Federal employees who become disabled face significant stress. From handling pain and multiple doctor appointments to worrying about finances and an uncertain future, a federal employee can be overwhelmed. The last thing that a disabled federal employee should have to deal with is filing complex paperwork to apply for federal disability retirement benefits.
At the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, our federal employee disability retirement lawyers take the worry out of applying for benefits. We help our disabled-federal-worker clients so that they can focus on their health and their families. Our hands-on approach keeps our clients informed throughout the entire process, from completing the initial paperwork to the appeal of a benefit denial. We are experienced in all aspects of Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) disability retirement benefits so that federal employees don’t have to be.
FERS Disability Retirement Requirements
To be eligible for the FERS disability program, federal employees must have worked in a covered position for at least 18 months. In addition, an employee must have become disabled while employed and the disability must be expected to last for at least one year. Importantly, however, a work-related injury or illness need not have caused the disability. Federal employees can apply for disability retirement benefits at any age.
What Disabilities Qualify for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits?
To qualify for federal disability retirement benefits, an employee must experience either a physical or mental disease or injury. The employee’s disability must prevent “useful and efficient service” in the employee’s current job with the federal government. Essentially, the federal employee must be unable to perform one or more essential job functions of their current position.
If the employing federal agency can accommodate the worker’s medical condition, the employee may continue to work in his or her current position. In that case, the employee will not be eligible for federal disability retirement. Alternatively, if the employing agency can transfer the disabled employee to a different job, known as the accommodation of last resort, the employee will not be entitled to disability retirement benefits. The new job should be at the same grade or pay level and in the same commuting area. In short, the employee may apply for federal disability retirement only if the employing agency is unable to accommodate the employee’s disability.
Five-Step FERS Disability Retirement Application Process
There are five essential steps that a federal employee needs to follow to apply for FERS disability retirement.
Step One: Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits
Why? Because when a federal employee applies for FERS disability retirement, the employee must indicate whether he or she has applied for Social Security disability benefits. Remember, you do not have to be approved for SSDI, but you must apply. The applicant also must attach a copy of the Social Security application receipt or award notice to the FERS disability retirement application. If a disabled employee receives Social Security disability payments, the amount of federal disability retirement payments under FERS will be reduced. Importantly, if the Social Security Administration denies disability benefits, federal employees still may be entitled to FERS disability retirement payments.
Step Two: Complete Standard Form 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement
Form 3107 is available from federal personnel offices or online at www.opm.gov/forms/standard forms. Federal employees must file their application for federal disability retirement benefits while still employed with the government or within one year of their separation date.
The Application for Immediate Retirement is several pages long and asks for detailed information, including:
- Identifying information,
- Description of federal service,
- Marital information,
- Type of annuity elected,
- Insurance information,
- Other claim information,
- Payment instructions,
- Applicant’s checklist,
- Military service and military retirement pay information,
- Workers’ compensation information, and
- Applicant’s certification that all statements are true.
Form 3107 also includes the Certified Summary of Federal Service, SF 3107-1. The employing agency completes this certification form to provide a history of the employee’s federal jobs, earnings, and FERS coverage. You can apply for FERS disability retirement before the agency completes this form. After the agency completes that certification, the employee must review and sign it, attesting that it is accurate. The agency also should complete the Agency Checklist of Immediate Retirement Procedures, which is part of Form 3107. In addition, depending on your responses to certain questions, supplemental documentation may be required, such as a marriage certificate, W-4 form, or a DD-214, for example.
For guidance on how to complete the application, disabled federal employees can review the instructions that accompany the Application for Immediate Retirement. They may also read an informational pamphlet SF 3113 titled Applying for Immediate Retirement Under the Federal Employees Retirement System.
Step Three: Complete Standard Form 3112, Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement Application
Disabled federal employees need to provide documents that support their FERS disability retirement application. Standard Form 3112 includes five main forms, some of which are completed by the applicant and others to be completed by their physicians or agency. In general, employees use these forms to document their medical condition to show that they are disabled and unable to perform their job duties.
The disabled employee must complete Standard Form 3112A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability. On that form, the applicant describes his or her disease or injury and how it affects current job duties. The applicant then lists the physicians and dates of treatment that can support his or her claim of disability.
Next, the federal employee must ask each doctor to complete Standard Form 3112C, Physician’s Statement. The employee should also provide each doctor with a current job description. With that job description, each doctor can state how the employee’s disease or injury affects the employee’s ability to work.
In addition to completing the form, each doctor must enclose medical documentation of the patient’s medical condition on letterhead stationery. Doctors must provide copies of all medical reports detailing the patient’s symptoms and history, diagnostic tests, diagnosis, treatments, and therapies. The doctors also must indicate if and when the employee will recover. Finally, if the doctors place any restrictions on the employee’s activities, such as lifting or standing limits, the doctor must describe those restrictions.
Next, the employing federal agency must complete forms that describe whether the employee’s disability may be accommodated. The employee’s supervisor must complete Standard Form 3112B, Supervisor’s Statement, to indicate the employee’s job performance, attendance, conduct, and accommodation and reassignment efforts. The federal agency must complete Standard Form 3112D, Agency Certification of Reassignment and Accommodation Efforts. On that form, the agency must describe what, if any, reasonable accommodation efforts it made. It must state whether the agency attempted to reassign the employee to a comparable vacant position. The federal agency also must submit any supporting documentation.
Finally, the employing agency must complete Standard Form 3112E, Disability Retirement Application Checklist. This checklist helps the agency document that it completed all necessary steps.
Step Four: Make Copies
The federal employee should make copies of all completed applications, supporting documentation, and certification forms. If the disabled employee will use the document to apply for FERS disability retirement, the employee needs to keep a copy of it.
Step Five: Submit the Application
If the employee still works at the employing agency, the employee should submit the application and all supporting documentation to the agency’s personnel office. This also applies to federal employees who have been separated from employment for 30 or fewer days. The personnel office then will send it to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for processing and a disability determination. If the employee has been separated from government service for 31 or more days, the employee must submit all necessary documents directly to the OPM.
Consult an Experienced Federal Employee Disability Retirement Lawyer to Get It Right
Applying for federal disability retirement benefits is a complex process. Forgetting one form or missing the application-filing deadline can result in delayed or denied benefits. Contact the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing to speak with an experienced federal employee disability retirement attorney today. We can submit all the necessary paperwork on behalf of our federal employee clients to take the headache out of applying for federal disability retirement.