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How OPM Reviews FERS Disability Retirement Applications

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The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) was able to make some headway on the retirement backlog last month. The office managed to process a little over one thousand claims more than the number of new claims coming in, which cut the backlog by roughly 9 percent– just in time to ring in the new year.

Unfortunately, history indicates there is likely to be a flood of new applications in January, which may set back OPM’s progress.This time last year, the backlog of processing retirement claims was about the same as it is this year (11,669 last year versus 11,399 this year), and our case managers noticed a slower turnaround time for receiving approvals.

What’s important to understand about these numbers is that they represent ALL federal retirement claims, not just federal disability retirement. There is a small division of OPM that specifically handles federal disability retirement cases. OPM has roughly 16 Legal Administrative Specialists (LAS) who review FERS disability retirement cases and decide which applications are fit for approval. During the course of a year, this small group of professionals process anywhere from ten to 14 thousand disability retirement applications! Considering the amount of medical documentation, along with the application evidence, that is an expansive amount of information to review.

Recently, our team actually noticed the processing time was swifter than usual. Typically we advise clients to expect their application to take anywhere from six months to one year to process. From September through the beginning of December, OPM was processing applications so quickly that the turnaround time tended to veer closer to three to five months — a significant improvement.

“I always tell my clients that three to five months is the exception, not the rule,” says Candace Montgomery, one of Harris Federal’s disability case managers. “We are definitely happy the (OPM) legal administrative specialists are processing approvals so quickly, but we don’t want our clients to get their hopes up, or think it’s the norm. On reality, the processing time could drastically change at any point.”

Last year, during the spring, our disability case managers remember OPM being overwhelmed with a spike in cases, and the processing time extended longer than average. We are hopeful the incident didn’t indicate a trend.

“Since Christmas, we haven’t been receiving as many decisions, but I think it’s just because of the holidays. Hopefully, since it’s now the new year, everyone who works with OPM will get back into a routine, and we will begin to see more approvals coming in,” says Meredith Hager, a disability case manager at Harris Federal.

At Harris Federal, we pride ourselves on our timeliness. Our experienced team goes above and beyond to efficiently build a winning case. We successfully adjudicate hundreds of cases every year with an exceptional success rate because we understand what it takes to get an approval. We have been representing federal employees with these matters for over a decade, and have a solid understanding of what the legal administrative specialists look for when reviewing federal disability retirement applications. Call us if you have any questions about filing your claim. We look forward to serving you.

If you think you may qualify for federal disability retirement, and would like to speak with a disability case manager,  fill out our INQUIRY FORM for a free consultation.