Applying for federal disability retirement is for many people a daunting task that might discourage eligible persons. There are several ways, however, to improve your chances of having your application accepted.
Don’t bother applying if ineligible. Generally, to be eligible for disability retirement, you must have become disabled, resulting in a service deficiency in performance, conduct or attendance; if there is no such deficiency, the disability must be incompatible with either useful and efficient service or retention in the position. The condition must be expected to continue for at least one year from the date of the application, the employing office must be unable to accommodate the disability either in the position held or in an existing vacant position at the same grade or pay level and tenure in the same commuting area, and the applicant must not have declined an offer or reassignment to such a position.
Present thorough documentation. Once OPM receives the application, it will pay special attention to documentation of:
* deficiency in performance, conduct or attendance,
* the medical condition, disease or injury,
* a relationship between the medical condition and the service deficiency,
* the duration of the condition both past and present,
* evidence that the employee cannot perform useful and efficient service in the position, and
* the lack of another position within the employing office and commuting area at the same grade or pay level and tenure for which the employee is qualified for reassignment.
Different documentation is required for differing conditions, diseases and injuries. The documentation must be sufficient to allow OPM to determine that the condition exists. A key to this determination is a thorough, detailed medical report, which usually is prepared by the employee’s doctors.
Meet the deadline. You can apply for disability retirement after separation, but the application must be received (not postmarked) within one year after separation, unless it is shown that you are mentally incompetent.
Use reconsideration and appeal rights. If OPM disapproves your application, you may ask for reconsideration. That request must be in writing and must be received by OPM within 30 days after the initial decision. OPM will provide specific instructions on how to request a reconsideration in the notice. Once OPM reviews the request for consideration, you and your employing office will be notified of the final decision. If OPM’s final decision is to disapprove the application, you may appeal to the Merit Systems Protection Board. That appeal must be filed within 35 days of the date of the reconsideration decision.