When Should I Apply for FERS Disability Retirement?

When should federal employees consider filing for FERS disability retirement? What is the process and what are the eligibility requirements?

If you are an injured federal employee, you may be wondering when the best time to apply for FERS Disability Retirement is. The answer isn’t always clear-cut, but there are a few things to keep in mind to make the process go as smoothly as possible. 

In this article, we’ll discuss some key factors to consider when making your decision.

What is FERS Disability Retirement?

FERS Disability Retirement is a lesser-known benefit in your FERS package that can allow disabled federal employees to retire early, while maintaining their federal benefits. 

It provides a secure monthly annuity, additional creditable years of service, the option to maintain your health and life insurance, and the ability to go work in the private sector and earn additional income, all without returning to work in your federal job.

Your FERS Disability Retirement can last until age 62. At age 62 it will then automatically recalculate into your regular retirement.

This benefit can change the lives of so many employees and it’s important to be well informed on all of your options when looking at your future.

FERS Disability Retirement Eligibility Requirements

If you are thinking of applying for FERS Disability Retirement, there are a few eligibility and qualification requirements you must meet before you can apply.

In order to be eligible for FERS Disability Retirement, you must meet the following 3 basic requirements:

  • You must have 18 months of creditable civilian service 
  • You must be a FERS career employee 
  • You must have become disabled, because of disease or injury, for useful and efficient service in your current position

Additionally, to qualify for FERS Disability Retirement:

  • You must have a disabling medical condition(s), which is defined as a health impairment resulting from a disease or injury, including a psychiatric disease
  • Your medical condition(s) must be expected to last 12 months or one year from the date of the application
  • Your disability must cause a service deficiency in performance, attendance, or conduct, after a period of useful and efficient service 
  • There must be a relationship between the service deficiency and the medical condition such that the medical condition has caused the service deficiency
  • If there is no service deficiency, the evidence must show that your conditions became incompatible with useful and efficient service or retention in the position of record
  • Your disability does not have to be work related, but it does have to have arisen or worsened while in your federal position
  • Your agency must be unable to accommodate you without removing any of the essential functions of your job description
  • You must not have declined a valid offer of reassignment to a vacant position, at the same agency, at the same pay and grade level, within your commuting area, for which you are qualified and medically able to perform

When is the Best Time to Apply?

The best time to apply for FERS Disability Retirement varies for each applicant and where they are in the process. There is no one answer that can apply to every federal employee as each case is different.

Overall, the best time to apply for FERS Disability Retirement is when you are struggling in your job, you have requested accommodation, and you have a doctor to support your decision.

If you apply for FERS Disability Retirement without going through the accommodation process it can make your case more difficult. Additionally, you must have a supportive medical professional to provide documentation showing your disability and any medical restrictions.

Without all these stipulations it can be very difficult to win your case, and the appeal process will be significantly harder if you must gather a lot of additional documentation.

What is the Process of Applying?

In order to apply for FERS Disability Retirement, you must first fill out the SF 3107 Application for Immediate Retirement, which your agency may help you with.

Then you must fill out the SF 3112 and submit it to your agency if you are still on the rolls or directly to the OPM if you have been separated for more than 30 days. You will have to work with your agency to fill out the agency portions of the 3112 so it’s important to keep an open line of communication. It is imperative to your case to include all supportive medical documentation, so you have the best chance of approval.

Once you submit your application you will receive an acknowledgement letter from the OPM with a claim number specific to your case so you can check on the status of your application.

If you are approved, congratulations! You will begin receiving interim payments soon, but if you are denied, don’t worry you still have appeal options.

While you may need to wait to apply in order to reach all of the eligibility requirements, there is no better time to start understanding the process and your options than NOW! 

About the Author

Bo Harris is the President of Harris Federal Law Firm and is a certified Federal Retirement Consultant (FRC℠). Bo has established Harris Federal as one of the premiere federal employee benefits law firms in the U.S., while assisting 8,000+ federal employees. Contact Harris Federal at (877) 226-2723.