Applying for FERS Disability Retirement: Laying the Foundation

Applying for FERS Disability Retirement is a complex task. The author lists three beginning steps to take before embarking on the application process.

Are you thinking about applying for FERS Disability Retirement (FDR)?  If so, here are three things you should do before you initiate the application process. By checking these items off your list, you can set yourself up for success!

1. Get a FERS Benefits Estimate

I strongly suggest that you request a “FERS Benefits Estimate” from your agency. As the name implies, this document provides estimates of your monthly annuity during the three phases of disability retirement.

Make sure you understand how the agency arrived at your high-three-average salary, because this will be used to determine your 60% and 40% annuity computations. Also, make sure that your creditable service is accurate and complete, because erroneous information could significantly reduce your annuity when you turn age 62.

It should be noted that this estimate also provides information about other retirement options for which you may be eligible (e.g., MRA + 10, MRA + 30, Discontinued Service Retirement (DSR), etc.).

In short, a FERS Benefits Estimate can help you make an informed decision about whether to pursue FDR now or at some point in the future.

2. Make Sure Your Doctor Is On Board

The most important part of your application, by far, is the statement drafted by your physician (i.e., SF 3112C: Physician’s Statement).

Without a strong, detailed testimonial from your doctor, it is highly unlikely that OPM will approve your claim. Note that SF 3112C requires your physician to provide all the following information:

  • History/background of the disabling medical condition(s).
  • List/discussion of past and present medications.
  • List/discussion of past and present therapies and/or treatments.
  • List/discussion of hospitalizations.
  • List/discussion of relevant operative procedures and/or diagnostic tests.
  • Detailed account of your symptoms and physical and/or mental limitations.
  • Prognosis.
  • List/discussion of medical restrictions.
  • And most importantly, a detailed analysis of the causal relationship between your disabling medical condition(s) and your inability to perform one or more essential functions of your position of record.

This is a lot to ask of your doctor, so you may want to make sure that he/she is willing to fully support your disability claim before you initiate the application process.

3. Become Familiar with Your Benefits

Be proactive and gather information about FDR benefits so that you can make an informed decision about moving forward.

A great place to start is the OPM website. Here you’ll find a wealth of information about FDR, including details about the eligibility requirements, annuity calculations, COLAs, interaction with SSDI and OWCP, etc. Another great source of information is the CSRS and FERS Handbook: Chapter 60: Disability Retirement.

Once you’ve completed these tasks, you’ll be in a good position to decide whether FERS Disability Retirement is the right choice for you and your family.

About the Author

Since 2012, Scott Santarelli has been helping disabled federal and postal workers obtain FERS disability benefits. His highly-effective approach has been adopted by several disability attorneys. He enjoys writing articles that provide valuable information about the OPM claims process.