Is Disability Retirement Right For You?

by | Sep 13, 2016

Last Updated April 15, 2024
A women learning about disability retirement

In the previous two posts in this series, we looked at voluntary and deferred retirements. Now we are going to look at the qualifications for disability retirement. Disability retirement is different in that it only requires you to have 18 months of creditable service to be eligible. There is no Minimum Age Requirement (MRA) like we saw with the previous two types of retirement. Along with the service requirement, here are the qualifications you must meet in order to be eligible for Federal Disability Retirement.
types of retirement

  • You must have become disabled, due to injury or illness, while employed in your current position subject to FERS. Your injury or illness does not have to be job-related.
  • The disability is expected to last at least one year.
  • Your employing agency must certify that they are unable to accommodate your condition in your current position. They must have considered you for any vacant position at the same agency, same grade and pay level, and within the same commuting area.
  • You must apply for federal disability retirement before your separation from service or within one year of your separation. The application must be received by The Office of Personnel Management (OPM) within one year of your date of separation.
  • You must apply for Social Security benefits, however, you do not have to be approved.

Applying for Disability Retirement

Once you have determined your eligibility for disability retirement, you will need to gather all the appropriate forms and medical evidence. If you’ve been separated from Federal service for 31 days or less, your employing agency will help complete the forms needed and forward them to the OPM. It’s your responsibility to obtain all the necessary information so that the OPM can make a decision on your claim. If you’ve been separated for more than 31 days, your application must be received by the OPM within one year of your date of separation from your former employing agency.

Application Process

When OPM receives your application, they will notify you and your employing agency. Your case is then assigned a Civil Service Account (CSA) number and assigned to a Legal Administrative Specialist (LAS).  Once the LAS reviews your case, a decision is made; approval or denial. If your case is approved, you will be notified and you will start receiving your benefits. In the event of a denial, you have the opportunity to appeal the decision. The appeal must be made within 30 days. It is extremely important to adhere to this deadline. With this appeal, you have the opportunity to submit any supporting evidence to strengthen your case. Should you be denied a second time, you can appeal one more time. This time, the appeal is done to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB). It is a much more formal process and your case is assigned an Administrative Judge.

Termination of Disability Benefits

If you’re under the age of 60, this benefit will terminate if:

  • You are found to be medically recovered.
  • In any year, your income is at least 80% of the current pay from the position you retired from.
  • You are reemployed in Federal service in a position equivalent to what you held at retirement.

These payments under Disability Retirement can be reinstated if your disability recurs and you don’t exceed the 80% earnings limit. They would be reinstated effective the first of the year after you no longer exceed that 80% earnings limit.

As you have found, understanding the types of retirement and benefits under each one, is essential in planning for life after your career. Our experienced team at Harris Federal Law Firm have been helping Federal workers with their disability retirement cases for over a decade. If you have any questions or think you may qualify, give us a call at (877) 226-2723 or fill out this inquiry form to find out how we can help you.

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