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  obtain Disability Retirement Benefits under FERS & CSRS

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
The following are some "Frequently Asked Questions". Most of these questions are answered in greater detail in my articles, which you may read in the section entitled Articles. However, below are some questions and answers for your convenience:

    What is "Federal or OPM Disability Retirement"?
Federal disability retirement is a benefit accorded to all Federal and Postal Employees under the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) and Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). For CSRS employees, you must have a minimum of five (5) years of service. For FERS employees, you must have a minimum of 18 months of service.
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    Who approves my disability retirement?
The Office of Personnel Management (OPM), a Federal Agency, approves or disapproves all disability retirement applications.
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    What is the difference between Social Security Disability and
    Disability Retirement?
The main difference is that the criteria to obtain Social Security Disability is much higher -- that of "total disability". To obtain disability retirement under CSRS or FERS, you must merely be disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of your particular kind of job.
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    Must I file for Social Security if I apply for disability retirement?
CSRS employees need not file for Social Security. If you are under FERS, you must file for Social Security disability during the application process. In recent months, the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) has indicated that Social Security may be filed after a person's disability retirement application has been approved, and the individual has been separated from service.
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    Must I be totally disabled in order to file for disability retirement?
No. You only need to be disabled from performing one or more of the essential elements of your particular kind of job.
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    Must my disability be caused by my job?
No. Unlike Workers Compensation cases, where the issue often involves whether or not your job caused your injury or disease, or whether it occurred on the job, disability retirement has no requirement of being "job-related".
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    Can I work even if I am approved for disability retirement?
An individual is allowed to collect disability retirement, and work at a different job and earn up to 80% of what his or her former position pays currently. Thus, by way of example, an individual who was making $50,000.00 per year, could go out and get a job making $40,000.00 per year, as well as continue to collect his or her disability annuity.
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    When should I file for Disability Retirement?
Because the disability retirement application process takes a considerable amount of time (average length, about 6 - 8 months), an employee should file as soon as he or she knows that the disability will last for at least 1 year. If you have been terminated or separated from Federal Service, you have only up to 1 year to file for disability retirement. If you fail to file within that 1 year, you lose your right to disability retirement forever. So, to recap: You have 1 year to file from the time you are separated from service, and your disability must last for at least 1 year.
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    Can I continue to work while waiting for OPM to approve my case?
Yes. Most people, because of financial considerations, must continue to work. If the Agency has light duty, or if the individual can do some, but not all, of the essential elements of the job, then continuation in the job is a viable option.
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