You have made up your mind: After dealing for far too long with a medical condition that has kept you from doing your job at full capacity, you have decided to seek federal disability retirement benefits.
At Harris Federal, we want you to know what you can expect if you decide that your next step will be to contact us by phone or through our online form. We believe it helps to have a good understanding of the process – from start to finish.
Your Free Consultation
Once you connect with us by phone or online, we will schedule a free and confidential consultation with you. We should be able to speak with you by phone on the same day you contact us or, at the latest, within one business day.
A consultation typically lasts 30 minutes. However, it may go slightly longer. You will talk with a consultant from our firm who will want to learn more about you and who will give you the chance to learn more about us.
You can expect our consultant to ask questions such as:
What federal agency do you work for? For example, do you work for the U.S. Postal Service, Veterans Administration or Federal Bureau of Prisons?
Have you worked with a federal agency as a career employee for at least 18 months, and if so, for how long? We ask this question because you must have worked as a career employee (or career conditional employee) for at least 18 months to be eligible for medical retirement benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS).
Keep in mind: Even if you have not worked long enough to qualify for disability retirement, you may still be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits based on a work-related injury or illness. Harris Federal can assist you with seeking those benefits as well.
What is your current job title, and what do you do? In order to assess whether your medical condition is keeping you from doing your job, we will want to know what type of physical and mental tasks your job involves.
What is your current work status? For example, are you working on a full-time or limited-duty status? Are you working under medical restrictions? Have you been terminated from your position? If so, we will ask for the date of your separation. This can be found on the SF-50 form in your Official Personnel Folder (OPF). You have one year from that separation date in which to file for disability retirement benefits.
Do you have a currently diagnosed medical condition that is affecting your ability to work? For instance, have you been diagnosed and treated for a herniated disc, torn rotator cuff or torn labrum? Did you recently have surgery that has taken (or will take) more than year to recover from? This issue will be critical in determining your eligibility.
How old are you? We ask this question because, if you are eligible for standard federal employee retirement benefits, it may be better for you to apply for those benefits instead of seeking a disability determination.
Have you filed for Social Security Disability benefits? You must file for SSD benefits and provide evidence of this with your application for federal disability retirement. It is simply a step you need to take. Regardless of whether your SSD claim is approved or denied, it will have no bearing on your federal disability retirement application. In fact, many federal workers do not qualify for SSD benefits but are still eligible for federal disability retirement.
Have you already filed for federal disability retirement? If you filed for disability retirement, and your benefits claim was denied by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), Harris Federal can help with your appeal. We will need to know the date on the denial letter. This is because you have only 30 days from that date in which to file an appeal.
Once we go over these questions, our consultant will explain the process of seeking federal disability retirement benefits, the role our firm will play and what you can expect in terms of monthly annuity payments. We will also review our fee structure as they are explained on our website.
The rest of our consultation will depend entirely on you. We encourage federal workers to ask as many questions as they would like about the benefits process and about our firm.
If we decide to work with each other, we will send you an employment agreement. You can mail, e-mail or fax it back to us at your earliest convenience.
Within 1-3 days after we have received a signed agreement, a case manager from our team will contact you. Your case manager will be your main point of contact and essentially will serve as a liaison between you, your federal agency, your doctors and OPM.
If you have any questions about your case, your case manager will be an excellent source of information. We truly believe that our case management team at Harris Federal is second-to-none when it comes to experience and client service. You can click here to learn more about our team and the case manager you will be working with.
Your case manager and you will work together on gathering your medical records, obtaining statements from your doctors and preparing your application to OPM. However, before we get started, you will need to sign release forms that will allow us to request your medical records.
The entire application process can be done by phone, e-mail, fax and mail. In other words, we can work with you no matter where you live!
OPM Initial Decision
After we present your claim for federal disability retirement benefits to OPM, we will keep a close watch on its progress. If OPM needs any additional information, of course, we will promptly provide it.
The OPM intake personnel will assign your claim to a legal administrative specialist. That specialist will closely evaluate your supporting documentation. Sometimes the employing agency is uncooperative and the legal administrative specialist will need to attempt to obtain verification of your employment status with your employing agency. Your supervisor will also need to comment regarding your qualifications. If the supervisor refuses to cooperate the legal administrative specialist will direct your employer to respond.
We always stress the importance of being patient during this phase. The reality is that OPM deals with a high volume of applications, and it takes time for the agency to review a case. There is little that can be done to speed up a decision.
With that said, you can expect us to touch base with you on a regular basis just to let you know how things are going. And, of course, you can always feel free to give us a call.
Once we receive a decision on your claim, we will notify you right away.
If your application is denied:
We can consult with you and immediately file an appeal if you wish to do so. The denial letter should provide specific reasons why your claim was denied. We can begin work on addressing those issues.
Keep in mind: If your claim is initially denied by one OPM legal administrative specialist, your appeal will be assigned to a different specialist for consideration. If your claim is denied a second time, you will have to appeal that decision to the Merit System Protection Board (MSPB) within thirty days. At that level, the process becomes more complicated and your claim will be decided by an administrative judge.
If your application is approved:
Congratulations! We can help you to take care of any final matters you need help with, including helping you to set up a convenient direct deposit of your monthly disability retirement benefits.
Even though your case will be concluded, we will ask you to please keep in touch with us and let us know how you are doing.