| Read Time: 5 minutes | Federal Retirement

What Is the FERS Disability Processing Time?

If you’re a federal employee and can’t work due to a medical condition, your employer has you covered. The federal government’s Federal Employment Retirement System (FERS) offers disability retirement benefits to employees in your situation.  But if you are claiming FERS benefits, you may wonder, What is the FERS disability retirement processing time? After getting the answer to the first question, you may then wonder, why does it take so long? Additionally, is there a way to speed up the process? If you are looking for answers to these questions, read on.  Our FERS disability attorneys will explain what you need to know. What Is the FERS Disability Retirement Processing Time? The turnaround time for a FERS disability retirement application varies from case to case. Sometimes the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) can do it in as little as three months. Other times it can take longer than a year. The average time, however, is six to nine months. Many factors affect the processing time.  Not getting a decision within a reasonable amount of time can be more than just frustrating. If you don’t have significant savings or dependents, losing your ability to work can put you in dire financial straits. While you can’t move to the front of the line, you can help ensure you don’t have to go to the back of the line again by properly submitting all of your paperwork in line with the OPM protocol. For a more in-depth discussion of the FERS disability retirement timeline and any related issues, don’t hesitate to contact the Law Office of Aaron Wersing PLLC for help. Our firm focuses on federal employment law, so we know the ins and outs of FERS disability retirement. With our experience, we can help to ensure your application and related documents are properly filed and filled out. Our job is to help you, and we take that charge seriously. Why Does It Take So Long? Several things make this application process take a long time. These factors can also make the FERS disability retirement timeline difficult to predict in a given case. Perhaps the most important contributing factor is that the OPM, which makes these decisions, does so on a first-come-first-served basis. When you submit your application, it is impossible to know how many applications are in front of you. The number can vary widely. Also, the OPM is a sizable bureaucratic network. They are responsible for all federal employees (2.1 million in 2020). As such, the gears of the federal government can take a while to turn. This is unavoidable, but there are ways that may help expedite an application. What Else Might Make a Decision Take Longer? A very important factor in how long your decision will take depends on your status with the agency. If you have already been separated from federal service for more than 30 days when you submit your application, your application is processed quicker. This is because your application goes straight to OPM in Boyers, PA, where it gets processed and issued a civil service annuity (CSA) number. After getting a civil service annuity number, the application goes to OPM headquarters in Washington D.C., where a decision is made. Contrast this with the process that an application from someone who is still on agency roles as an employee, or within 30 days of separation. In such instances, an application will need to go through several offices before arriving at a decision. First, your application goes to the specific agency you work for, to process. Then, many agencies will send your application to their centralized HR facility for further processing. After this point, your application will be sent to Boyers, PA for a CSA number.  How Does OPM Determine FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility? The following seven factors help guide the OPM in their decision-making process regarding your FERS disability retirement application. These requirements are cumulative. In other words, they all must be met. You have a diagnosed medical condition; There is a deficiency in the service your job requires, which can be a deficiency in attendance, conduct, or in the performance of at least one critical element of your position. There is a causal relationship between your medical condition and the service deficiency; The medical condition is expected to last a year or more; The condition was not pre-existing or, if it was, it did not become disabling until after you began serving in your position; Your disability cannot be accommodated; and You cannot be reassigned to another position. If the federal agency you work for can provide reasonable accommodations that will allow you to work with your present condition, they should do so. Similarly, if your federal agency cannot accommodate you in your position, it should reassign you to a different qualifying job vacancy at the agency, if such a position is available. This type of reassignment is known as the “accommodation of last resort”. If you can be accommodated or reassigned, you will not be eligible for FERS disability retirement benefits. Keep in mind that accommodation must actually accommodate your medical needs as long as it will not place an undue burden on your agency, and a reassignment must actually be to a position that you are able to perform with your medical condition and symptoms.  What Can I Do If I Don’t Get a Decision? If a decision takes too long, you may have a right to appeal. Failure to respond is essentially a constructive denial that you can appeal. An administrative law judge at the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) will hear your case and determine your eligibility. Follow the steps outlined below to help with the appeal process. The amount of time that is “too long” is not set in stone, so a lawyer can be very helpful in this instance. If your application is taking too long, the best thing you can do is be diligent in your follow-up. Once you submit your application, you should inquire as to your...

