how to apply for federal disability retirement

As a federal employee, you are entitled to certain benefits. The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) provides retirement annuities if you cannot work because of a disability.

To qualify, you must have been employed for at least 18 months and submit your application within one year of separation. The U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) will review your application and determine your eligibility. 

This page will explain how to apply for federal disability retirement. If you have questions, plan to meet with one of our OPM disability retirement attorneys. We can tell you what documentation you need, how to complete the forms, and when to apply. We will even provide you with a letter for your doctor that ensures your disability documentation fits OPM’s guidelines.

For immediate assistance, please call (800) 801-0598 or reach us online today.

The Process of Applying for Federal Employee Disability Retirement Through OPM

Like many government systems, the application process for medical retirement with the federal government is detailed and time-consuming. Our attorneys recommend these steps for how to apply for federal disability retirement.

1. Determine if You Qualify

There is no minimum age requirement for disability benefits. 

Instead, you must show evidence that:

  • You became disabled because of a disease or injury while employed in a position subject to FERS;
  • You experience a deficiency in service relating to performance, attendance, or conduct, or that your medical condition is incompatible with useful and efficient service in your current employment;
  • The medical condition caused the service deficiency; and
  • You expect your disability to last at least one year.

Additionally, you must have informed your employer of your disability. Federal agencies must provide accommodations or reassignments for disabled workers.

If your employer cannot accommodate your condition or find a vacant position for which you are suitable (at the same grade or pay level within the same commuting region), you can apply for FERS benefits.

2. Establish Evidence of Your Disability

You must provide adequate documentation of your disability when you submit your FERS disability retirement application. Medical documentation will usually be information from your personal physician. 

The documentation should include the following:

  • Clinical information, including your medical history, findings from a medical evaluation, diagnosis, assessment of current condition and treatment, and an estimated date of recovery; and
  • An explanation of the medical condition’s effect on life activities on and off the job, including a narrative explaining whether your condition has stabilized, whether your condition may cause incapacitation, adequate accommodations needed, and any risk of harm.

Your physician’s statements must enable OPM to conclude that you have a medical issue that impedes your service.

Our FERS disability attorneys will provide you with a letter to take to your doctor’s appointment. The personalized template letter lets your doctor easily complete the paperwork to document your disability. Plus, you will know your doctor has answered all OPM’s questions before you apply.

We Draft an Easy-To-Fill Letter for Your Doctor That Sets You up for Success

OPM needs your doctor’s statements about your condition right away (see more on that below). However, your doctor’s statements must also be detailed and paint the proper picture. The information from your doctor needs to be easy to understand and make a clear connection between the state of your health and your right to FERS disability benefits.

With little time to fulfill them, these are high demands for a busy professional. We help your doctor effectively meet the demands of their OPM statement with ease by drafting a special letter they can fill out.

Our letter helps your doctor highlight the connection between your work limitations, your diagnosis, and your prognosis. And our letter helps your doctor communicate your health-related needs with language appropriate for laypeople and in a way that ties together information from you and your employer. Applying for FERS benefits is a complex process, and we give you unique tools to make the process simpler and more successful.

3. Apply for Social Security Disability Benefits

Applying for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) is required to apply for FERS disability benefits. You do not have to receive SSDI, but you must apply. You must attach a copy of your SSDI application to your FERS application. Even if the Social Security Administration denies you SSDI, you could still qualify for FERS disability.

4. Complete the Federal Disability Retirement Forms

To complete your application, you need to complete two forms available from OPM:

  • Standard Form 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement; and
  • Standard Form 3112, Documentation in Support of Disability Retirement Application.

These forms ask for details to confirm your federal service and benefits eligibility. Your employing agency or physician will complete some of the forms.

5. Submit Your Application for Disability Retirement to the Federal Government 

If you are still working or have separated from your job in the last 30 days, submit your application to the agency’s personnel office. If you separated from your employer more than 30 days ago, the agency would have forwarded your personnel file to OPM. 

You will submit your documents directly to OPM. However, the employing agency still needs to complete certain forms for your application.

The agency you worked for should complete the following forms and return them to you so that you can send them to OPM:

  • Standard Form 3112B, Supervisor’s Statement;
  • Standard Form 3112D, Agency Certification of Reassignment; and 
  • Standard Form 3112E, Disability Retirement Application Checklist.

You have options if you do not think you will have the forms back from the agency in time. You may send OPM the completed SF 3107 and SF 3112A with the contact information for the person you asked to complete the remaining forms.

Form 3107 (Your Application for Immediate Retirement)

Form 3107 asks the government for retirement benefits with an immediate annuity. 

