Reg Jones Expert's View

Last week we covered the criteria you’d have to meet to qualify for disability retirement. In short, you’d have to be so disabled by disease or injury that you aren’t able to provide useful and efficient service in your current grade or pay level. It doesn’t make any difference whether the disease is physical or mental. Now let’s take a look at how you can apply:

CSRS
If you are a CSRS employee, you’ll have to fill out a Standard Form 3112, Documentation to Support Disability Retirement. You can either get a copy of that form from your personnel office or download it at http://opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf3112.pdf.

FERS
If you are a FERS employee, you’ll have to complete a Standard Form 3107, Application for Immediate Retirement, available from your personnel office or at http://opm.gov/forms/pdf_fill/sf3107.pdf. You’ll also need a Standard Form 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. To do that, you’ll need to go to https://www.ssa.gov/applyfordisability and follow the instructions on that site.

Proof of disability
To support your case for disability retirement, you’ll have to provide sufficient medical evidence. You can get that information at your own expense from your own doctor or doctors. 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 your agency doesn’t agree, you can still apply for disability retirement; however, your application won’t have your agency’s support.

OPM review
OPM will review all the material provided to them. That includes the medical evidence and your agency’s testimony that you are unable to provide useful and efficient service. If the latter is incomplete or absent, OPM will have to go back to the agency for clarification. Note: If any medical evidence has been collected by you after you resign but while waiting for a disability retirement determination, it too must be considered by OPM before a final decision is made.

If OPM approves your disability retirement application and 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.

Read more about federal disability annuities at ask.FEDweek.com