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | FERS Disability

How Do You Know If You Are Eligible for Disability Retirement Benefits?

Many people enjoy being a federal employee because of the benefits it offers. One of these benefits is a generous disability retirement package under the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS). So if you have suffered an injury on the job, you might be considering applying for federal disability retirement.  But knowing whether you’re eligible for disability retirement benefits is not always straightforward. Read on to learn whether you might be eligible for federal disability retirement benefits. This guide will cover the basic eligibility rules and the benefits you can enjoy. If you want more specific advice for your situation, contact the outstanding team at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC. How to Determine Your FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is the federal agency responsible for regulating the rules for disability retirement. That means that their rules regarding disability retirement eligibility apply to most federal agencies. OPM states that you need to meet several criteria to be eligible for federal disability retirement benefits.  You must serve in the government for a minimum length of time. You need to have at least 18 months of federal civilian service under your belt to qualify for federal disability retirement.  You must become disabled due to disease or injury. And your disability must make you unable to perform the “critical” or “essential” duties of your position of record.  Your disability must last (or be expected to last) for at least one year. Disabilities that may resolve at some indefinite future time usually meet this standard. Your agency must certify that it cannot accommodate your disabling medical condition in your current position or a similar position. To meet this step, your agency needs to assess whether it could reassign you to a position of a similar grade or pay level. If you cannot be accommodated in a similar position, your agency may move to separate you from federal service.  You must apply for federal disability retirement benefits within one year of separation. Waiting beyond this time can sink your chances of a successful retirement application.  Finally, you need to apply for social security benefits, although there is no requirement to be approved for SSDI. And make sure you do not withdraw your social security application after applying for FERS disability retirement. If you do, OPM will reject your federal disability retirement application.   Federal Disability Retirement – Calculating Your Benefits  Let’s say you meet these requirements and successfully submit your application. What kinds of benefits can you expect to receive? The answer to that depends on several factors. The first one is your age. If you are over 62 years old, your annuity will generally equal one percent of your average salary from the three years you were paid the most (also known as your “high-three” salary) multiplied by your years and months of service. In other words, it’s the same as non-disability retirement for applicants over age 62. We will use an example to show you how this calculation process works. Let’s say your “high-three” salary is $100,000, and you have 10 years of federal government service. One percent of $100,000 is $1,000. And $1,000 times 10 (for your 10 years of service) is $10,000. So you’d receive $10,000 a year in disability benefits. If you are 62 years old and you have more than 20 years of government service, then you receive 1.1% of your “high-three” salary multiplied by your years of service. So if your high-three salary was $100,000 and you worked in the government for 30 years, your annual annuity would be $33,000.  But what if you’re under 62? In that case, you will get 60% of your “high-three” salary minus whatever payments you receive from social security during the first year, and then 40% of your “high-three” salary minus 60% of your SSDI benefits each year thereafter until age 62. Want to Learn More About Your Eligibility for Federal Disability Benefits? As you can see, the world of federal disability retirement is extremely complex. Knowing whether you’re eligible for retirement is just the beginning of obtaining FERS retirement benefits. You also need to fill out your application paperwork carefully, get the correct medical documentation and have a lot of patience. On top of that, federal agencies can wrongly deny your application, putting your future welfare in jeopardy.  If you want help filing your disability retirement application or if your retirement application has been denied, then you might need a federal employment attorney. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, we’re dedicated to helping federal employees make full use of their rights under the law. Mr. Wersing has extensive experience with all kinds of federal employment issues, including disability retirement applications. We can also help you if your employer has rejected your application for retirement. Together, we can help you achieve the benefits you need. Worried about the cost of an attorney? Don’t be. We never want legal fees to discourage you from coming to see us. That’s why we offer all potential clients a free initial consultation. Don’t let this opportunity go to waste. Give us a call at 833-833-3529 and tell us about your situation. You can also reach out to us online. 

