FAQs about FERS Disability Retirement
How difficult is it to get OPM Disability Retirement benefits?
The Office of Personnel Management, the Federal Agency which reviews, evaluates, and decides upon all Federal and Postal Disability Retirement applications, scrutinizes each such application for sufficiency of evidence as to whether it meets, by a preponderance of the evidence, all of the eligibility criteria under the law. As such, while there are many “stories” out there of “X-worker who got disability retirement because of a swollen pinkie”, or “Y-Worker who got his disability retirement approved in 2 weeks”, such tales are unverifiable, and each case must and should be prepared carefully, with forethought, and with strict compliance with the letter of the laws governing Federal Disability Retirement.
Is it more difficult to get Federal & Postal Disability retirement benefits based upon psychiatric medical conditions than for physical medical conditions?
No. The case-law is clear on the issue. Psychiatric medical conditions have no lesser viability than physical conditions. As long as the case is prepared well, with a cogent narrative which meets all of the legal criteria to meet the eligibility requirements, a psychiatric basis for Federal Disability Retirement benefits stands as good a chance as one based upon physical conditions.
How important is it to have the support of my doctor, in a Federal Disability Retirement application?
The treating doctor’s support is the “linchpin” of a Federal Disability Retirement application. What is stated; how it is stated; the strength of support, and the tone, tenor and characterization of the doctor’s report, is essential to the successful conclusion of a Federal Disability Retirement application.
What if my Supervisor attempts to subvert my application?
Remember that this is a Medical Retirement – not a Supervisor’s retirement. Ultimately, there are ways to minimize the impact or relevance of a Supervisor’s Statement.
Can I file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits while I am on OWCP?
Yes. OWCP and FERS & CSRS Disability Retirement benefits are on separate and independent “tracks”. A Federal or Postal employee can file for both benefits concurrently, but cannot receive benefits from both at the same time (with the exception of a scheduled award). In fact, it is often a good idea to have your OPM Disability Retirement benefits approved, as you can choose between one or the other based upon individual circumstances, and leave the other in an “inactive” but “approved” status.
Will a Federal Disability Retirement annuity affect my VA Disability benefits?
No. There is no offset between FERS or CSRS Disability Retirement benefits and VA Disability benefits.
Must I file for Social Security when I file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?
CSRS employees (those under the “old system”, prior to 1986 or so), do not need to file. Those who are under the FERS program (the vast majority of current Federal and Postal employees), need to file sometime before an approval is granted by the Office of Personnel Management. It is misinformation to be told that a FERS employee must file for SSDI before he or she can file for FERS Disability Retirement with OPM. All that is needed is, sometime prior to being approved for Federal Disability Retirement benefits, a receipt showing that one has filed for SSDI must be shown.
Must I be approved for Social Security before I can file for Federal Disability Retirement benefits?
No. All that is necessary is that one shows proof, by submitting a receipt, that one has filed for SSDI. An approval of SSDI, however, can certainly help in a Federal Disability Retirement case, because the courts have stated that OPM must take such an approval into consideration, along with medical documentation that proves one’s inability to perform one or more of the essential elements of one’s job.
Robert R. McGill, Esquire