What to Do if Your Federal Disability Retirement Was Denied in 2024

by | May 23, 2024

There has been a notable uptick in initial denials for Federal Disability Retirement by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). Our firm has noticed this increase, and we’re actively working on solutions to avoid initial denials. If your Federal Disability Retirement was denied, remember it’s not a dead-end; you have appeal rights. Keep reading to discover the next best steps if your application is denied.

Requesting a Reconsideration

If you have received a Federal Disability Retirement denial letter from the OPM, there’s no need to panic; you have appeal rights.

You have 30 days from the date of the denial letter to submit a “reconsideration” request to the OPM. To be clear, this means the date on the denial letter, not the date that you received it. It’s critical that you don’t miss the deadline. If you do, the OPM will forfeit your ability to request an appeal.

You have three options when requesting a reconsideration:

  1. Review evidence included: You can request to have the OPM make a new decision based on the original evidence.
  2. Submit new evidence: You can choose to submit more evidence to support your claim, like a new diagnosis, increased VA rating, or a new accommodation decision.
  3. Request a 30-day extension: You can request a 30-day extension to gather and submit new evidence.

It’s important to note that regardless of which option you choose, a new medical specialist will be assigned to your case for a reconsideration review. This ensures that your case is being reviewed by a fresh set of eyes, to provide you with an unbiased response.

The appeals process is difficult and rigorous. It’s critical to get help at this stage since the decisions made here can determine your future and whether you receive the benefits you deserve. Typically, this process can take around 4-6 months, but depending on the OPM’s number of reconsideration claims to review, it can sometimes take longer.

If your appeal is approved, usually you’ll start getting interim payments from the OPM within a few months. If your reconsideration is denied, you can submit a second appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Appealing to the Merit Systems Protection Board

If your case is denied at the reconsideration stage, you can request a second appeal. If you request a second appeal, your Federal Disability Retirement case will be taken to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).

Even though it’s not required, we highly recommend having an attorney build and submit an appeal to the MSPB on your behalf. This process can be overwhelming to take on alone because it involves a court hearing and an understanding of legal terminology.

Our Partner, Leah Bachmeyer-Kille, has spent more than 12 years refining our reconsideration process and learning exactly what the MSPB is looking for in an appeal.

The MSPB Hearing

Once you submit your appeal, the MSPB will appoint a judge to your case and the OPM will assign a representative from their headquarters who is not the medical specialist that made the decision on your case.

At this point, it’s very important that you have ALL your documentation ready to be presented in front of the judge, as well as a list of witnesses that can support your claims. During the hearing, the OPM representative will work to reinforce the OPM’s decision in front of the court, and you’ll make your case against it.

After the hearing, the judge will issue a decision, which can take 1-3 months. If you’re approved at the MSPB stage, the decision will take effect after 35 days and the OPM will have 20 days to send out a Federal Disability Retirement approval letter.

Once your case is finalized, you’ll be awarded any back pay you qualify to receive.

What if my Federal Disability Retirement was denied again?

If you’ve gone through both appeal stages and receive a denial from the MSPB, you have two options:

  1. You can elect to appeal the decision and request to have your case reviewed by the full MSPB panel in Washington, D.C., in what’s called a “Petition for Review.”
  2. You can request to have your case taken to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to make a decision.

It’s very highly recommended to get legal help when submitting an appeal to the MSPB panel or the U.S. Court of Appeals. This court has strict rules on document submission and specific regulations when hearing a case.

If, however, you choose not to appeal your MSPB denial, you have the option to re-apply with a brand-new Federal Disability Retirement application.

Note that you cannot reapply for Federal Disability Retirement if you were separated from your federal job at your initial application. In order to reapply, something about your case must have changed from your initial application. This means that if you have new medical documentation to support your case or if your disabling condition has worsened, you can reapply for Federal Disability Retirement.

A denial is far from the end of the fight for your Federal Disability Retirement. You have appeal options, and our team is here to guide you along the way. We don’t want you to go into the appeals process alone, especially when your financial future is at stake. Schedule a free consultation with an experienced representative today to see how we can help.

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