Applying for FERS Federal Disability Retirement requires very strict guidelines be met. It can be hard to understand all the rules and regulations put in place by OPM. However, not following them can prevent your disability case from being approved. In some cases, it can cause your benefits to be terminated. This post will cover some common delays in getting your application approved and even instances where your disability benefits could be terminated.
Until reaching the age of 60, your disability may need to be re-evaluated each year. If you are found to be medically recovered, your benefits would stop one year after.
Re-employment with Federal Service
You are able to work in the private sector while receiving Federal Disability Retirement benefits. If, however, you are re-employed by the Federal government, your disability benefits could be terminated. That re-employment must be permanent, full-time, and the same grade and pay as what you held before you were disabled. Your disability benefits would cease one month after your re-employment.
Restoration of Earning Capacity
Earning more than 80% of your previous positions’ current pay rate, in any calendar year, will cause your disability benefits to end. Those benefits would stop on June 30 of the next calendar year. However, you will be eligible to resume your benefits if you no longer exceed that earnings cap. In this case, your benefits would resume the first of the year you no longer exceed the earnings cap.
Submitting the Right Type of Evidence is Key
If your case is denied, submitting the right kind of evidence for appeal is key. OPM is already backlogged with cases and merely submitting tons of paperwork isn’t always the best strategy. Make sure you know what they are looking for and if not, seek help from experienced professionals.
One of the criteria for having your case be eligible for disability retirement is that your employing agency must be able to certify that they were unable to accommodate you in your current position. This can be misunderstood and misinterpreted, not just by you, but also by your agency. It can cause pitfalls and delays in getting your case approved.
Accommodation, in this sense, is defined as an “adjustment made to your job and/or work environment that enables a qualified handicapped person to perform the essential duties of that position”. The important thing here to note is being able to perform the “essential” duties. Many agencies and/or supervisors try to ‘accommodate’ your injury or disease by having you temporarily perform lesser duties than what the position calls for. In order for your employing agency to fully accommodate your medical condition, they can’t make any changes to your job that affect the essential duties you perform, laid out in your official job description.
A disabled employee is eligible for disability retirement unless the employee is able to render “useful and efficient service” in their position. Simply having your duties modified does not qualify you for disability retirement.
Check out this article on FedSmith.com for more information about the effects of accommodation on your Federal Disability Retirement.