Monthly Archives: June 2011

Some basic facts about Federal Disability Retirement

Most people do not realize that your employing agency DOES NOT decide if you are approved or denied for Federal Disability Retirement.

Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) employees must have 18 months of full time service to qualify; Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) must have worked 5 years.

A federal employee can file for Federal Disability Retirement even though they are still employed and/or working.

If you are separated from service, the application for Federal Disability Retirement must be filed within one year of the date of separation.

Harris Federal

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Approval or Denial – Who makes the decision?

Regardless of the government agency you work for, or the state in which you work, all applications for Federal Disability Retirement make their way to the disability determination section of the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) in Washington, DC.

Once there, the claim file will be assigned to a Legal Administrative Specialist.  This person will have the responsibility of reviewing the file to determine if it is complete and, ultimately, to decide if the claim should be approved or denied.

The Legal Administrative Specialists are trained to know what is required in the file before a claim can be approved.  Because they are notoriously overworked, they can become stressed and overwhelmed by the work load assigned to them, so there is often a delay in evaluating the claim file.  The applicant doesn’t get to choose their Legal Administrative Specialist or, if unhappy with one, to change to another.

Because many Federal Disability Retirement claims are rejected simply because they contain insufficient documentation, it is extremely important to fully address every issue with correct documentation early in the process.

–  Harris Federal 

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When should I apply for Federal Disability Retirement?

Many federal employees that are experiencing difficulty performing the job duties do not know when a disability retirement is the right decision for them. This is a major life decision and should be weighed as such.

Sometimes the decision is made for you; your agency separates you due to your inability to complete your job. If that occurs, filing for federal disability retirement may be the only way to ensure that you protect your long term interests and keep a portion of your salary coming in.

Sometimes you are in limbo; the agency informs you that they can no longer accommodate you with the restrictions that have from your physician. When that happens, you can try to wait it out, but you will be in a no pay status once your leave is exhausted. If you and your doctor don’t think a return to full duty is on the horizon, it may be time to start thinking about filing for disability retirement.

Sometimes you are working, but you’re the future is uncertain; you are working through an injury or illness and your symptoms are getting worse. At some point your future health has to be taken into consideration. If you and your doctor feel that continuing in your position will be detrimental to your health, it may be time to file your application with OPM. Your long term health must be considered.

Sometimes it’s unclear; you may be having trouble understanding your situation. An injury or illness has occurred and you are having some trouble completing your duties and they are supplying limited or light duty for you. This is still a potential benefit for you. Modified duty is not in lieu of a federal disability retirement. Limited and light duty assignments can be given on an “as available” basis and do not protect you from being sent home with no work available. This is up to each applicant as they may very well qualify for benefits, but risk a sudden loss of income if they continue to work, then are sent home. Filing at this point is sometimes a very smart move, but must be weighed carefully.

Sometimes your condition is new; you may not have any idea about what direction to go as you do not have a good prognosis on your return to work. This may be a good time to seek the counsel of a professional.

Harris Federal

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Welcome to

This site was created to help federal employees become more familiar with a benefit that is often overlooked or misunderstood. Of course the benefit we are talking about is FEDERAL DISABILITY RETIREMENT.  We intend on helping you understand what this benefit entails and how it may be helpful to you.  We welcome your comments and questions!

This blog is sponsored by HARRIS FEDERAL.  We have assisted thousands of federal employees from all across the country.  We plan to put a lot of work into this project because we believe it can be helpful to you and your coworkers in understanding your rights and planning your future.  Please share this site with other federal employees!



This is a Blog created by HARRIS FEDERAL.  This blog describes some of the cases that the Harris Federal has worked on in the past. Our description of those cases is summary in nature. You should be aware that the results obtained in each of the cases we have worked on was dependent on the particular facts of each case. The results of other cases will differ based on the different facts involved.

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