Federal Disability Retirement Benefits (FERS) Representation
If you are a federal employee with an illness or disability expected to last for more than 12 months, you may qualify for Disability Retirement Benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). Upon qualifying, you can receive a portion of your salary for life. This holds true whether the injury occurred on or off the job, and regardless of whether or not you were reassigned to light-duty work.
However, applying to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) for Federal Disability Benefits can be no small task. It is critical to be aware of all filing deadlines and procedures, how to prove your disability, which benefits you qualify for, how to to calculate those benefits correctly, and know all of your appeals rights under federal law if you are initially declined.
Below we have provided some general information, as well as questions and answers, about the standards of legal eligibility for federal disability retirement benefits. Please remember: this information is general in nature, and we highly recommend talking with one of our federal employment attorneys in order to receive specific information about your particular case. Our law firm has represented countless federal employees with initial applications for FERS disability benefits, as well as with appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) in the case of denial, for over a quarter century. We are here to help you.
Remember: If you have been injured, Federal Disability Retirement is your right as a federal employee.
Understanding the Standards of Legal Eligibility for Federal Disability Retirement Benefits
In order to prove eligibility for federal disability retirement benefits, you will need to meet the below seven qualifications:
- You must be a civilian federal employee.
- You must have completed no less than 18 months of federal service in a position which FERS guidelines cover.
- You must be disabled as a result of either an injury or illness, and as a result no longer able to provide “useful and efficient service” in your current job title. More detailed information about proving your disability is below.
- Your disability must be expected to last no less than one year. This is referred to as Continuity. You must prove the disabling condition is expected to “Continue” for a year or more.
- Your employer must provide certification that they cannot accommodate your medical condition in your assigned job position. If you receive an alternative position assignment, it must be within the same agency, at the same grade and pay level, and within the same commuting distance.
- You must apply before you leave your job or within one year from separation of service. However, a waiver to this filing deadline may apply if the disability relates to a mental illness.
- If you are under the age of 62, in order to receive Federal Employees Retirement Service (FERS) Benefits you must also apply for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits.
If you meet the above guidelines, Federal disability retirement benefits may provide you with anywhere between 40% to 80% of your salary for the rest of your life. Additionally, you may be entitled to a host of other benefits, including Survivor Benefits, Federal Health Insurance Benefits, the ability to accrue additional years of service, and more.
Applying for FERS Disability Retirement with the OPM
Our federal employment attorneys have helped thousands of employees from coast-to-coast with the complex and sometimes technically overwhelming process of filing (and securing) disability retirement benefits. We encourage any Federal employee going through the process to consult with our lawyers in order to:
- Ensure you meet all mandatory filing deadlines and do not get a denial due to a technicality.
- Gather all necessary claim information to establish evidence of your disability. Federal guidelines define a legal disability as a medical condition which causes a “service deficiency in performance, conduce, or attendance.” Evidence may be submitted in the form of medical findings, medical diagnoses or opinions, written statements by applicants of pain or disability if supported by medical evidence, and more.
- Fill out all necessary forms. In order to apply for federal disability you will need to file forms SF 3107 (Application for Immediate Retirement) and SF 3112 (Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement). Depending on your particular situation, you may need to file additional paperwork. For instance, if you are under age 62, you must also submit documentation proving you have applied for SSDI benefits.
- Ensure correct calculation of your benefits. Beware: Benefits are often approved but calculated incorrectly!
- Ensure you know about (and take advantage of) your appeals rights. We have filed Reconsideration requests with the OPM, appealed to the MSPB (Merit Systems Protection Board), Federal Appeals Courts, and have even aggressively represented Federal employees all the way to the US Supreme Court.
Common Questions & Answers About Federal (FERS) Disability Retirement Benefits
Q. What if my injury wasn’t on the job?
A. This is one of the most common questions we receive about federal disability retirement benefits. You do not need to be injured on the job to qualify for federal disability retirement benefits. That being said, if your injury was on the job you may also qualify for federal workers compensation benefits. However, it does not matter if your injury was on or off the job when it comes to FERS disability retirement.
Q. What if I withdraw my application for SSDI benefits? Does that affect my application for FERS Disability Retirement?
A. Yes, be careful with this! If you withdraw your SSDI application, the Social Security Administration will notify the OPM, and upon notification the OPM will dismiss your FERS application.
Q. If I am receiving federal disability benefits under the FERS, can I still get a private job to help supplement my income?
A. Yes, you may work in the private sector to supplement your benefits.
Q. Can I apply for FERS disability benefits if my medical condition began before I started working for the Federal Government?
A. Yes. Even if your illness existed before you began your job with the Federal Government, if you were able to perform your job successfully for at least 18 months in a position covered by FERS, then you qualify.
Q. What can I do if my application was rejected?
A. Our law firm has worked with countless federal employees whose applications for disability benefits were initially denied, and you have many options available to you. First, you have the right to file a Reconsideration Appeal to the OPM. Second, we can appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB), Federal Appeals Courts, and even the US Supreme Court. Please note that there are strict deadlines for appeals!
Q. Can your firm handle my appeal for Retirement Disability even if I filled out the original application on my own?
A. Yes. Although we certainly recommend you consult with us from the very beginning to avoid unnecessary denials of claims, we are able to take over your appeal at any stage in the process.
Q. After my injury my employer reassigned me to light-duty work. Could I still be eligible for federal disability retirement?
A. Oftentimes, when a federal employee receives a reassignment after an injury, they assume that since they are still working for the government they do not qualify for retirement benefits. This is not necessarily the case. If you meet the qualifications for FERS disability benefits as listed above, the fact that you can perform a different job function such as light-duty work does not disqualify you.
What’s The Next Step?
For over a quarter century our attorneys have represented countless federal employees from coast-to-coast with FERS disability applications, appeals for Reconsideration, appeals to the Merit Systems Protection Board, and more. We are here to help you. Our top-rated federal employment lawyers will analyze the benefits you qualify for, aggressively pursue those benefits on your behalf, and walk you through the process every step of the way. Give us a call at 888.594.0424 or fill out the form to your right, and we will be in touch promptly!