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | FERS Disability

FERS Disability Retirement and Severance Pay: What to Know

The federal government grants severance pay to employees who separate involuntarily from the federal service. Not all employees can receive severance pay, however. To qualify, an employee first has to meet several prerequisites. You should also know that severance pay plays an important role for those who are in the process of obtaining a federal disability retirement. We cover the basics here, but we recommend that you reach out to a knowledgeable federal employment attorney to learn more.   What Is Severance Pay? Just like in the private sector, severance pay is compensation given to employees who are involuntarily separated from federal service. “Involuntary separation” includes several key scenarios, including: Separation for a medical inability to perform one’s duties;  Reductions in Force (RIF) or downsizing; A transfer of the position’s function outside of the employee’s commuting area;  Expiration of incumbent’s term of office; and A lack of funds to pay the employee. Am I Eligible For Severance Pay? You may be eligible for severance pay if you are involuntarily separated from the federal service as defined above. However, you need to meet a couple of additional basic conditions. First, you need a career or career-conditional appointment in the competitive or excepted services. Appointments in the Senior Executive Service and some time-limited appointments also qualify, but presidential and emergency appointments do not. Second, you need to have completed at least 12 months of continuous service in the federal government by the date of separation. Finally, you cannot have accepted another position with the federal government and receive severance pay.  How Much Severance Pay Can I Get? Naturally, the amount of severance pay varies from one employee to another. The amount of severance pay that you can receive depends primarily on your years of service in the federal government. You can get one week of severance pay (calculated at your final basic pay rate) for each of your first 10 years of service. Every additional year of service grants you an additional two weeks of severance pay. There is also an age adjustment that boosts the amount of severance pay for employees over 40. For every three months of age beyond age forty, you can add an additional 2.5% to your basic severance pay rate.  When calculating your years of service, you can generally include any time you spent in the national guard or the Armed Forces. Former United States Postal Service (USPS) workers can include their time with that agency as well.  How Does Severance Pay Affect My FERS Disability Retirement? Many employees applying for federal disability retirement look to severance pay as a way to boost their financial picture when exiting government service. However, under current guidance, you cannot receive severance pay if you are “eligible . . . for an immediate annuity from a Federal retirement system.” This means that if you receive an involuntary separation while applying for federal disability retirement, you’ll likely have to return any severance pay you receive. Have More Questions About Severance Pay?  Severance pay is a tricky topic, especially when you have a pending federal disability retirement application. It can be stressful to think about how you’re going to pay for retirement or your next period of unemployment. You shouldn’t have to deal with this issue on your own. Our attorneys at the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, are totally committed to helping you secure your financial future. At your free initial consultation, we can discuss the details of your situation and advise you on your best course of action. Call us at (866) 891-0578 or contact us online to set up your free consultation. 

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| Read Time: 3 minutes | FERS Disability

What Diseases and Injuries Are Considered Disabilities?

If you find yourself on this web page right now, you probably already know a bit about the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Under the FERS retirement disability program, workers who find themselves injured or otherwise disabled receive employment security benefits if they are unable to work due to their condition. Sometimes the benefits are temporary, but sometimes they are permanent. Furthermore, the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) prevents employers from discriminating against employees on the basis of disability.  Some of the most common disability-related questions we get from our clients at the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing have to do with what the FERS and ADA consider a disability. Those questions include things like: Is cancer considered a disability under FERS? Is cancer a disability under the ADA? Where can I find a full list of covered disabilities and injuries? If you have any of these or other related questions, you’re in the right place. We put together this page specifically to help you assess whether your injury qualifies you for disability benefits. What’s Considered a Disability? There are quite a few different medical conditions that FERS considers disabilities. In fact, there are too many to cover here. You can, however, find an exemplary list that the Social Security Administration (SSA) uses in its entirety right here. While FERS doesn’t use the exact same list, the two are very similar. After all, they both come from the federal government and serve near-identical functions. In all, the SSA’s list contains 14 categories of impairments:  Musculoskeletal disorders, Special senses and speech disorders, Respiratory disorders, Cardiovascular diseases, Digestive system disorders, Genitourinary disorders, Hematological disorders, Skin disorders, Endocrine disorders, Congenital disorders that affect multiple body systems, Neurological disorders, Mental disorders, Cancer, and Immune system disorders. This list encompasses a very broad range of different medical conditions and disabilities. At the end of the day, the most important element in qualifying for disability is demonstrating your inability to function at work as you would without the disorder. Notes on Some of the More Common Disorders in the List Injuries to hands, feet, and other extremities can qualify you for disability benefits if you are unable to work. For example, it’s possible you can get disability for plantar fasciitis, arthritis, or tendon damage. It all depends on the circumstances of the injury and your job duties.  If you injure yourself enough to warrant an amputation, chances are you qualify for disability. The federal government considers thumb amputation a disability. In fact, the federal government considers any finger amputation a disability. While losing a finger may not seem as extreme a disability as a terminal illness, losing a digit can significantly impede one’s ability to work. If you’re wondering whether cancer is a disability, the answer is a resounding yes. FERS, the SSA, and the federal government as a whole all consider cancer a disability, as does the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA). In fact, you may have noticed that cancer warrants its own category in the SSA’s full list of medical conditions. Cancer itself, and many of the treatments associated with it, take a significant toll on patients’ bodies. As a result, working is often entirely out of the question for individuals with cancer. Excluding cancer in any form from the list of disabilities would be entirely inappropriate. Need Help with Your Disability Claim? More often than not, the most difficult part of getting disability benefits is proving that your condition is sufficient to render you unable to work in your position of record. The problem is that there is a subjective element in determining whether someone can work or not. The best thing you can do to ensure this process moves forward is with the help of a FERS disability attorney. They can help you gather evidence that proves your disability’s impact on your life. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D Wersing, federal disability benefits are one of our primary focus areas. You have rights, so let us help you fight to protect them. Have a look at some of our client testimonials, then let’s get started with a free consultation.

