There are currently two retirement systems in the federal government.
The first one is the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS).
The other, more common system is the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
Regardless of which system you fall under, you can receive disability benefits.
To do so, you first need to submit a detailed retirement application to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).
Applying for OPM disability retirement is a complex and arduous process.
If you are a federal employee with a serious injury or disability, it is essential that you understand OPM’s disability retirement.
If you don’t follow the process correctly, OPM may reject your application, placing your financial future in jeopardy.
We’ll discuss the basics of the OPM disability retirement process here.
Prerequisites for FERS Disability Retirement
Given that FERS is the retirement system for the overwhelming majority of the federal workforce, it is worth discussing first.
- Complete at least 18 months of federal service;
- Apply for disability benefits with the Social Security Administration (SSA); and
- Have a medical condition that prevents you from carrying out the core duties of your position.
In addition, you must show that your debilitating condition is expected to last at least one year. Short-term illnesses and injuries do not suffice.
To meet the third requirement, your federal employer must first attempt to give you an accommodation that allows you to perform the essential functions of your job with your disability.
Potential accommodations include things like telework, altered office arrangements, and a change in work schedule.
If attempts to accommodate your condition with your position are unsuccessful, your employer must also search for a similar position that could meet your needs.
People typically have several misconceptions about what they need to show when they submit their application for OPM disability retirement.
For one, they believe they need to show that their disability prevents them from doing all work. This is patently false.
The employee needs to show only that their disability prevents them from executing the core duties of their position of record.
In other words, if you are a welder, you do not need to show that your disability prevents you from sitting at a computer.
People also commonly believe that their disability must stem from their federal work. This is also incorrect. You can apply for disability retirement regardless of the cause of your disability.
Differences in CSRS Disability Retirement Application
Applying for CSRS disability retirement is quite similar to applying for FERS disability retirement.
The key difference is that you must complete at least five years of Federal civilian service before applying for CSRS disability retirement.
FERS, on the other hand, requires only 18 months of federal civilian service.
Preparing Your OPM Disability Retirement Application
You need to complete two forms to begin your FERS disability retirement application:
- Standard Form 3107 (“Application for Immediate Retirement”)
- Standard Form 3112 (“Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement”)
If you are not yet 62 years old, you will also have to submit your application for social security disability benefits.
Because there are only two or three items to submit, you may think that applying for disability retirement is straightforward.
The unfortunate truth is that the process is quite complicated. To complete your application, you will need to collect a wide variety of medical information.
Consequently, It is essential to act quickly when applying for disability retirement.
In fact, the best time to begin working on your disability retirement application is before you receive your separation of service from the government.
If you apply before or immediately after your separation from service, you can probably count on additional support from your employer.
As more time passes, it will be more difficult to collect the evidence you need.
In any event, you have exactly one year to apply for OPM disability retirement. Waiting more than one year to apply for OPM disability retirement will cause you to forever lose out on disability benefits.
Therefore, we cannot stress enough how important it is to take action and contact an employment attorney when you receive your separation for service.
Would You Like Assistance Preparing Your OPM Disability Retirement Application?
Now you know the basics of applying for disability retirement. However, the process is complex, and many applicants experience needless delays or denial of benefits because of avoidable errors.
We strive to protect the futures of federal employees, especially those who have a disability.
We know how difficult and overwhelming it can be to fill out paperwork and navigate the retirement application process, and we want to help you.
Let us take care of your retirement application so you can focus on putting your life back together.
Even if you aren’t sure you need an attorney for your application, let us review your case.