A new policy issuance from OPM could have the effect of enhancing disability benefits for many persons retiring with service as a federal law enforcement officer, including service as Customs and Border Protection officers since July 2008 and as members of the Supreme Court or Capitol police, as well as firefighters, air traffic controllers and nuclear materials couriers.

OPM’s policy, in Benefits Administration Letter 10-105, was a reaction to a string of court decisions and internal OPM policy decisions interpreting those rulings. The cases involved issues relating to the enhanced retirement benefits available in such occupations, where employees pay more into the retirement fund but accumulate benefits at a higher rate and in general may retire earlier and are subject to mandatory retirement.

While the court cases involved only law officers, OPM has determined that the rationale of the court used extends to other employees who have performed service in positions that could qualify for an enhanced annuity.

The result will be to use the higher computation rate in a disability retirement benefit calculation, rather than the standard rate, for years that are creditable under those systems, generally up to 20 years worth.

OPM further is now requiring agencies to certify service in such occupations when an individual separates for any reason, not just for retirement.