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| Read Time: 2 minutes | FERS Disability

Is Federal Disability Retirement Income Taxable?

If you have been a federal employee and are seeking to receive disability retirement income, you might have to pay taxes on that income. This isn’t pleasant news, but the following article can help you prepare for what’s next.  Common Kinds of Federal Disability Retirement Income The first step federal employees should take to understand their tax liabilities on federal disability retirement payments is to understand what kind of federal benefits they’re receiving. Common retirement benefits a federal employee might receive include:  Social Security Disability Income (SSDI), Disability retirement income from the Federal Employees’ Retirement System (FERS), Disability retirement income from the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS), Military Disability Retirement Pay (MDRP, and Veterans’ benefits. The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) handles many matters related to FERS and CSRS payments.  Some of the above-listed benefits are taxable, and some aren’t. For payments and benefits that are taxable, they are taxable at different levels.   Is OPM Disability Retirement Taxable at the Federal Level? OPM oversees matters regarding FERS and CSRS disability retirement payments.  Is FERS disability retirement taxable at the federal level? Some FERS disability retirement is taxable.  Individuals can receive FERS disability retirement if they have certain characteristics, including: Completion of at least 18 months of creditable Federal civilian service, A disabling condition that affects their work and is expected to last for at least a year, The inability to receive accommodations from their employer, and Status as an applicant or recipient of Social Security benefits. Recipients of a FERS disability retirement annuity do show these benefits as taxable income. Is CSRS disability retirement federally taxable? Some CSRS disability retirement is federally taxable. An eligible recipient of CSRS disability retirement must:  Have at least five years of creditable Federal civilian service to their name, Have a disability they incurred while they were employed in a job subject to CSRS and that prevents them from working that job, Have a qualifying disability expected to last a year or longer, and Have certification that their employer cannot accommodate them.  CSRS retirement disability recipients also must pay tax on their benefits.  Whether you are seeking CSRS or FERS retirement disability benefits, you have a limited amount of time to apply for them. You also have to follow specific rules to maintain them. This can be overwhelming when you are trying to handle a disability. An experienced federal employment disability lawyer can recover your benefits while you adjust to changes in your life.  Income Tax Rules from Your State Can Differ While some of your disability retirement benefits might not be federally taxable, your benefits could be subject to state income taxes.  Contact an Attorney Today to Protect What Is Yours It’s stressful to determine how much vital income you can keep when you’re receiving benefits for a debilitating condition. But you don’t have to figure this out on your own. At the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC, we have helped hundreds of federal employees with their employment issues. We have substantial experience, and we are passionate about helping federal employees. Let us help you. Contact us online or call us at 866-508-2158 for a free consultation. 

