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Federal Disability

There are many unique benefits to working for the federal government, including retirement options.

Yet, some tradeoffs come with these programs, including a sluggish pace that often plagues bureaucracies.

Federal disability retirement through the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) is among those unique benefits federal employees can get, but delays complicate the process. The average OPM processing time for all retirement applications is only one to two months.

Yet, OPM federal disability retirement applications frequently take six months to a year.

If you need help applying for federal disability retirement or dealing with OPM retirement processing delays, contact the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing PLLC.

Our firm focuses on federal employment, so we know how to cut through the layers of federal bureaucracy.

How Do You Apply for Federal Disability Retirement?

If you believe you qualify for federal disability retirement, you can apply two ways.

First, you can apply through your agency if you are still employed there. If you are no longer employed at the agency, you apply directly with OPM.

You must apply within one year of separating from federal employment to receive benefits.

Qualifying for Federal Disability Retirement

To qualify for federal disability retirement, you must:

  • Have worked a minimum of 18 months covered by the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS),
  • Have become disabled due to disease or injury while employed in the FERS-covered position,
  • Be unable to perform your job usefully and efficiently due to your disability, and
  • Have a disability expected to last one or more years.

Your agency must also certify that it cannot accommodate your disability.

Although you need not reach a specific age before applying for FERS disability benefits, your age may affect your benefits. Until age 60, your benefits may end if:

  • You medically recover from your disability;
  • You earn at least 80% of your pre-retirement pay in a calendar year; or
  • You resume working for the federal government in an equivalent position.

Additionally, OPM may require you to attend periodic medical exams to confirm you are still disabled.

Applying for Federal Disability Retirement

When you apply for FERS disability benefits, you must also apply for social security disability benefits.

In addition, your federal disability retirement application must include Forms SF 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, and SF 3112, Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement.

Form SF 3112 includes several parts to be filled out by different people, including: 

  • SF 3112A—you describe your disability and its effect on your life;
  • SF 3112B—your supervisor details your disability-related performance issues and their inability to reassign you;
  • SF 3112C—your physician provides medical details about your disability, including documentation; 
  • SF 3112D—your agency’s disability coordinator explains attempts to reassign you to work you can perform with your disability; and
  • SF 3112E—your agency provides final details about your claim.

Coordinating the pieces of SF 3112 can be challenging, especially if you no longer work for the agency.

If you are running up on the one-year application deadline, you can submit Forms SF 3107 and 3112A and provide contact information for the individuals to complete the other portions of Form 3112. 

How Can You Make the Process More Efficient?

The most effective way to ensure your OPM disability retirement application is processed as quickly as possible is to follow the application instructions carefully.

Once your application is out of your hands, you have little control over processing delays. 

To the extent possible, review the information and documentation provided by others on Form SF 3112. Sometimes, you can identify mistakes or errors and have them corrected before the application reaches OPM. 

Because getting OPM federal disability retirement depends on the effect of your disability, it is particularly essential to ensure your physician provides detailed information. Many agencies will instruct you on which doctor or doctors to see, and you may be unable to go to your primary care physician.

It can be complicated to trust employer-recommended physicians in the same way as your primary care doctor, but ensuring the information the signing doctor provides supports your claim is crucial.

Get Help Filing Your Disability Retirement Application 

Requesting disability retirement on your own can lead to missteps that drag out the process.

With the help of the Federal Employment Law Firm of Aaron D. Wersing PLLC, you can submit an application that is as complete as possible.

We can guide you through what to include and how specific to be. We can also help you verify that the others involved in SF 3112 are providing the support you need for your application. Contact us today to learn more.

Author Photo

Aaron Wersing, Attorney at Law

Aaron Wersing is the founder of the Law Office of Aaron D. Wersing. Mr. Wersing graduated from the Georgia State University College of Law with a Doctorate in Jurisprudence and was the recipient of the CALI Excellence for the Future Award. Mr. Wersing previously attended the University of Georgia, where he received a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Accounting. Mr. Wersing is an active member of his local community. Mr. Wersing acts as a volunteer attorney with Houston Volunteer Lawyers, the pro bono legal aid organization of the Houston Bar Association. He is also a member of professional legal organizations such as the National Employment Lawyers Association and the American Inns of Court. To reach Aaron for a consultation, please call him at (833) 833-3529.

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