In this application, you must provide many details about yourself, including:

  • Your identifying information,
  • Information regarding your work for the federal government and whether you were on active duty,
  • Information about your marital status,
  • Information about survivor benefits for your annuity,
  • Information about your obligation to provide insurance benefits for your children (if any),
  • Information about other claims you have filed (e.g., workers’ compensation), 
  • Information about your children, and
  • Information about how you want to receive your payments. 

You must certify all the information you provide in this application. 

Form 3112A (Your Statement of Disability)

Form 3112A gives you a chance to provide important identifying and eligibility information about yourself and briefly describe why you are entitled to FERS medical retirement benefits. 

On this form, you provide:

  • Your name,
  • Your social security number,
  • Your date of birth,
  • The date your disability began,
  • The nature of your disabling condition,
  • Any history of hospitalization due to your condition (including dates),
  • An explanation of how your condition affects your work abilities and other abilities,
  • A description of the accommodations you have requested from your employer, 
  • Information regarding any accommodations your employer provided you, 
  • Your employment and pay status with your employing agency,
  • Information about your application for benefits from the Social Security Administration, and
  • Information about the physicians from which you will request physician’s statements on Standard Form 3112C.

You must give your supervisor your completed Form 3112A when you give them Form 3112B (Supervisor’s Statement) to complete on your behalf.

Form 3112B (Your Employer’s Statement)

On Form 3112B, your supervisor must answer several questions about the nature of your job and your job performance to verify your need for disability retirement pay. 

Questions your supervisor must answer include:

  • What your job title and duties were,
  • What the performance standards for your job were,
  • Whether you have been unable to adequately perform your job duties,
  • When your work became inadequate, 
  • Whether you have received any promotion or pay increases (including dates),
  • What job duties you have struggled to perform,
  • If you had a history of absence from work (including medical leave) and when, and 
  • Whether you received accommodations or reassignments. 

If you had multiple supervisors, you need to make sure that an immediate supervisor who was able to observe you on a regular basis is the one to complete your form. We can help you determine the best supervisor to handle your Form 3112B needs. 

Form 3112C (a Statement From Your Doctor)

Form 3112C has a tight turnaround and is crucial to your FERS application. On this form, your doctor provides information about your condition, and they must complete this form within two weeks. 

Your physician needs to provide:

  • A detailed history of your condition,
  • An assessment of the permanence of your condition,
  • A description of any medical restrictions you have,
  • Copies of your medical records, and
  • Diagnoses regarding your limiting condition.

Form 3112C includes a release that you must sign to allow your doctor to discuss your healthcare information with OPM. You must also include a description of your position for your physician to review before they complete Form 3112C. 

Form 3112D (Your Employer’s Certification Regarding Work Accommodations or Reassignments)

You give this form to your employing agency’s Coordinator for Employment of the Handicapped (coordinator) so that they can identify reasonable accommodations or assignments you could receive to help you successfully perform your job. 

To complete this form, your coordinator should have the following:

  • Form 3112A (Applicant’s Statement),
  • Form 3112B (Supervisor’s Statement),
  • Form 3112C (Physician’s Statement), and 
  • Any other relevant documentation.

Please note that your employer must continue attempts to accommodate you after your coordinator submits their certification.

Form 3112E (The Application Checklist)

Your employer fills out Form 3112E. 

This form requires information about:

  • Your work history,
  • Your pay history, and
  • Whether you have applied for or received SSDI.

With this form, your employer includes completed Forms 3107, 3112A, 3112B, 3112C, 3112D, and any reports of federal medical examinations.

What Can Help Me Get Approved for Disability Retirement?

If you want the best chance of receiving disability retirement through FERS, you must be organized and have a good understanding of your condition and your needs. You should also speak to an attorney as soon as your benefit needs arise. 

Actions that can help your application include:

  • Ensuring that all physicians involved have the appropriate releases and records from you (and each other) to make an accurate assessment of your condition;
  • Ensuring you fully understand all of your job duties, your employer’s expectations, and your condition before filling out your application; and
  • Keeping a detailed timeline of the changes in your abilities, setbacks at work, medical treatments, and requests for leave.

If the information from you, your employer, or your physician doesn’t match, the government might deny your request. You also have only one year to complete this process. We can make sure you timely provide all the details necessary to prove your right to benefits.

We Can Guide You Through the FERS Application Process

At Pines Federal, we have over 60 years of combined experience assisting federal employees in securing their retirement benefits. When you meet with one of our disability retirement attorneys, we will walk you through the FERS application process.

Our extensive experience and track record of success make us trusted advocates for federal employees from diverse occupations. Let us provide you with the legal knowledge, insight, and broad perspective to secure the benefits you deserve.

Contact us online or call (800) 801-0598 today to get started.