, no obligation consultation.

Are you a federal employee who has been injured?

Fill out the form with details of your claim

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