OPM has urged federal agencies to take more care that disability retirement applications they send there for processing are complete and accurate from the start.
In a notice to agency benefits officers, OPM noted that early in 2020 it reminded them of the special considerations for processing that type of application, which is more complex than a standard voluntary retirement application. “Unfortunately, we continue to receive incomplete disability retirement application packages and encounter difficulties in obtaining the necessary documentation for disability retirement claims for separated federal employees,” it said.
OPM said that complete disability retirement applications that it receives are assigned to a case worker within 30 days and decisions are issued “within roughly 45 days of being received.” However, it said that those timelines “are dependent upon the receipt of a complete disability retirement application package. A disability retirement case cannot be finalized or moved through the review process if the package is incomplete.”
The notice listed all the documentation needed for an application to be complete, including statements from the applicant, and their supervisor and physician; a statement from the agency regarding any efforts to accommodate the condition so that the person could remain on the job; proof that the employee also has filed for Social Security disability benefits; and more.
“We are requesting agencies hold on sending forward any disability retirement application packages until all required forms have been completed in full and supporting documentation received. Forwarding an incomplete disability retirement application package to OPM will not put a case in the “queue” or “hold a place in line” for review,” the notice said, putting the word “not” in boldface type and underlined.
“OPM cannot take any action on an incomplete package which will result in a longer than necessary decision process timeline,” it said.
The length of the process for federal retirement applications has been an issue for years and has drawn the attention of Congress. OPM however has sent several similar notices to agencies attributing part of the delays to missing information that then requires further steps.