Why Does it Take OPM so Long to Process My Disability Retirement Application?

May 22, 2017


Question of the Week: “How long will it take for OPM to receive my disability retirement application, and how long will it take them to make a decision?”

A: We’re asked this question all the time. And the truth is, the timeline varies. We’ve seen disability retirement claims receive a decision in as little as 3 months, and some take longer than a year.

So why so long for some?

First, it depends if you’re separated from your agency or not.

  • If you are still working for your agency, or have been separated LESS than 31 days, your application will get sent to your employing agency. There are parts of the application that you fill out, and then parts that your agency fills out. Generally, this may not take that long. The part that may take a while, however, is getting medical records and your physicians’ statement. Your agency may have “agency specific forms”, so depending on what agency you work for, this part could take longer. The agency then sends your application to their payroll department before it gets sent to OPM. Your application will then get sent to OPM in Boyers, PA where it is assigned a CSA (Civil Service Annuity) number. This could take 3-4 weeks. Your application is then sent to OPM in Washington, DC, where it could take months to get assigned a legal administrative specialist.
  • If you’ve been separated longer than 31 days, your application is submitted directly to OPM, where it’s assigned a CSA number. This is generally faster than the former.

“How long will it take then to make a decision?”

  • OPM processes disability retirement claims on a “first in, first out” basis. There is no specific way to expedite it.
  • Disability and voluntary retirement applications are submitted to the same place, so there’s no preference given to a disability retirement application.
  • They have a constant backlog of retirement applications. While their goal is to maintain a steady state of 13,000 claims, and process most within 60 days, that’s just not the reality.

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