Federal Disability Retirement Benefits Representation
If you are a Federal employee facing an illness or disability expected to last for more than 12 months, you may be entitled to Disability Retirement Benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS); a portion of your salary in the form of an annuity for life. This holds true whether or not you’ve been re-assigned to light-duty work, and regardless of whether the injury occurred on or off the job.
But applying to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for Federal disability benefits can be no small task, and it is critical that you are aware of all the benefits you qualify for, how to calculate those benefits correctly, how to prove your disability, what the filing deadlines are, and what your appeals rights are under Federal law if you’ve been initially declined.
Below we have provided some general information, as well as Questions and Answers, about the standards of legal eligibility for Federal disability retirement benefits. Please remember that the information provided is general in nature: we highly recommend talking with one of our Federal employment attorneys so you can get information specific to your case. Our lawyers have represented thousands of Federal employees from coast-to-coast for over 30 years, and our law firm is well-versed in all aspects of OPM procedures, FERS guidelines, and MSPB law.
Understanding the Standards of Legal Eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits
In order to prove eligibility for Federal disability retirement benefits, you generally must meet the below seven qualifications:
- You must be a civilian Federal employee.
- You must have completed no less than 18 months of Federal service in a position covered by FERS guidelines.
- You must be disabled as a result of either an injury or illness, and as a result no longer able to provide “useful and efficient service” in your current job title. More detailed information about proving your disability is provided below.
- Your disability must be expected to last no less than one year. This is referred to as Continuity. You must be able to prove that the disabling condition is expected to “Continue” for a year or more.
- Your employer must provide certification that they are not able to accommodate your medical condition in the job position to which you were assigned. If you are assigned to an alternative position, it must be within the same agency, at the same grade and pay level, and within the same commuting distance.
- You must apply before you leave your job or within one year from separation of service (a Waiver to this filing deadline may be applicable if the disability is related to a mental illness).
- If you are under the age of 62, you must also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits in order to apply for Federal Employees Retirement Service (FERS) Benefits.
If you meet the above guidelines, Federal disability retirement benefits may provide anywhere between 40% to 80% of your salary for the rest of your life. Additionally, there may be many other benefits to which you are entitled, such as Survivor Benefits, Federal health insurance benefits, being able to accrue additional years of service, and more.
Applying for FERS Disability Retirement with the OPM
Our Federal employment attorneys have helped thousands of Federal employees from coast-to-coast with the complex and sometimes technically overwhelming process of filing (and securing) disability retirement benefits. We encourage any Federal employee going through the process to consult with our attorneys in order to:
- Ensure that you meet all mandatory filing deadlines and are not denied due to a technicality.
- Gather all necessary claim information to establish evidence of your disability. Federal guidelines define a legal disability as a medical condition that causes a “service deficiency in performance, conduce, or attendance.” Evidence may take the form of medical findings, medical diagnoses or opinions, written statements by applicants of pain or disability if it is supported by medical evidence, and more.
- Fill out all necessary forms. Applying for Federal disability requires forms SF 3107 (Application for Immediate Retirement), SF 3112 (Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement), and may require additional forms depending on your unique situation (for instance, if you are under age 62, you must also submit documentation proving that you have applied for SSDI benefits).
- Ensure that your benefits have been calculated correctly. Benefits are often approved but calculated incorrectly!
- Ensure that you are aware of (and take advantage of) your appeals rights. We have filed Reconsideration requests with the OPM, appealed to the MSPB (Merit Systems Protection Board), Federal Appeals Courts, and have even aggressively represented Federal employees all the way to the US Supreme Court.
Common Questions & Answers About Federal (FERS) Disability Retirement Benefits
Q. What if I wasn’t hurt on the job?
A. This is one of the most common misconceptions we hear concerning Federal disability retirement benefits. The simple answer is that you do not need to be injured on the job in order to qualify for Federal disability retirement benefits. Note that if you were injured on the job you may also qualify for Federal workers compensation benefits, however it does not matter if you were injured on or off the job when it comes to FERS disability retirement.
Q. What if I withdraw my application for SSDI benefits? Does that affect my application for FERS Disability Retirement?
A. Be careful about this! If you withdraw your SSDI application, the Social Security Administration will notify the OPM. Upon notification the OPM will dismiss your FERS application.
Q. If I am receiving Federal disability benefits under the FERS, can I still get a private job to help supplement my income?
A. Yes, you may work in the private sector to supplement your benefits.
Q. Can I apply for FERS disability benefits if my medical condition began before I started working for the Federal Government?
A. Yes. Even if your illness existed before you began your job with the Federal Government, if you were able to perform your job successfully for at least 18 months in a position covered by FERS then you meet the qualifications.
Q. What can I do if my application was rejected?
A. Our employment attorneys come across countless claims which have been initially denied for a wide variety of reasons. First, you have the right to file a Reconsideration Appeal to the OPM. Additionally, we can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), Federal Appeals Courts, and even the US Supreme Court. Please note that there are strict deadlines for appeals!
Q. Can your firm handle my appeal for Retirement Disability even if I filled out the original application on my own?
A. Yes. Although we certainly recommend you consult with us from the very beginning to avoid unnecessary denials of claims, we are able to take over your appeal at any stage in the process.
Q. After I was injured my employer reassigned me to light-duty work. Could I still be eligible for Federal disability retirement?
A. We see this as a very common occurrence. Oftentimes when a Federal employee is reassigned after an injury, they assume that since they are still working they do not qualify for retirement benefits. This is not necessarily the case. If you meet the qualifications for FERS disability benefits as outlined above, the fact that you can perform a different job function such as light-duty work does not disqualify you.
What’s The Next Step?
Give us a call at 888.594.0424 or fill out the form to your right. The law firm of Melville Johnson is one of the top Federal employment practice firms in the country, and we are here to help you at every stage of the process. For over 30 years we have assisted thousands of Federal employees across the country with FERS disability applications, appeals for Reconsideration, appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and more. Our experienced lawyers take on the burden of aggressively pursuing Federal disability benefits on your behalf, analyzing the benefits you qualify for and the amount for which you qualify. The Office Of Personnel Management (OPM) carefully reviews all applications for disability retirement cases: let us help you get all the benefits you deserve.