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| Read Time: 4 minutes | FERS Disability

FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility (Are You Eligible)

Individuals often remind government workers of the advantages of their positions. But if you were for the federal government, you may at times feel trapped and without rights. This is especially true for workers who have a disability. Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) disability eligibility is complex. Many federal employees are not aware of this program’s existence. Others, while aware, may lack proper guidance and feel hindered from accessing the benefit they are entitled to, and left without options.  An experienced federal disability lawyer can help fight for your rights. Please don’t hesitate to call our firm at (833) 833-3529 or contact us online today for assistance. Understanding Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Benefits Defining FERS  FERS stands for Federal Employees Retirement System and is a retirement plan. Most new Federal civilian employees hired after 1983 are automatically covered by FERS, whereas prior to this point most employees were covered under CSRS. Federal civilian employees also have a TSP retirement, however, individuals must note that FERS and TSP (Thrift Savings Plan) are not the same. TSP is an optional retirement option, separate from your FERS pension. Understanding Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Eligibility  The United States government’s Office of Personnel Management provides a pamphlet regarding FERS disability retirement. However, it can often leave the reader more confused than confident in their understanding. FERS disability retirement eligibility is very complex. It involves financial and legal information best analyzed by a lawyer for federal employees. The purpose of Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits is to provide income to federal workers who: Have a disability expected to last at least one year; and Are unable to fulfill the responsibilities of their job as a result of the disability. Unfortunately, workers most entitled to FERS eligibility are often overwhelmed and face many obstacles due to their disabling condition. Tackling Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits may appear impossible. However, FERS disability retirement eligibility, when met, provides important rights. A Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits lawyer knows how to fight for this right. FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility Requirements As stated above, an initial hurdle to obtaining FERS disability benefits includes proving that a disability impacts you to the point where you can’t be expected to adequately perform your duties for at least one year. That is just the start. In addition the worker: Must have paid into Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits for at least 18 months; and Must not have declined a reasonable accommodation, such as a transfer to a job for which they were qualified, if the federal agency employing the person tried to accommodate their disability or move them to another department. Another critical item to note is that the worker must have applied for Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits while still employed or within one year after separation from the job. Financial Impact After Proving FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility If the government approves your Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits, the amount of your benefit will depend on intricate calculations. The amount of benefits is different for each individual. Calculating disability benefits currently includes an analysis of earnings at various points in the person’s career and an age review. An employee can get an accurate picture of available benefits by requesting a FERS benefits estimate from their agency. The Complexity of FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility The aforementioned is only a brief overview of examinations required regarding FERS eligibility and a successful application for FERS disability benefits. Here are some additional stipulations to note. The Injury  When determining disability, there are several medical considerations as well as exceptions. Common injuries that might support a claim for FERS disability benefits include: Back and neck injuries; Hand, shoulder, hip, or knee injuries; Eye injuries; and Amputation. Psychological conditions can also support a claim for disability benefits, though they can sometimes be trickier to document than some physical injuries. Essentially any mental or physical disability that impairs your ability to work may qualify, such as PTSD, depression, anxiety.  Alternate Job Offer Any job offer the government makes to the disabled party should be at the same pay level the person is receiving or higher. It also must be within the same commuting area. Both of these requirements must be met to invoke the requirement that the party accepts the offer, assuming it would actually accommodate the disability.  SSDI  Anyone applying for FERS disability retirement eligibility must also apply for SSDI (Social Security Disability Insurance ). However, it is not required that SSA approve the SSDI application. Other Work Income If the government provides the worker with FERS disability benefits, they cannot keep their federal job, as they proved an inability to perform the job due to a disability. However, they may be able to work in a private-sector job. There are strict income requirements regarding this option. Importance of Legal Representation for Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Benefits  Disabilities can cause tremendous stress. When a disability impacts one’s ability to work, the stress understandably increases. In some cases, those same workers begin experiencing discrimination, resentment, or retaliation in the workplace.  Top-notch Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits attorneys will offer relief and protection. Individuals should never forget that they have the right to: Seek legal advice,  Be free from retaliation, and Utilize legal protections in place. A federal employer may fail to acknowledge one’s disability or inform them of the rules regarding FERS disability retirement eligibility. Other times, the employer may discourage the worker from pursuing benefits. Also, workers may feel overwhelmed with applying for Federal Employees Retirement System disability benefits. If you find yourself in this situation, you should speak with a lawyer clients trust who is knowledgeable in Federal Employees Retirement System Disability Benefits. The Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing Attorney Aaron Wersing graduated from the Georgia State University College of Law and received the CALI Excellence for the Future Award. Since that time, he has continued a path of excellence as the founding attorney for the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing, PLLC. Aaron’s practice...

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