Advocating for the Disability Rights of Federal Employees
Federal employees who can no longer perform their job due to a disability or injury may be entitled to OPM Disability Retirement benefits. You may even qualify if you no longer work for the federal government.
What Is OPM Disability Retirement?
The word “retirement” is a bit of a misnomer. OPM Disability Retirement, sometimes called Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) Disability Retirement, is not actually retirement. Instead, the benefit provides a temporary percentage of an employee’s monthly income. The program is administered by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
This benefit may be approved if a federal employee suffers a disability, illness, or other injury that is expected to last at least one year and leaves them unable to fulfill the responsibilities of their job.
Who Is Eligible for OPM Disability Retirement?
The program covers all FERS employees who have been employed for at least 18 months. The employing agency cannot accommodate the disability in their current position nor is there a similarly paid position in another area that can be adapted for the disability. Approved applicants are eligible for a benefit of 60% of pre-disability income for the first year and 40% every year thereafter while disabled.
Unlike Social Security Disability, you do not need to be totally disabled from working to receive OPM Disability Retirement. Your disability also does not need to be the result of a job-related injury or disease.
If the employee can perform with an accommodation, they are ineligible for FERS disability retirement.
How Does the OPM Disability Application Process Work?
The OPM Disability retirement rules require you to apply for Social Security Disability benefits before applying for OPM benefits. There is no requirement for Social Security benefits to be approved, but proof of such application must be submitted with the OPM Disability Retirement documentation. The standards for getting the two types of disability benefits are not the same.
When applying for OPM Disability, San Francisco federal employees and their supervisor must answer questions about:
- the disability;
- what accommodations were or were not made;
- the employee’s job performance;
- any misconduct allegations that were made against the employee.
The employee describes, in a narrative fashion, how the disabilities impact their major life functions and their work performance. The written account must be backed up by specific information from treating physicians’ statements and medical records.
To improve your chances of being approved for OPM Disability Retirement benefits, work with one of our San Francisco OPM Disability lawyers at Pines Federal. We can help you most accurately and persuasively describe how your injury or illness prevents you from satisfactorily meeting the requirements of your job.
What Are the Options if an Application Is Denied?
If denied, the applicant will be given a chance to seek reconsideration by OPM within 30 days. If denied a second time, an appeal to the decision is made to the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB).
If you are denied at the initial stage for any reason, our OPM Disability lawyers in San Francisco are well equipped to assist you with the reconsideration appeal (with the OPM) and/or the appeals to the MSPB.
Can a Federal Employee Receive Social Security and OPM Disability?
Yes. If a federal worker is approved for Social Security disability, then there is an offset to their disability retirement annuity. During the first year receiving disability retirement, a federal worker will receive 60 percent of their pre-disability income minus 100 percent of their Social Security disability benefit. After the first year, they will then receive 40 percent of their pre-disability income minus 60 percent of their Social Security disability.
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