Last week I wrote about the conditions and circumstances that would make you eligible for disability retirement. Now I want to talk about you can apply for that benefit.

If you are a CSRS employee, you’ll have to fill out a copy of Standard Form 3112, Documentation to Support Disability Retirement. Your agency will have copies of that form available for you to use. However, if you want to take an advance peek at the form (and even download a copy), go to http://opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf3112.pdf.

If you are a FERS employee, you’ll have to complete a copy of SF 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, available from your personnel office or at http://opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf3107.pdf, and an SF 3105A, Applicant’s Statement of Disability, available only from your personnel office. In addition, because FERS employees are covered by both FERS and Social Security, you’ll have to apply for a Social Security disability benefit at the same time you file for one under FERS.

In building your case for disability retirement, you will have to provide sufficient medical evidence to support your application. You can do this by obtaining that information from your own doctor or doctors, and at your own expense. Your agency’s medical professionals will then review that evidence. If they agree with what you have submitted, they’ll add their concurrence to your application. It will then be forwarded to OPM. If they don’t agree, you may still apply for disability retirement, but your application won’t have your agency’s support.

OPM will review the totality of the material provided. That means not only the medical evidence but the agency’s testimony that you are unable to provide useful and efficient service. If the latter is incomplete or absent, OPM will need to go back to the agency for clarification. Further, as was pointed out in a recent court case, if any medical evidence has been collected by an employee after he resigns but while waiting for a disability retirement determination, it too must be considered before a final decision is made. (U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, Docket No. 2008-3236, July 15, 2009).

If OPM approves your disability retirement application, one of two things will happen. If your disabling condition isn’t considered to be permanent, you will be required to undergo periodic medical reevaluations to find out whether you are still suffering from the condition that led to your disability retirement. That requirement will continue until you are age 60. On the other hand, if your disabling condition is judged to be permanent, no further follow up may be required.

Note: As part of the disability retirement application process, you will have the opportunity to elect a survivor annuity. The rules are the same for CSRS and FERS; however, the amounts that can be elected under each retirement system are different. For more information about survivor benefits, go to http://opm.gov/retire/pubs/handbook/C071.pdf.

Next week I’ll explain how a CSRS disability annuity is calculated.