What to Expect: Processing Time for Federal Disability Retirement Applications

Jun 19, 2023

happy couple reading about opm processing times for disability retirement

If you’re a federal employee considering retirement due to a disability, you’re probably trying to learn how long the process takes. There’s no solid answer to this question since the OPM doesn’t have any regulations that bind them to a specific length of time, but there are some general time frames we’ve identified as a law firm that specializes in Federal Disability Retirement.

First, What Is the OPM and What Does It Do?

The Office of Personnel Management, or OPM, is the chief human resources agency and personnel policy manager for the federal government. According to their website, “OPM directs human resources and employee management services, administers retirement benefits, manages healthcare and insurance programs, oversees merit-based and inclusive hiring into the civil service, and provides a secure employment process.”

You’ll be working with the OPM regardless of what retirement option you choose. They decide whether or not you qualify for Federal Disability Retirement.

How Long Is the Average Disability Retirement Processing Time?

It typically takes around 9-12 months to receive an initial decision from the OPM for Federal Disability Retirement. This timeframe does include processing at your employing agency which can be relatively smooth if your agency has dealt with these applications before.

You’ll begin receiving interim payments once you are approved prior to your full disability retirement annuity being finalized. These payments typically begin 4-6 months after approval, which is in addition to the initial 9-12 months of waiting. Interim payments will be around 80% of your finalized annuity, but the OPM is not perfect and can under, or overpay you.

What if You Are Denied?

We’ve seen an increase in initial denials in the last several months. If your Federal Disability Retirement application is denied, this will significantly lengthen the process as there are additional steps to take.

If your application is denied, you will have three options:

  1. You can request the OPM make a new decision on your current application
  2. You can submit new evidence to support your application
  3. You can request a 30-day extension to gather new evidence to submit

Regardless of which option you choose, you will be assigned a new medical specialist to review your application. At this stage in the process, it’s recommended to have legal counsel to ensure you’re not denied a second time. If you’re denied again, your case will be taken to the MSPB, with telephonic hearings and lots of legal requirements.

To avoid receiving an initial denial, it’s important to make sure you have a solid application and do everything you can to increase your approval chances.

What Factors Affect How Long the Application Takes to Process?

There are many factors that affect OPM processing times including the time of year, backlog, and documentation submitted.

If you submit your Federal Disability Retirement application at the end of the year, it will likely take longer than if you were to apply at the beginning or mid-year. This is because a lot of federal employees retire at the end of the year. Regular retirement applications can build up at the OPM creating a heavy backlog and slowing down processing times for Federal Disability Retirement.

Additionally, if you submitted your Federal Disability Retirement application with errors or incorrect documentation, the OPM will have to reach out for clarification or additional materials, adding to the processing time.

What Can You Do if Your Application Has Been Pending for Too Long?

Waiting for an initial decision can be stressful. We understand how frustrating it can be to not know what the future holds. It is natural to want to reach out to the OPM and ask for an update. However, we recommend that you avoid contacting the OPM repeatedly during this time as it could affect their decision.

When you apply for Federal Disability Retirement, you will receive confirmation and a CSA number for your case where you can check on the status. Beyond this, the OPM will reach out with any updates, requests for information, or an approval or denial decision.

What Can I Do to Receive My Disability Retirement Benefits as Soon as Possible?

If you are looking to receive your disability retirement benefits as quickly as possible, it is important to ensure that all documents are accurate and up to date before submitting your application. Additionally, if the OPM requests any additional documents or information it is important to provide this as quickly as possible. This will help reduce any delays in the OPM processing time and shorten the total time it takes for you to receive your disability retirement benefits.

Building a solid application that has strong legal arguments and compelling medical evidence is critical to receiving a timely response on your Federal Disability Retirement application.

If you need help with the Federal Disability Retirement application process, look no further! We have helped over 8,000 federal employees apply for this benefit. With hundreds of resources at your fingertips, we will make sure that your application journey is as smooth as possible. Schedule a free consultation today.

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