Could Federal Agencies Explain Disability Retirement Benefits Better?

Feb 24, 2015

Our federal employee disability retirement lawyers explain disability retirement benefits.

If you have come to the conclusion that you qualify for federal retirement due to a disability, your application process is likely to go more smoothly if you know what to expect when you seek disability retirement benefits. Read on to explore whether federal agencies explain Federal Disability Retirement benefits better than other resources.

In most cases, you will turn first to an employee handbook and/or agency website to review rules and regulations for filing for these benefits. Unfortunately, government writing is notoriously dense and confusing. However, it may be getting more easy to understand, a new report indicates.

Under the Plain Writing Act of 2010, federal agencies are required to “use plain writing in every covered document of the agency that the agency issues or substantially revises.”

The Center for Plain Language, an education and advocacy organization, says that the Act encourages federal agencies to use plain language – language people can understand and use ­– for public documents that:

  • Explain government benefits or services
  • Offer guidance for getting federal government benefits or services
  • Facilitate the filing of taxes.

The Center, which recently issued its annual Federal Plain Language Report Card, states that its grades for 2014 show that federal agencies are, for the most part, doing a better job of communicating.

“Nearly every agency fulfills the requirements of the Plain Writing Act of 2010. Further, the writing and information design grades demonstrate a commitment to the spirit in addition to the letter of the law,” a white paper accompanying the report card states.

“This improvement demonstrates the keen commitment on the part of senior leadership and the significant effort of the government staff,” the Center adds.

How Did Your Agency Do On the Report Card?

The Center graded agencies in part by reviewing sample agency documents with specialized software called Acrolinx, a multi-language, linguistic analysis tool.

Study authors also asked about steps agencies had taken to improve the clarity of documents.

For the most part, “the ‘after’ writing samples we analyzed are more readable than the ‘before’ versions of the same documents, with notable improvements in style and grammar,” the Center states.

The Center found:

  • 19 departments fulfilled the requirements of the Plain Writing Act, earning A’s for compliance, compared with only 12 in 2013
  • 16 out of 22 agencies improved over last year’s grades
  • The Social Security Administration, last year’s leader, “remained at the top, demonstrating continued excellence and sustained commitment to communicating clearly.”

Only three departments – Education, Interior and State – failed to fulfill the requirements of the Act. Interior and State also failed to submit writing samples. As a result, they each earned an “incomplete” on the report card.

The study authors noted that agencies have started testing documents for reader comprehension before publication.

“Readers don’t always understand copy the way that writers intend it, so comprehension testing provides an important reality check,” the report states.

So, perhaps you won’t encounter any problems as you begin to plan your federal retirement due to a disability. It may be that your agency’s documentation of the disability benefits available to you is crystal clear.

However, if you have any difficulty understanding federal retirement rules and regulations, you should feel free to contact Harris Federal to schedule a free consultation. We would be glad to explain the benefits available to you and the steps you can take to apply for them.

Every day, we do all we can to ensure eligible workers receive the federal disability retirement benefits they are due.

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